TikTok Accessibility: Best Practices for Creators
Updated: March 29, 2021
With over two billion all-time downloads and 80 million daily users in the US alone, TikTok is one of the most popular apps of our time, particularly among Gen Z. However, when it comes to the social media’s accessibility, the app unfortunately falls short.
Creating accessible TikTok videos can help you reach more people and provide a more interactive, engaging viewing experience. While the app’s accessibility features are currently lacking, users can follow a few simple steps to help reduce barriers for viewers.
Adding captions, inserting audio descriptions, and practicing accessible formatting and design is a great place to start and something any user can do with a little added effort.
What is TikTok?
TikTok describes itself as “the leading destination for short-form mobile video.” Essentially, it is a social networking app where users can create and share short-form video content that is under 60 seconds in length. Content within the app ranges significantly, and users often create lip-sync, dance, comedy, and talent videos.
TikTok’s mission is to “inspire creativity and bring joy.” It’s proven to be a useful tool to build brand awareness. Brands like Chipotle, The Washington Post, and the NBA utilize TikTok to engage with their audience and to showcase their brand’s personality. The app also has advertising and hyperlinking capabilities, which helps generate website traffic and leads.
TikTok and Accessibility
As far as social media accessibility is concerned, TikTok has a ways to go to reduce barriers for people with disabilities.
According to one article, TikTok doesn’t follow many basic design best practices or guidelines. Notably, TikTok’s navigation, usability, hierarchy, layout, and overall design are not conducive to an accessible experience. Plus, unfamiliar patterns within the app are a significant barrier for people with disabilities.
The lack of accessibility and usability is especially stark when compared to Google, Apple, and Microsoft interfaces which strictly follow web accessibility best practices and guidelines.
Your Quick Guide to TikTok Accessibility
Whether or not TikTok will update the app to be more inclusive and accessible remains to be seen. In the meantime, users can advocate for accessibility on their terms by following basic web accessibility standards.
As an added benefit, while each of the following best practices will make your TikTok content more accessible to those with disabilities, they will also improve the viewing experience for everyone.
Adding captions to video content is a crucial component of TikTok accessibility. Captions, also commonly referred to as subtitles, are time-synchronized text that visually depict the audio content. They make videos more accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing and also improve user engagement, video viewing time, and viewing flexibility.
There are a couple of ways to approach captioning your TikTok videos.
One option for creators who publish less often is to use the app’s internal text tool to make DIY captions:
- Record a video in-app or upload a saved file from your device.
- Once your video is recorded or uploaded, check the box in the lower right corner.
- Click on the “Text” button at the bottom of the screen.
- Drag text to position it on the screen (preferably towards the top).
- To determine when the text will appear (timestamps), select the text box and click on the clock icon in the upper right corner.
- Press the play button to see a preview and double check your work.
- Touch Done in the upper right corner of the screen.
The other option is to use an external captioning tool, such as a captioning service or a captioning app. This may be a more viable option if you’re creating TikTok content regularly.
To start, record your videos directly on your phone. You can also record the video in TikTok and download the video from the app onto your phone. From there, upload your videos to a captioning service provider (you may need to send it to a computer first) or a captioning application on your phone.
If using a captioning vendor, you will be provided with a caption file that you must add to your videos using a video editing software. Once you’ve done that, your captioned videos can be uploaded to TikTok.
If using a captioning application, you can download the captioned video back onto your phone and then upload it directly to TikTok. Clipomatic and MixCaptions are mobile captioning apps that are easy to download and use.
Accessible Format and Design
One aspect of social media accessibility that can be applied on TikTok is thoughtful formatting and design. Creators often utilize text in their videos to emphasize points within their content, or as mentioned above, to create captions. When it comes to using text in your TikTok videos, it’s essential to ensure appropriate color contrast, font size, font style, and text placement.
People with low vision and color deficiencies (i.e. color blindness) require enough color contrast between the text and background. With insufficient contrast, the words may be challenging to read. Using a light-colored or white highlighter effect with black font is typically a more accessible option.
As for font size and style, users should pay close attention to the sizing of the text and the style. If the font is too small, it will be especially difficult, if not impossible, for people with low vision to read the text. Choosing a sans serif font style, such as the classic or typewriter font, can improve readability.
Once you are ready to place the text on your video, be sure to position it at the top of the screen. The video’s description will cover text frames placed at the bottom of the screen, and overlapping text is not easily readable.
Include Video Descriptions
TikTok is a visual app – 100% of the app’s content is videos. This can create a barrier for many people who are blind or have low vision, as they may have challenges seeing the content.
Audio description is an accessible video feature that narrates important visual information within video content and aids users with visual disabilities in watching videos. With some planning, users can incorporate audio description with their TikTok videos.
If the video requires a short and sweet visual description, it can live right in the video description box or even in the comments section. If the description is long, users may record audio description within the app to describe what is happening in the video.
Learn more about social media accessibility!
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