Discoverability for Creative Content
Intro: Content Everywhere
Artists and art organizations need to connect with audiences. Today, the easiest methods are creating content for computer, tablet and phone, or sharing content on social media. With the growth of device types and internet speed there are many more places content can reach. Audiences would like to connect to content when they want it, how they want it and where they want it. As a result, artist digital content needs to be formatted to reach all these places.
The increase in types of devices such as smart watches and speakers, digital content aggregators and better technology for voice and accessibility means that content can be accessed through expanding means. The development of 5G worldwide will mean that even more data can move faster across available pipelines. On the flip side, there are still places in Canada with little or no internet connection, especially rural areas. Some Canadians access the internet at the library.
In this resource, you’ll learn how to use Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and other best practices to ensure your digital content reaches as many people as possible – including Disabled Canadians. The good news is, the best practice to address both situations is the same: keep content in the simplest form so all can access it. At the end we’ll share some thoughts on what the future will bring and some alternatives to internet giants.
a. What is Search Engine Optimization and Why Does it Matter?
For artists and arts organizations, getting your name and your work out into the world is important, and having a website is one of the key ways to do just that. But what’s the use of a website if nobody sees it?
That’s where Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, comes in.
SEO is a set of techniques to help make a website rank higher in search engine results pages (which are referred to as SERPs).
Why does this matter? Well, most people don’t actually go past the first couple of pages of search results. That means that if you want people to find your website more easily through search, you’ll want to make sure it ranks on those first few pages.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to help make this happen.
Keep in mind that SEO is a long-term strategy. Once you’ve started implementing these techniques, don’t expect for traffic to flow to your site overnight. It takes time and patience to see the benefits, and optimizing your website is something that you should keep up with as long as your site is up, especially since search engine algorithms are always changing.
How Search Engines Index Your Content
Search engines use software known as web crawlers to gather information across the internet from publicly available web pages.
The crawling process begins with a list of web addresses from past crawls and sitemaps provided by website owners. As our crawlers visit these websites, they use links on those sites to discover other pages. The software pays special attention to new sites, changes to existing sites and dead links.
Search engines then take all the information on these pages and organize it in a search index. Crawlers are constantly gathering information, so whenever you add a new page or update a page on your site, search engine crawlers will eventually find it and add it to their index, although there are certain things you can do to speed up the process, like submitting XML sitemaps.
Based on the information on these pages, as well as several other factors, search engines use algorithms to determine what results to return to a user in response to their query — and how they rank.
Authority and Relevance
When ranking web pages, search engines take into account relevance and authority. When it returns results to a user, it’s looking for pages that are authoritative and are relevant to their search query.
Relevance: Is the content of your page relevant to the user’s search query?
Authority: Does your website have influence? There are many factors involved in determining whether your site is authoritative, including age, popularity and size.
b. Keyword Research and Planning
Keyword research and planning is the foundation of SEO. It’s important to figure out what targeted search terms people might use in order to try to find your website content, so you want to take some time to do this. You should think about user intent — what would a person be looking for and what terms would they enter into a search engine?
The three factors that matter most when selecting keywords are: relevance, volume and competition.
The goal is to determine keywords that are relevant to what’s on your site, that have a fairly good search volume (as in: people are actually searching for these keywords), but which are not so competitive that you’re unlikely to rank against other websites. For example, if you’re a portrait photographer in Toronto specializing in black and white photography, you wouldn’t want to try ranking for the search term “photographer” or even “portrait photographer.” You’d be competing against photographers all around the world who are also trying to rank for that search term.
Instead, you’d want to get more specific with something like “black and white portrait photographer in Toronto.” If you’re looking for clients, you might even try ranking for “affordable black and white portrait photographer in Toronto,” if you want to capture people who are specifically searching for that.
These more specific keywords are called long-tail keywords, and are highly recommended, especially when you’re just getting started with your website and are still building authority. There may not be as many overall searches for these particular terms, but your content will be much more relevant for the people who are searching for them.
To begin your keyword research, begin by making a list of niche topic areas and themes that are relevant to what your website is about. If you’re an art therapist, you might consider topics like: mindfulness, psychotherapy, and stress management. To generate this list, you’ll probably want to do research to find out what people in this field are interested in. Look at other websites and message boards. You can use a tool like BoardReader to scan message boards across different sites.
Once you’ve narrowed down your topics, you’ll want to start generating keywords. Think of words and phrases that people might type into a search engine, like: “art for stress management,” “what is art therapy,” “how to do art therapy” or “art therapy tips.” You can also use search engines to find related search terms you may not have thought of.
Keep in mind that you’ll be focusing on one keyword per page, so you’ll have to figure out which terms will work best. (This also means that if your website covers different topics, you’ll be better off creating pages for each one rather than trying to lump it all together on one page.) This is where you can use a tool like Google Trends to compare how popular various search terms are; you can even compare keywords against each other.
If you have a Google Adwords account, you can use the Keyword Planner tool to look at things like search volume and traffic estimates for various keywords. Other paid tools like Moz’s Keyword Explorer and SERP Analysis Tool will even give you a score for each keyword that tells you how difficult each keyword is to rank for.
One tip is to take a look at your own website’s analytics to see what keywords are already bringing people to your website.
And remember that relevance is an important factor in ranking, so make sure that you are choosing keywords because they make sense for the content that’s on your webpages, not just because they’re popular.
Now that you’ve picked your keywords, let’s move on to what to do with them.
c. On-Page SEO
On-page SEO refers to all the content and HTML on your site that can be optimized. Here are some things to look for:
Before we start using the keywords, you’ll want to pay attention to how your site is structured. A well-organized website makes it easier for search engines crawlers to find and index all of your pages.
Consider all the pages you want to have on your website. You’ll have a homepage, and probably an “About” page and a “Contact page.” If you’re a filmmaker, for example, you may want to have a separate page for every project you’ve worked on. You could group all these pages into a subsection called “Projects.”
Once you’ve listed all the pages, create a site map showing how all the pages will be structured. Ideally, you’ll want to be able to reach any page on your site in just a few clicks from the “Homepage”. If it takes many clicks to get to a page on your website, it will be harder for the crawler to find.
You’ll also want to have links in between your pages that make sense. A navigation bar on each page will help users and crawlers move easily between your site. Having inline links in your content will also help crawlers understand the connection between pages, as long as it makes sense.
Once you’ve figured out your site architecture, you should generate an XML site map, which is a text version of your map, that you can submit to various search engines, which will help their crawlers more easily index your site. There are XML site map generators online that will help you create these.
For search engines, how quickly your site loads is an important factor in how well you rank.
First off, when you pick a hosting service for your website, make sure you pick one that is fast and reliable. Do your research.
Some common hosts:
- WordPress: There are various third-party SEO plugins available for WordPress but Yoast SEO is considered the best one. It’s a complete tool that lets you optimize your website.
- Wix: Wix offers a free tool to its users called Wix SEO Wiz.
- Weebly: Weebly has built-in SEO features and offers an SEO Guide.
- Squarespace: Squarespace also has built-in SEO features, which you can learn more about here.
When you’re building your site and adding media like photos, videos and audio, you’ll want to make sure the files are properly compressed and not too large.
You can use a tool like Google’s PageSpeed Insights to check how fast your site is. It also offers recommendations on how to improve.
One place you’ll want to use your keywords are in the URLs of your pages. When you pick a site URL, you’ll probably want to use your name. But also think about how you want to brand yourself, and maybe your company, for the future — for example, something like www.yournamephotography.com or www.yournamestudios.com. That’s something that people may search for down the line if you’re branding yourself.
Also consider your URLs for each individual page on your site. They should be fairly short and contain meaningful keywords related to the page’s topic. For example, if you’re an author and you have a page related to one of your books, a URL that makes sense would be: www.website.com/books/your-name-title-of-book.
Titles and Headers
You can see the title of each page at the top of your browser. You’ll want to try to use keywords here, and have a unique title for each page depending on what the content is. If you can edit the HTML of your pages, you’ll want to edit the <title> tag.
Another place to use keywords is in headers. These look like subtitles on your page. In the HTML code on your page, you’ll know something’s a header if it’s between header tags: <h1>, <h2>, <h3>, etc. In most text editors, you can make something into a header through a style drop down. Whenever you have a subtitle for a section on your page, use these header tags rather than just making them bold or italicized, which won’t count for SEO.
Your meta description is what people will see as the snippet of text under your page title on the search engine results page. It doesn’t affect your rank according to the Google algorithm, but it will affect whether or not people decide to click on that link (and click-through rates do in turn affect your rank).
The description should make sense to visitors, so write it for human eyes, not for crawlers. It should also be relevant to the content that’s on that page. If you leave it blank, search engines will just use the first bits of text on that page, which may not always be ideal.
For example, for your homepage, you may write something like: “This is the official website of Your Name, a Vancouver-based artist specializing in textile sculpture.”
On your website, the HTML tag for meta descriptions will look something like this:
<head> <meta name=”description” content=”This is an example of a meta description. This will often show up in search results.”></head>
Using structured data on your website is another way to tell search engines what kind of content is there.
Structured data is a standardized format for providing information about a page and classifying the page content; for example, on a recipe page, what are the ingredients, the cooking time and temperature, the calories, and so on.
You can also classify other types of content, such as articles, book reviews, movies and local businesses. This helps improve the way your page displays in SERPs by enhancing rich snippets that are displayed. It also helps increase the chances of your content appearing in a featured snippet, which appears at the top of SERPs, giving your site exposure and credibility.
For example, having these items on a page with video will help get it displayed in Google’s Video Snippets: Name, Description, ThumbnailURL, Duration, Transcript.
There is also structured content for voice: Webmasters can place schema on their website so they can take advantage of the 35.6 million voice search demands taking place every month. What’s more, website markup has a monumental influence on featured snippets.
A new form of markup is released nearly every month, with one of the latest developments being markup for movies. Although this might seem insignificant, the fact that we are now seeing markup for films shows just how granular and far-reaching structured data has come.
Google has an online tool that helps you generate code for different types of content.
Since the goal of search engines is to give users the best possible result for every query, one of the key things you can do to optimize your site is to actually offer quality content. Your copy should be well-written and optimized for people first and search engines second. Basically, write for human eyes.
At the same time, be very clear and direct. Don’t use titles that hint, play on words, or might otherwise obscure meaning.
You’ll want to include your target keyword phrase 1-3 times on your page. Avoid using it more than that. Excessive use of your keyword on a page is known as “keyword stuffing,” and search engines have grown wise to this practice. Doing this will only hurt your rank. Use keywords in a natural way that makes sense for human readers.
Another reason you want to offer visitors engaging, attractive, readable content: the longer people stay on your pages, the better your search engine rankings will be. Google tracks how long visitors stay on your site and takes this into account. Conversely, if people click through to your site and immediately leave (known as a bounce rate), that tells search engines that your page isn’t what they wanted, and that could hurt you.
You also want to make sure you’re regularly adding or updating pages on your site. This lets crawlers know that your website is still active, and will help your rank. So update your portfolio often, update your page with upcoming events, or even maintain a blog if that makes sense for your and your work. Whatever content you’re posting, make sure it is your own original work — while it might be tempting to cut-and-paste from other sources such as Wikipedia or other articles, this will hurt your SEO.
In 2019, Google switched to something called mobile-first indexing, which means that when it indexes your website’s content, it prioritizes the mobile version. So when you’re building your website — or choosing a design template — make sure it’s responsive and loads quickly on mobile devices.
If you’ve set up your website so that you have separate desktop and mobile versions, make sure that your mobile site contains the same content as your desktop site. If something is missing from your mobile site, Google won’t index it.
d. Off-Page SEO
If on-page SEO is everything on your website to improve your rank, off-page SEO is everything that happens off your website.
For many, the most important off-page SEO is link building. This is getting other pages across the internet to link to your website. But you have to be strategic about how you do this.
When another page links to your website, you can think of that as a vote of confidence. It tells search engines that your site has something that is worth linking to. While the amount of links matters, so does the quality. Links from pages with high authority are more valuable, as are links from pages that are relevant to your own page. You should aim to get natural links from pages that are both authoritative and relevant.
There are many tactics to get external websites to link to you. The obvious one is to create content that is worth linking to. If you can create content that is unique or original, and which people can’t easily find elsewhere, that will help make the case to link to your site.
Another tactic is to do outreach to make connections with similar artists, organizations and websites, and find ways to share links to each others’ pages. Focus on websites with high page authority; for example, non-profit and educational websites tend to be seen as trustworthy by search engines. Another thing you can do is offer guest author content on other websites; bloggers will often write guest posts on other blogs in order to reach new audiences and drive visitors back to their own blogs.
You can also search for online artist directories and try to get listed on them. However, you’ll want to make sure that they are legitimate. Quality matters. There are website directories that require you to pay to get listed and are nothing more than money making schemes. You’ll want to avoid these.
Local Businesses and Content Aggregators
Register your organization for free on Google My Business. This will get you a business listing and your profile will appear in more places, such as Google Maps results. It also gives you more ways to connect and interact with customers / visitors. Find out more at Google My Business.
Also consider listing yourself or your content on other aggregators, such as IMDB.
Don’t Link Spam
In general, you want to avoid gimmicks and scams. Don’t trade links with websites that are irrelevant to your own. You also don’t want to get your link out there by posting it in out-of-context in places like forums, blog comments, guest books, etc. This is called link spamming, and can result in a penalty or even a ban from search engines.
The quality of links to your website matters, and bad links can hurt your ranking. There are various tools you can use to perform backlink analysis — if you find your link appearing in unwanted places, you should try to have it removed.
e. Social Media
Whether social media is actually used as a direct factor in Google’s algorithm has been up for debate in SEO circles. However, it can still affect rankings indirectly by promoting your content on these platforms and helping you reach potential new audiences.
Add social share buttons on your pages so that visitors can easily share the link on their own social media.
Build a social media presence on platforms that make sense for you and your work. Remember that your social media pages can also rank in search engines (since the platforms themselves have high authority), giving people another avenue to find you.
If your work is image-based, consider maintaining a Pinterest account and uploading regularly. Images from Pinterest tend to rank highly on Google image searches.
Research and include relevant hashtags to make it easier for new people interested in your content to find your social posts.
f. Optimizing Images
Many artists’ online portfolios are simply image galleries of their work. Although it’s ideal to try to include some text on the page for context, there are also a few other tactics that can help with SEO for your images.
The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure you decrease the file sizes of your images as much as possible, while still maintaining quality. If the files are too large, your pages will take longer to load, hurting your ranking. If they’re too small, they may end up pixelated, and if you’re trying to showcase your art, you’ll want it to look the best that it can online.
First, resize your images with the right dimensions. The average camera phone will produce images that are about 4000px x 3000px — that’s far too large for the web. The right dimensions will vary depending on where you’re using the image, but for example, the recommended dimensions for a Twitter header image is 1500px x 500px.
Once your images are cut to size, you’ll have to pick the right file format. There are a variety of different formats for images, each with its own pros and cons. (You can select the format when you’re exporting your image in whatever image editor you’re using.) For example:
- PNG produces higher quality images, but also has a larger file size. They’re ideal for detailed images or for when you’re exporting an image that will still be edited further, since this format retains all the data, making it a form of “lossless” compression. It’s also the only format that supports transparent backgrounds.
- GIF has a smaller file size, but also lower quality. It only uses 256 colors, so it’s best for things like icons or thumbnails. It also supports animated images.
- JPG is the most common image file format and is often the default format on many cameras. In most cases, it will be the right choice to use for your image. It supports millions of colours, so it’s ideal for photographs. It’s a form of “lossy” compression, which means that some of the data is thrown away, but you can also choose the level of compression when you’re exporting the image. You’ll have to experiment to find the right balance.
Once your images are ready to be exported, the next thing you’ll want to consider are the file names. What you name your files is yet another piece of text that the search engine crawlers will see, so make them informative and relevant to the image content. Don’t leave them as default file names — like IMG0987. This means nothing to search engine crawlers.
When uploading images to your platform, include appropriate alt text. Alt text will almost always be a field that you can (and should) fill out on whatever platform you’re using. Alt text was originally intended to improve accessibility — it’s what vision impaired users will hear when they are browsing a page, and it’s also the text that appears if your image doesn’t load properly. Make it descriptive but keep it under 125 characters.
g. Optimizing Videos
If your work is video based, you can use SEO tactics to help it rank better in search results.
First, you’ll want to decide where to host your video. You can host videos on platforms like YouTube, Vimeo or Dailymotion. You can also host videos yourself on your website. The benefits of this is that you’ll have total control over the videos — including things like ads and comments. However, hosting videos on your own website means that you’ll have to make sure you can handle bandwidth and speed issues. Slow-loading videos won’t be a good user experience.
With platforms like YouTube or Vimeo, you can be sure that your videos will be fast and reliable, and the interface is user-friendly enough to get your videos uploaded and ready for audiences. The downside is that viewers won’t be sent to your website, so you’ll miss out on inbound links that matter for SEO. On the flipside, if your site isn’t well-known, then putting your videos on existing video platforms will make it easier for your videos to be discovered.
Each video hosting site has its own features, so you’ll have to research which one is right for you. YouTube, the most popular video site, is the second largest search engine after Google (which are both owned by Alphabet). Over two billion logged-in users visit YouTube each month, and every day people watch over a billion hours of video. Aside from being easy to use and reliable, YouTube is a good platform to reach a large swath of audiences.
Other video hosting sites, like Vimeo, may have higher quality standards than YouTube or have other features that you may prefer. Some are also ad-free. Here’s a list of YouTube alternatives and why you might want to give them a try.
Whichever video hosting site you use (or if you use your own), there are a few best practices to optimize your videos for search:
Use keywords in your video title, description and tags
Just like for web pages, the titles and descriptions of your videos play a factor in how they rank in search. Use the keywords that you are trying to rank for, but also make sure the title and description are engaging and descriptive. It’s a good idea to do separate keyword research for video to see what people are searching for.
Also use keywords you want to rank for to add tags to your videos. Like keywords for pages, you’ll want them to reflect the content of your video. Some sources recommend using tags that are 2-3 words in length. Avoid “tag stuffing,” which is overloading your video with too many tags. That may hurt your rankings. Aim for 5-8.
Use an engaging image thumbnail
They say not to judge a book by its cover, but for videos, having an eye-catching and engaging thumbnail can heavily impact click-through rates. Don’t just use any default capture from your video — make sure you design a compelling custom thumbnail image and upload that to go along with your video.
Upload a transcript to go along with your video
It not only makes the video more accessible to audiences, but also gives crawlers more text to crawl through. Most video hosting platforms will allow you to upload an SRT file, which turns your transcript into subtitles that viewers can turn on while watching the video. If you’re embedding the video on your web page, you can also add a text transcript to the page.
If you’re embedding video on your web page, make it the focus
Crawlers will usually stop crawling for video after the first one on the page. So if you have multiple video projects, it’s a good idea to have a separate page for each one.
h. Measuring Results
You should regularly monitor your site analytics to see if your SEO is having any effect (remember that it takes time). Some tools you can use are Adobe, Google Analytics, and Search Console. Keep learning and adjusting. SEO is a long game!
a. Access is a Human Right
Each disability is different. Each Disabled person has a different set of access needs. Some people have multiple disabilities. Knowing this, disability comes in different forms. It’s important to learn about people with disabilities, what their access needs are, and how to accommodate all of us.
People with disabilities make up 22% of the Canadian population. Out of that Disabled population, only 30% have visible disabilities, while 70% of that group have invisible disabilities. A visible disability can be identified by factors related to a person’s appearance and/or how they communicate. Some invisible disabilities include living with chronic pain, cancer, mental illness, sleeping disorders, and more.
Anyone can become Disabled at any point in their lives. If you gained an additional disability, wouldn’t you want accommodation and ease in your daily life?
b. Inclusion of the Disabled Community
The number of Canadians living with disabilities will grow from 2.9 million (as of February 2018) to 3.6 million over the next 13 years. As the population ages, the number of people with disabilities will continue to grow, and along with it, so will the demand for accessible accommodations.
When online content becomes more accessible, then we will see an increase in users with disabilities, aging adults and people experiencing temporary disabilities.
It is important for art organizations to include Disabled artists in the wide variety of art events, commissions, exhibitions and festivals that occur. That means undertaking steps to create accessible events and call outs for participants.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an increase in people becoming Disabled after recovering from severe illnesses. We must be prepared to meet the needs of newly Disabled people.
c. Understanding Disabled User Needs
To understand what a Disabled user needs to navigate the online realm using websites, social media, and online events – we need to consider various ways of providing access. There are three ways to gain a better understanding of how to provide accessible content: research, consultation and testing.
Gather as much information as you can about providing accessibility online in various formats. Use primary and secondary research sources to determine the needs of Deaf and Disabled users.
Research can come from publications, journals, articles, interviews, and survey data. Try this list of Canadian Research Resources including databases, search engines, and library archives. You can use data from research on the Disabled user experience with online navigation to determine the best practices on providing accessible accommodations for Disabled users.
On the World Wide Web (W3), there are a number different ways to develop websites and webpages. Check out WC3, an international resource centre containing an information library that was used to establish best standards and practices on how to design the best online user experience. On their website, they have outlined technical specifications and guidelines on how to create and design online content that is accessible to a wide range of users.
Before launching content online, consult with Disabled users to ensure that the content meets their accessibility needs. This can prevent additional revisions to the content that is already posted online.
After launching accessible content online, gather feedback from Disabled users to see what aspects are successful and which aspects need improvement.
Before creating a full version of the content that you’re planning to share online, test different aspects of the materials to make sure it is accessible to the users.
We will go into more detail below about all the features you can test including:
- Design and Navigation
- Colours, Brightness, Contrast
- Text format
- Language use
- Image labels
- Video quality
- Audio quality
- Interpreter screen placement
- Light quality
- Chat feature
A well-organized design and structure of the website will be easier for low vision and blind users to navigate.
Colours and Contrast
For blind and low vision users, consider the colours and levels of contrast when it comes to designing websites. Consider the brightness from the light emitting off the screen. When you include contrast in your design plans, you are making sure that there is enough contrast to differentiate between different sections and allow low-vision users to identify visual content better. You can check the contrast on your work with a website like this one.
d. Content Formats
Using text as one of the formats in providing accessible online content is not as simple as it may seem. Some text is not accessible to people with certain needs. For example, some Blind folks may rely on text-to-speech technology. Some Deaf folks need translation from text to sign language. There are a number of ways to make your content more accessible.
Some low vision or Blind users may want to use the zoom feature to resize text to be able to read the text better. For more, see this article from Yale on usability.
To keep your users engaged, organize your content for maximum readability. Consider sentence and paragraph length, language use, and word choice. For example, break down text-heavy information with headings and subsections so it is easier for users to read. You want all users to understand the content that you are sharing.
Text to Speech
If you are someone who needs technology to assist you with reading text out loud and have access to an Apple smartphone, you may be able to use Siri as your default text to speech app.
Settings > Accessibility > Spoken Content > Speak Selection (turn on) >Speak Screen (turn on)
Alt Text (also known as Alternative text) is an accurate text description of an image. The alt text is not usually displayed on a web page. It shows up when the image cannot be displayed. Screen readers use the alt text to provide access to low vision and Blind users.
In the HTML Format, it reads as the <img> tag. For example, an image alt text looks like this:
<img src “/images/photo.jpg” alt= “One fuschia peony flower in a textured dark gray vase on a light gray background” >
When there is non-text content, provide a text description of the content so it can be translated into other formats that suit people’s needs. Some alternate formats include large print, braille, text-to-speech audio, symbols, or simpler language. For a how-to guide on image descriptions, take a look at this link.
Audio and Video
To provide accessibility to Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing users, provide accessible options such as volume adjustment and the ability to turn sound on and off.
Transcripts are available as a text version of spoken dialogue and audiological information made accessible to users who may be Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing or having difficulties processing auditory information. The process of developing transcripts is called transcribing.
When developing a transcript based on audiological-visual information available in the video, it is important to consider what information will be included. Some videos will have text embedded, which means that visible information needs to be included in the transcript to ensure accessibility for Blind and low-vision users. Most transcripts come in a plain text format or in HTML format.
Descriptive transcripts include visual information required to fully comprehend the content. Descriptive transcripts can be used to describe the environment, people’s appearances in detail, and artwork. Depending on the content, descriptive transcripts can be written in an artistic style. Here’s a brief guide on creating descriptive transcripts.
Captions and Subtitles
Captions (or subtitles) are available as a text version of spoken language and audiological information made accessible to d/Deaf and hard of hearing users.
Subtitles are translations of spoken dialogue into the text language that the viewer understands. For example, for an English speaking audience, English subtitles accompany a foreign language film. Subtitles assume viewers hear the audio.
Subtitles for the Deaf and hard of hearing (SDHH) include information about background sounds as well as a translation of the script. If there is more than one speaker, identify which speaker is in turn.
Captions are not a translation of the spoken language, rather, it’s a common language in different formats (text and spoken). Captions can also indicate non-spoken audiological information.
Captions are typically available as an accessibility accommodation for d/Deaf people and people with disabilities and for users who process written information over audiological means.
There are two types of captioning: open and closed. Open captions are readily available onscreen and there is no way to turn them off as they are embedded into the video. Closed captions are more commonplace, as they are optional. One can choose to turn on and off closed captions.
There are a number of applications that can generate automatic captions. However, automatic captions are not very reliable or accurate. For example, there are typically errors for people with accents or speech disabilities. Automatic captions should only be used as the first step towards creating your own captions and transcripts. If you decide to use automatic captions, invest the time into editing the captions generated.
For live captioning, professional real-time captioners provide a service translating spoken language into text language. Captioning services can be provided in person and/or remotely. This type of service is typically known as Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART).
The default presentation style of captions are typically white text in a black box. However, users may modify text style, text size, and positioning of captions if their media player has customization options available.
Some captioning tools may permit you to upload a text transcript to be converted into captions.
Some users may rely on speech-to-text, a technology that allows users to speak their message which will be translated into a text format.
For example, speech-to text applications include:
- Amazon Transcribe
- Google Cloud
- The Ava App
Video & Social Media Platforms
The following streaming platforms are widely used in the Deaf and Disabled Communities. Some are free to use while some platforms have a cost. Some streaming platforms have additional features that makes it easier to provide access.
Zoom has a number of potentially helpful features including:
- Audio/video (on/off)
- Background Customization (can give a neutral background)
- Name/Pronoun Display
- Pin Screen (great for sign language interpreters)
- Screen Sharing
Zoom has four different tiers of plans for users to engage with. Depending on the plan and features, Zoom can be free or quite expensive to use.
In 2020, only one screen can be displayed when using a Facebook live stream. However, there are other streaming services that feature more than one screen (allowing for an interpreter), that can stream directly to the Facebook platform. Facebook has a program on their platform where you can manually install captions using their video manager or upload a prepared captions file. Facebook is popular for the ease of archiving video and the potential to reach a lot of people.
Instagram allows users to livestream video with their followers. Instagram allows up to two screens to display during the livestream. For sign language users, they can have interpreters join the livestream to offer voice interpretation, and vice versa. It’s easy to add guests by request or remove them. Livestream videos can be saved to stories and highlights. Instagram recently introduced a captioning feature on their app. The captioning feature can translate 16+ spoken languages into text.
YouTube is a popular platform that offers captioning tools through YouTube Studio. However, as of 2020, YouTube will be discontinuing community captioning contributions causing further barriers in providing accessibility.
Hashtags and keywords for captions can include: #CC #OC #CART #OpenCaptions #OpenCaptioning #EnglishSubtitles #ClosedCaptions #ClosedCaptioning #Subtitles #DeafAccess
For online streaming services, do a tech-run prior to the live event so the main users (panelists, performers, hosts, interpreters, etc) providing content know how to use the service properly. You could also have a screen manager operating the streaming service.
Sign Language Translations
It is always recommended to hire a Deaf person who is fluent in both American Sign Language (ASL) and English to write up ASL to English translations. Keep in mind, when translating a 15-minute video from ASL to English, it will take about two hours. The same would be true for any other language such as Langue des signes du Québec (LSQ).
Sign Language Interpretation
Sign language interpretation is most commonly provided for Deaf users, but there are others who rely on sign language for a number of reasons. There is a misconception that American Sign Language (ASL) equalizes to a signed version of English and that captioning would work in place of an ASL interpreter. ASL does not equalize to English as it is its own language with its own grammatical structure and syntax.
With the covid-pandemic precautions in place, many in-person events have moved online. Users who rely on sign language interpretation can access services either through pre-recorded video interpretation or through live video interpretation.
When working with sign language interpreters, it is important to provide preparation materials well ahead of time. Workshops preparation materials include, for example, land acknowledgement, PowerPoints, speaking notes, readings, music lyrics, and mp4 files.
For large scale bookings such as multi-day training or conferences, Interpreters need to be booked two to three months in advance to form an appropriate team. For smaller scale bookings such as meetings (up to 4-5 persons), please book two to four weeks before the assigned date.
All promotional materials need to be written in a manner that is inclusive of people with all types of disabilities. Include alt-text or an image description for low-vision and Blind users. Promotional and advertising materials should come in a variety of formats, for example, email, social media posting, accessible web pages, video, photos, posters and flyers.
Alternate formats can include:
- Plain Text Format
- ASL Format
- Text to Speech
- Large Text Format
If you are doing paid advertising on Facebook and/or Instagram, you can select the “target audience” that will help in reaching specific audiences, such as people with disabilities.
If you are promoting an event, provide an accessibility acknowledgement of what type of access accommodation is being offered, and what is not. Use accessibility symbols to show what kind of access is provided. Include the contact information and the name of the person responsible for any accessibility and/or accommodation information. Ensure that the documents are ready and prepared in advance for those who may need them before the event.
Accessible tech support is crucial. Try to provide a range of ways for users to get in touch such as phone, text, email and live chat.
a. Internet of Things (IoT)
Internet of Things (loT) is a network of devices which connect the physical and digital world enabling access to content
everywhere. While perhaps the most famous example is a fridge that has wifi and which can order groceries, consider the broader environment where there will soon be one trillion internet connected devices.
IoT is going to change how we view art. For example, at the San Jose airport, there is a permanent artwork called the eCLOUD project which changes its display based on current weather data.
Wearable devices such as smart watches accounted for 181.5 million units in 2019, and they are expected to reach 520.1 million units by 2025, worldwide. Any website can be reached by a smart watch, but does it provide the right content for this tiny screen?
If artists set up their content in a structured way and following the SEO recommendations above, material can become available on IoT devices.
There are several ways in which language and voice technology will impact artists and art organizations. Voice search, voice to text and the ability to create products with voice and visual display is on the rise. All three are built on speech recognition computing.
An increase in capabilities of voice computer communication (using artificial intelligence and machine learning) is changing the way people search. Voice search is becoming more popular, especially as more people use voice assistants, like Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant. By 2020, we expect 6.7 million people in Canada — or 17.9% of the population—will use a smart speaker. Smart speakers are gaining popularity quickly because they are easy to use.
When developing keyword phrases, remember that when people use voice search, they typically speak more conversationally and in the form of a question. Long-tail keywords will work best. Also consider having an FAQ on your site to take advantage of the question format. Remember that your content will be read aloud by the voice assistant. Write it in a way that would sound natural and conversational to a listener. Everything that is true for regular SEO also matters in voice SEO: your website should load quickly, it should have a good mobile experience, and keywords matter.
Here’s an example of a smart speaker search.
Voice to Text Capabilities
Voice to text, which increases access to voice content, is being adopted by voice services and mobile applications. With the increase in speech recognition capabilities, voice to text is becoming a usable technology. Here are two examples of how voice is being used in creative situations:
This video demonstrates use of voice to navigate a mobile application and shows how voice to text works. This uses a technology called voice-to-text which is available widely for Android and IOS builds.
This next example shows how voice to text stories can be made available on home speakers such as Google Home speakers video, Android phones with visual interfaces.
This next example shows how voice to text stories can be made available on home speakers such as Google Home speakers video, Android phones with visual interfaces.
Utilizing Voice for Artists and Organizations
Anyone can create voice interactions using the Google, Amazon or Apple products. All use machine learning as a base, but unfortunately, each uses a slightly different technological setup.
Add your organization to the Google Action Directory for voice searches.
Writers should choose book aggregators that provide audio and text versions of books, for example, audible.com.
Note also that non-profits are taking advantage of voice as a fundraising method.
c. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Some content management systems (CMS) are developing ways to classify images using artificial intelligence (AI) to make keyword creation and search easier. While not perfect, Adobe is working on automatic image identification and WordPress has a plug in. This is great if you are dealing with hundreds if not thousands of images. Of course Adobe Stock and other image aggregators want users to license their images. Getting your images to stand out in this cluttered world requires some work.
As mentioned above, visual artists will have to start thinking about SEO when creating visual content like images and videos. SEO for videos means optimizing keyword targeting, descriptions, tags, video length, and more. But it also means using images that are recognizable by AI for promotion and thumbnails, for example good silhouettes and uncluttered images.
Old school search engines analyze the text available on websites and serve up content based on individual words. Content management systems (CMS) are now developing entity extraction which enables the identification and classification of text information. CMS add-ons enable digital content managers to use AI to produce keywords instead of doing the thinking themselves. Because it is only partially accurate these CMS such as Adobe Experience Manager include a manual field in addition to the AI keyword field. Learn more about text classification or document categorization.
In the future, search will become based on not just one to one translation of text, but also context. Two Google products, RankBrain and Bidirectional Transformers for Language Understanding (BERT) aim to understand the context of content on websites. Affecting one in ten searches, BERT gives Google a better understanding of how language is used and helps it comprehend the context of individual words within searches. The important thing to know about BERT (and also RankBrain), is the fact that you cannot optimize for it.
AI technology is being adopted to measure reaction to art, evaluate emotion and in problematic work and policing situations.
The ability to evaluate an emotional reaction to art through measuring facial expression is now available. This relies on measuring EEG patterns in the frontal regions of the brain as the person reacts to visual arts such as painting and sculpture. Since this is so evaluative and subjective it raises many questions about accuracy.
Recently, a painting was created using a machine-learning algorithm from the analysis of millions of other paintings to create art that pleases. Eventually this will connect to future searching options, for example, searching for “happy” art.
This type of AI has also been used in work situations or in policing. However it is problematic and has been cancelled in some circumstances because it can rely on biased stereotypes.
Another example is “Sentiment Analysis,” the detection of sentiment or emotions in texts. Customer service departments are using this now to determine the level of emotion in customers. Again, presumptions are being made about the audience’s emotions based on how they write. Eventually this will be adopted to aid writer’s analysis of what their text means to others and to develop more robust search capabilities.
Behaviour AR, VR, XR and Search
Algorithms that enable machines to make connections, or “learn” to process the way people behave can result in changes for artists. New modes of content such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) can provide better user experience and grant more information-rich services. These new technologies can provide a greater understanding of what users want because they include more human interaction than reading or listening, for example, movement, 360 degree sound and interaction. In Canada, check out the mobile application Collection – the App which shows work via augmented reality from many galleries across Canada.
d. Exponential Growth of Media
The sheer volume of data in the world is increasing exponentially. Websites are evolving into data portals that spread content across the internet.
Connected data portals called “datalakes” will connect private and public information in the future, according to European Union (EU) research. Individuals will protect their own data by use of blockchain – another new technology. Bots will talk to bots in the same way a human talks to Google search now.
A data portal is structured, machine-readable, royalty-free data that is accessible and reusable. This data can correspond to coordinates, lists, plans, items in a collection, research results, and more. The data structure enables it to be consumed by search engines or displayed through aggregators such as Etsy. For example, arts councils provide lists of past grants, awards and assessors along with other data in machine readable formats.
The EU, Canadian government and various Canadian organizations such as Vubblepop.com are researching how AI can inform our data organization and understanding of video content, for example, The EU proposes an international metadata dictionary for keywords be created from the existing W3 and other international dictionaries (Dublin Core Metadata terms, Schema.org).
Manage your content so it’s ready for the future by creating structured content that is simple and readable by machines and humans.
Sales aggregators, created by aggregating data from many products, also have their own internal forms of search. Etsy for example uses keywords and ranking as well as data structure in its own search algorithm. Other examples include Saatchi Art, Bitmax, Amazon and Vimeo. Using content aggregators can push your content up in search results.
Artists and art organizations are now very dependent on the top search engine in the world Google, along with artificial intelligence, and that raises some issues.
Google was found to have acquired the personal health records of 50 million Americans without their consent. “The forces taking the web in the wrong direction have always been very strong,” www founder Tim Berners-Lee said. Whether you’re a company or a government, controlling the web is a way to make huge profits, or a way of ensuring you remain in power. In Toronto the Google Sidewalk project was cancelled due to citizen’s concerns about data ownership.
Citizens are arguably the most important part of this, because it’s only citizens who are motivated to hold government and business to account. Many people and organizations are concerned about the hold of internet giants. Here’s some examples of what they are doing to create alternatives:
- Toronto based tech company Vubble and Seneca College have launched an innovative AI Video Categorization Project. They advocate for human driven keyword tagging to offset the AI data stereotypes that are dogging our internet world
- Sir Tim Berners Lee has created a World Wide Web Foundation and is calling for a free web where profits don’t decide what happens and where individuals can store their data in one place and control it.
- There are many apps and other initiatives underway to preserve languages. AI systems give preference to the most commonly spoken languages in the world. Languages that are not captured by Google are at a disadvantage in search. For example Google only translates two Indigenous languages in the Americas. You can help by contributing to initiatives such as Opie Robots.
- Blockchain and edge computing may be two future alternatives. EU research tells us that these two technologies may be able to come together to provide a means for individuals to store their data and control it within the data lake that is likely in the future. Will this also apply to art and art organization material?
- Facebook alternative MeWe, a social networking app that claimed to fiercely protect user privacy. However has come under fire for attracting far right proponents.
This resource was researched and written by Sage Lovell, Althea Manasan and Barb Taylor. Project team includes Editor Ananda Korchynski, UX designer Althea Balmes, Project Leads Madi Piller of PIX FILM Collective and Barb Taylor of Coyle Films. Special thanks to Alexandra Gelis. Funded by Canada Arts Council Digital Program, this project was initiated by Barb Taylor to share new trends in SEO with artists. Participating organizations include Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto, PIX FILM Collective and BC Alliance for the Arts. Thanks to our gracious web home IMAA! Special thanks to workshop ASL interpreters Amanda Hyde, Carmelle Cachero and Thurga Kanagasekarampillai.
2. Audiences with Disabilities
3. The Future
New technology is changing the way audiences consume information, but also increasing the ways in which artists and art organizations can deliver it.
4. Alternatives to Internet Giants
5. Research Team