I am building a visual dictionary for a sign language. Part of the dictionary is a video function where you can see someone making the sign or signing a definition. These videos are pretty short, 1-2 seconds for a sign and 3-5 for a definition. Is it better to have the videos repeat automatically or should there be a replay button?

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    Since it's a short video, I think it's essential for the user to grasp the concept of what's being taught and mentally store it and try it out for himself. You could conduct an observation by involving users and seeing how many replays does it take for a user to actually understand a particular sign. Collect an average and repeat the video for that many times instead of an infinite number of repeats. You could also use Machine Learning to study each user's total replays till they pause/end the video. Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 17:58
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    I have used websites where they teach you how to tie a particular knot. This is something that needs to be learnt while watching the video before it can be mastered so a few websites use replays. Another approach I like is to replay it once in slow motion, depending on the complexity. Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 18:01
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    Also, you didn't ask, but I think it is worth noting: don't make these videos auto-play. Auto-play on videos under 30 seconds is irritating for the user since it makes them feel like they are missing something before they have a chance to process it. Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 20:12
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    When I was learning ASL, websites that repeated the video definitely helped. It might be worth having it repeat or at least having a button to toggle repeating. Also! If you do repeat, I really suggest making the video fade in from black and have the video last an extra couple of seconds. Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 20:52
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    @called2voyage autoplaying any video embedded in broader content should be avoided - the only time autoplay should be used is when the user are opening a page where the video is the focus (like YouTube or Vimeo)
    – HorusKol
    Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 22:48

6 Answers 6


Why not let the user decide? I'd simply have a toggle that enables/disables the auto repeat feature.

I see two use cases:

  • Someone is wanting a quick review of things that they have just learned (autorepeat is not really needed)
  • Someone is learning new vocabulary and needs to absorb the nuances of each sign (autorepeat is very useful)

I believe it would be very useful to provide a quick and easy way to toggle this feature on and off (i.e. not tucked away in some "User Settings" menu, but rather controlled by a switch/button/toggle near the video itself).

I would run some user testing to observe how people use this feature and make adjustments from there.

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    If you do this, you can remember the state across all videos so they don't have to toggle it for every video.
    – Bob
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 6:03
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    Also, let the user pause the video, rewind, and so on. Even on short videos it can be really helpful.
    – Flimm
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 8:34
  • @Bob, yes, I agree and I had assumed that would be how the OP would know to implement it that way, but thank you for articulating it--but even if they didn't, hopefully the user testing I suggested would help them find that out! Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 14:00
  • Thanks @Bob and maxathousand. Actually, I had not thought to remember the state, that is really helpful. I also had not thought to add a scrubber for rewinding, so thanks for that Flimm.
    – user383
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 14:58
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    I agree, but PLEASE, as an ASL student, make it loop by default. Even when I'm doing a quick review, it doesn't bother me when a site auto-loops, but when I'm learning a sign, and it does not auto-loop, it's really annoying. How SigningSavy does it is great.
    – David
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 19:36

A 1 or 2 seconds video is really short; and looping it will make it look like it is stuttering.

I suggest create a longer video showing the sign 2, 3 times; with different camera angles (if possible).

have a repeat/replay button easily accessible.

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    Showing different clips of the same sign instead of repeating the exact same one has another advantage: Seeing multiple performances will allow the learners to rule out inaccuracies and allow their mind to "average" the performances, both consciously and sub-consciously. It helps them distinguish the real pattern from the noise, and avoid overfitting.
    – Supr
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 8:44
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    Good suggestions. About stuttering, one could render the video and/or add a delay to the repeat to avoid that; I see someone else has also suggested this in the comments below the question. Of course, if used, this should be alongside an option to disable/enable the repeating as mentioned in the other answer, Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 12:19
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    I really like the suggestion of multiple camera angles. My wife is learning sign language mostly from websites or YouTube, and sometimes it can be hard to see exactly what the person is doing because the angle is bad.
    – diego
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 13:43
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    Thanks for the multiple angles suggestion @Supr. Sadly, I don't have control over our linguistics team, but if I did, I'd definitely have them do that.
    – user383
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 14:57
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    it's a great suggestion. i'd reiterate though, if you only have the one video, LEAVE A GOOD GAP between loops.
    – Fattie
    Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 22:37

From personal experience, I can comfortably watch a 2 second gif repeatedly, if and only if the transition from end to start is quite smooth.

If you are working with computer generated models: Perhaps the hands could return to the default position after they finish.

If you are working with content you can't influence: Perhaps you can add a fade out of the end shot, directly followed by a fade in to the start shot. This may mean your 2 sec video becomes 3 or 4 seconds, but I think it should be worth it.


Do not have the video on repeat by default; if a repeat option is offered to the user or if the sign is repeated within the video itself, make sure it's completely obvious when the sign starts and when it ends.

Some signs repeat parts of the sign. Do not confuse users into thinking a sign must be repeated by repeating it.

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    You can simply flash the screen WHITE to delimit the beginning and end. And yes it should repeat
    – Jonathan
    Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 19:29

Avoid having a jump cut from the end of the video to the start without anything to indicate that's what's happening. Starting with a freeze-frame and a caption, then letting the animation play, and then having a freeze-frame which dissolves quickly (e.g. 0.1 second) back to the first freeze-frame+caption combo will make it very clear where the loop is, and avoid any sense of "time disruption".

Videos that start automatically when a page is loaded via session-restore can be annoying. I would suggest that if you have many pages of text, each of which has a video associated with it, you may want to have the video player and its controls be in part of the web page which remains constant as the person selects the different texts, so if the person clicks "play repeatedly" then proceeding from one text page to another will cause video associated with the new page to play or not according to settings on the video. For example, if you like radio buttons, you could use:

(X) Auto-play once when showing text
( ) Auto-play repeatedly
( ) Manual playback only
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    Avoid having a jump cut from the end of the video to the start without anything to indicate that's what's happening. EXACTLY. very well said.
    – Fattie
    Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 22:38

To restate what others have said: There's nothing wrong with looping but

Don't do a hard loop. Have an in-between.

Idea 1:

Run the 2 sec video and hold on the last frame. Quick cross fade to a text sign "Boat.", for 2 seconds. Quick cross back to the first frame of the video. Run the vid - repeat.

Idea 2:

Run the 2 sec video. Hold on the last frame. Over the last frame, quick fade up lettering "Boat.". hold for 2 secs. Quick fade out the lettering, then instant cut to the first frame of the vid and immediately run. Repeat.

Idea 3:

Run the 2 sec video and hold on the last frame. Quick cross fade to amorphous gray cloud. Hold for 2 secs. Quick cross back to the first frame of the video. Run the vid - repeat.

Idea 4 - you often see this:

It's the "news expose repeating loop" in-between:

Run the 2 sec video. At the end, run a "comic rewind" for 2 seconds. (So, you see a suggestion of "tape rewinding" with chatter stripes and the like.) Pause on the first frame for 2 secs; run the vid. Repeat.

Ask any good film editor to get more ideas!

I hope it helps and works!

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