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Vimeo Captioning Feature Finally Added

After many complaints for 6 years about the lack of captioning feature, Vimeo finally implemented it recently and made it public on January 7th.

You can find details about how to add captions/subtitles in their Help section.

When testing captions in Vimeo videos, there are a few things that I liked:

  • Captions are shown as white letters on a transparent bar;
  • It’s easy to add a caption file in any language with time stamps;
  • You can view captions in a browser on any device (desktop or mobile).

There are some things that Vimeo needs to improve on:

  • Color contrast: The CC icon has poorer contrast than other icons that are bright white, so it’s not easily seen. If not active, the CC icon is grey, not white like other icons – giving an impression that CC icon is not important. It needs to be bright white to be found easily – especially that 1 in 10 men have color deficiency. Their help section is also hard to read due to not enough contrast of gray words against white background.
  • Navigation: It’s confusing about where to add captions. When you go to video settings, you land on the “Basic” section that doesn’t mention anything about adding captions. They are in the “Advanced” section. Captions need to be added to “Basic” section because it’s part of basic accessibility that is not to be missed.
  • Caption file: Vimeo needs to allow for more advanced settings in a caption file like font options and a feature to enable to divide a long line into two short lines for easier readability. It would also good to offer an interactive text transcript option below a video if you rather skim text than spend time watching a video. YouTube offers all of those options.
  • Mobile apps: I do not see a captioning feature in their iOS apps.
  • Captions vs Subtitles: Vimeo makes it confusing further by separating captions and subtitling in two separate tracks (“captions” or “subtitles” – they are technically same) instead of just putting them in one track like in YouTube. When I informed Vimeo, they told me they need to let video producers decide whether to caption or subtitle videos. As I explain in my article, Captions vs Subtitles, subtitles are NOT accessible to deaf and hard of hearing people. Before translating a video in other languages, it needs to be captioned in the same language first. Even if it is translated into other languages, it needs to be fully captioned, not subtitled to make them fully accessible to deaf and hard of hearing people. Subtitles are accessible only to hearing foreigners. For example, I watched a French movie with my family that had 1/3 of dialogues in English and no English captions. This made me miss those parts and my family translate them – it was not a great viewing experience for all of us. To say nothing about missing sound descriptions and speaker identifications. It would be like letting building owners decide to install elevators to be used inside a building for able-bodied people, but not to add ramps for wheelchair users to get in even though they can use elevators inside the building. Just like all buildings need to have ramps for everyone to get in and get around, all movies need to be fully accessible via captions (in native and foreign languages), not subtitles, for everyone to enjoy. I would suggest that Vimeo follow YouTube’s example to use “captions/subtitles” or “captions (subtitles)” as one word, not separate words, and to use one track for captions/subtitles that are fully accessible no matter what language they are in.

Listed are screenshots to compare how usable YouTube and Vimeo pages are.

When you go to YouTube settings, you will see a “Captions” link on top that you can easily find:

YouTube page screenshot showing an interface with a top navigation that includes a link to go to a page to add captions

After clicking the “Captions” link, you will see a page with a link saying to add captions and explaining how it helps more people enjoy your videos:

YouTube page screenshot showing an interface with a a panel that includes add captions link

After clicking the “Add Captions” link, you will see the interface with ONE track language drop down menu showing captions in different languages which is very clear:

YouTube page screenshot showing an interface with a track language drop down

On another hand, Vimeo interface is very confusing. Left part shows the basic settings page that doesn’t show any information about captions. If you are new to captioning, you would never know how this feature is important for accessibility. You will find it by accident when clicking the “Advanced” button that goes to the page shown on right. It makes users confused further by offering separate captions and subtitles tracks that are technically same.

Screenshot showing two Vimeo settings pages, one is basic and another is advanced which makes it confusing about how to add captions.

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