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It would be useful to know that a video (played on a web page) has no audio before starting to watch it.

Benefits:

  • Users wouldn't have to pause other audio sources (music player; audio/video telephony; no need to wait until the boring telephone conversation is over; …).
  • Users wouldn't have to turn down their system volume as a precaution.
  • Users can be sure that there is no technical error on their side when they notice that they don’t hear anything (checking system volume; checking audio player volume; checking speakers; …)
  • Hearing-impaired users can be sure that they aren't missing anything. (No need to look for subtitles or a text alternative.)

What could be a good way to indicate this?

  • Just omitting the volume control on the video player might come to mind, however there are various simple players that don’t offer a volume control even for videos with sound.
  • An icon might help here, but it should not be easy to confuse it with an icon representing "mute" (i.e., when the video has audio but it is muted).
  • When there is a link to the video, a notice could be included ("See the video (no sound)"), but not all users access the video via such a link.
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A video without sound reminds me of a gif. What if you immediately played the file and put it on loop like a gif. –  VoronoiPotato Feb 18 at 15:40
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Auto-playinig videos, regardless of audio, are never proper. –  Evil Closet Monkey Feb 18 at 15:52
    
@CodeMaverick: May I ask why you replaced all my with '? –  unor Feb 18 at 21:02
    
@unor - When I was correcting the grammar issue of "good ways" I saw the spell checker had an issue with those marks. I took a look and saw that you were using closing single quotation marks instead of apostrophes. –  Code Maverick Feb 18 at 21:13
    
@CodeMaverick: That character (, U+2019) is the "real" apostrophe (and also used as single quotation mark). –  unor Feb 18 at 21:18
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1 Answer

When the user clicks to play, you simply overlay a message saying 'This video has no sound', and the user clicks to accept this and start the video.

For example, this recent video on the BBC website:

enter image description here

In addition, where there may be sound but no voice-over, and the user might be expecting it, your message would be 'There is no commentary on this video'.

Messaging before or after first click?

This example of messaging after the first click covers many (most?) situations where users expect sound with a video, but obviously there are some instances where that may not be the case. It depends very much on the context of the website on which the video is located.

In general - users expect sound with video.

In some environments, most users may not be expecting sound, so for those videos that do the message could simply indicate the opposite to the example above - i.e. that there is sound on the video - and the user clicks to accept and continue playing. Note this is still catering for exceptions rather than the rule.

In contexts where there is no expectation one way or the other, I suppose you could overlay the message before interaction, but more discreetly than the example above so as not to cover the view. However, you would have to be very consistent about doing it for all those videos with or without sound. I still don't like that idea!

I can't stress enough that messaging before the first click would have to be done with very different intentions than the BBC example indicated above where the message comes after first click.

Messaging before helps those users who don't want any sound. Messaging after helps those who may be surprised by the absence of sound and think something is wrong, or it helps those who aren't expecting sound even though that is not something that necessarily prevents them viewing.

On a website that has a high number of visitors, it is highly recommended to A/B test a few different methods and different placements of the message. If your website is all about video consumption then you really don't want to be adding messaging (clutter) everywhere that may prevent views, and really you should be adding messaging in the minority of cases, to cover the abnormal or unexpected situations.

By the way I'm not sure it's valid to try and provide an inclusive design for those who specifically don't want sound because they're on a boring phone call and only want to watch videos with no sound!

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It seems kind of stupid that you have to click play once, wait for the bbc logo, and then hit play again. Why not just show the "this video has no sound" on hover over the first time (or even before hover over)? That saves the user the frustration of having to click play again if they clicked play once and moved their mouse away. –  n00b Feb 18 at 21:56
    
@n00b People take more notice of just-in-time information. Showing the message before hover clutters the view. Showing the message on hover gives too short a time between the user moving the mouse over the video (with intent to click) and actually clicking. Showing the message after the click delivers the message at the point when the user cares about it - i.e. for the video in question and once they have decided to play. Since the user has already decided to play, it's less likely at this point to stop them watching, compared with showing it earlier. Not stupid. Well considered I would say. –  Roger Attrill Feb 18 at 22:55
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@RogerAttrill How does this help someone who isn't inclined to click on a video unless they know there is no sound? –  avi Feb 19 at 7:46
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@avi - I added more to my answer to cover a bit about this. –  Roger Attrill Feb 19 at 8:47
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