‘That’s much better than before’: testing the Easy YouTube Player

July 7, 2008

I’ve been user testing the Easy YouTube Player on a one-to-one basis with some people with learning disabilities who are supported by United Response.

The feedback has been really good with comments like “oh that’s much better than before” and “when is youtube going to look like this?”

Every person who tested this player thought it was much better and easier to use than the standard YouTube player.

Here are the headlines from user testing sessions so far. There’s much more detail but I’ll cut to the chase

Things people liked

  • The control buttons. They were the right size and were easy to understand
  • Being able to change the video size
  • The volume indicator
  • The search facility
  • Being able to put the address in the address bar and see the video they wanted, even if they needed help to do it

Things people wanted to be different

  • Less information on the player (too many words)
  • Things to be organised a bit differently
  • The address facility to be at the bottom of the player, not at the top. (The screen was the main concern.)

Things people would like but are not there

  • A state change to show that you are about to select a button or a video size
  • Visual clues for the different video size options
  • Pictures for the search results (Or if not then, for it to be clearer that you can select these options)
  • A timecode to tell you how long the video is
  • Something to tell you how many videos you will get from the search facility


It was interesting to see how many people did not know you could be on more than website at the same time. (The copy and paste element of finding a video and then pasting it into the address bar caused problems for some. Although, others picked this up quickly!) Every tester used IE.

This is a player and not a re-working of the YouTube site. I found that for some people, the most meaningful way of using the player would be if it was a viewing option once you had selected the video you wanted to see on YouTube itself.

The use of pictures on the site is good in terms of being a visual prompt for people when selecting what it is they want to see. There are other issues with the site but this function is considered by the people I worked with to be good.


So, I had a little play taking the current Easy YouTube player to see how it might look (not function!) in response to this user testing. It might look like this (updated with timecode):

visual of easy youtube player reworked

visual of easy youtube player reworked

I appreciate that this might not be possible in terms of what is technically possible but I hope this is interesting? If it could be progressed to include thumbnails of the videos, it would most likely need to change shape slightly as the thumbnails would need to be big enough to be meaningful.

There are some more people I would like to test with, who I haven’t got hold of yet, so it’s possible that other things are thrown up. It’s an ongoing conversation, of course.

The best finding so far is that making this player accessible in these ways helps people to feel included. Just having more control has made so much difference to the people I have been working with. And I hope therefore that many more people will benefit from it.


Scripting Enabled event: getting people together

July 2, 2008

Scripting Enabled is a “ two day conference and workshop aimed at making the web a more accessible place.” Christian Heilmann is organising it (for some time in September) and he needs input and help.

This is a really good and long overdue idea. The event will be over two days with presentations explaining some of the barriers people face online in terms of accessibility followed by some practical action. Hooray!

Developers and experts will be able to work together to provide alternative interfaces and solutions. And hopefully some of those experts will be some of the people who are experiencing the problems in the first place. Perfect!

Go to Scripting Enabled to sign up to the Yahoo Group to register your interest or support.

There’s also a to do list on the site, so let him know if there is anything you can contribute, especially any ideas on venues.  Update:  The venues will be London Metropolitan University and Gamelabs London

I’m really looking forward to this event and will be giving my full support to this however I can.

Channel 4 news piece on people with learning disabilities online

June 30, 2008

Channel 4 News has put out a report today, talking about how people with learning disabilities are being excluded online.

It was a really good piece which showed some of the real-life problems many people with learning disabilities have accessing information online. The report gave some examples including how difficult it is to find a job or anything about voting online. (We are doing some work around this issue at United Response).

The piece ran at 12 noon and I really hope it makes it into more news programmes. You can watch the piece or read the article on their website.

The best thing about it was that the report showed people with learning disabilities either using websites themselves or talking about the difficulties they face. Rather than someone else doing the talking for them.

The report featured people using assistive technologies at The Rix Centre and there was a great spokesperson from Mencap. I know the producer worked hard with lots of people, including United Response on this piece and guess what? I think we all said the same things.

It’s excellent that this has been highlighted in this way and I hope some good things come out of it.

RNIB Surf Right Toolbar

June 18, 2008

The RNIB has released a Beta version of its RNIB Surf Right Toolbar (for IE).

The RNIB Web Access Centre blog has everything you need to know about the Surf Right Toolbar including how to install it and information on its features.

The RNIB worked with The Web Accessibility Tools Consortium, and Steve Faulkner from the Paciello Group to make this toolbar for people who use Intenet Explorer. It enables users to access some of the accessibility features of the browser quickly by just using the toolbar. This includes turning images on and off and setting options.

It’s nice and big and easy to install. I also like the use of green ticks and red crosses.

Easy Flickr photo viewer

June 18, 2008

Christian Heilmann has been working on the Flickr API!

He’s created a simple picture viewer for Flickr which lets you search for 20 pictures at a time. It’s really easy to use with visual navigation to get you from one picture to another. And it just lets you search for pictures, with nothing else in the way!

Use this screen shot example to go to the player:

Easy Flickr screenshot

Once again, Christian has put time and effort into making it easy for other people to host the interface. You can get the documentation from his blog.

And he’s posted documentation on how he created the viewer on his site. Go to his step-by-step guide

Easy YouTube Player V2

June 13, 2008

Christian Heilmann has released the Easy YouTube Player V2. This is an enhanced version of the original one Christian developed.

Use this screen shot to go to the player:

Easy YouTube player version 2

Possible Benefits

There are many reasons why this player could make it easier for people with learning disabilties to watch YouTube videos. Here are some:

  • The buttons are big.
  • The colours act as clues or prompts to their functionality. Red is stop, green is go and so on.
  • The bar at the top to put the URL in is big. This has obvious benefits and also for people who have secondary impairments such as visual impairment or mobility issues.
  • The instructive text helps people to know what each of the options does.
  • People can search YouTube for topics which will appear in the playlist – this helps to answer my query as to how many people would know how to copy and paste a URL into the box at the top.
  • People have three options as to the size of the video they watch. In my experience, this has been a big issue (and this is one of the things I personally find the most exciting). Video without a resize option can often be missed or meaningless and this really gives users control.
  • It’s easy to control the volume and there is an indicator to visually represent its state.

User Testing

I will be doing extensive user testing on this player next week and the following week, with a range of people with learning disabilities. So the above are mostly my thoughts and those who have tested it to date.

Some things I will be testing:

  • Does it work? Is it clear and is it easier?
  • I am not sure if the wording I have provided is right.
  • It might be too big.
  • I am not sure if there are relativity issues in terms of the design- ie we may need to tweak the relative sizes of all the options if this is overwhelming for people. This is a possibility.
  • We may need to tweak the design elements themselves.
  • I am not sure if we have got the colours right.
  • Will people use the other options available to them, such as the playlists and del.icio.us This will be interesting and the whole area of playlists and favourites is one I would like to look into more, eventually.
  • Would we need to explain copying and pasting URLs in the first place. So far I have had to do this, so I may need to think of a fix.

Of course, there are lots of people with learning disabilities (or otherwise indeed) who use websites with support from a support worker/ carer/ friend etc. Hopefully, this will make it easier for everyone, not just people with learning disabilities themselves. And it should give people more control, more easily, over what they watch and how they watch it.

Player help documentation

Christian has also provided player help documentation which is even more of a bonus in my view.


Please feed back your thoughts on Christian’s blog or here. It would be good to get this as right as we can.

And then maybe YouTube can add it as a viewing option. :-)

Easy YouTube Player

May 21, 2008

And then….. Christian Heilmann contacted me about his work on the YouTube API to create an Easy YouTube Player. It’s a great interface making things much more accessible for people with learning disabilities.

(I’m looking forward to testing it with people. The feedback so far is ‘it’s cool’). It’s just brilliant that Christian has done this. We presented at the Accessibility 2.0 conference recently and lots of good things have come out of that day.

But this is truly brilliant. It just shows what a difference people can make when they have open minds and skill. And the power of collaboration.

More on all of this later… Great stuff.

Inclusive New Media Design project

May 21, 2008

On Monday, I went to The Rix Centre at the University of East London to join four other people to appear on a panel as part of the Inclusive New Media Design project. The project has been working with web designers and developers to explore the best ways to encourage them to make websites which are accessible to people with intellectual disabilities.

Each person on the panel was asked to present on one practical thing the developers and designers could take away and do. My 5 mins was on Big is Beautiful, encouraging people to, well, make things big and maybe bigger than their comfort zone might want. This to help improve the user experience for people with learning disabilities and to prevent people from being locked out of information or indeed websites.

The other speakers were Jonathan Hassell, Head of Audience Experience and Usability at the BBC, freelance web accessibility consultant Ann McMeekin, Nick Weldin from Padington Arts and Simon Detheridge from Widgit Software.

It was a really good opportunity and a joy to present to the group.


May 21, 2008

I intended on having crafted a shiny new good-looking accessible blog before I posted again but too many good things have been happened before I’ve had time to organise anything.


A couple of weeks ago I went to Futuresonic 08 in Manchester. There were some really interesting things going on and some inspirational people.

Highlights for me included The Drake Music project who I have admired for a while. They performed at the weekend. They use technology to work with disabled and non-disabled people so they can make music together. It’s really powerful and great music.

Drake Music Project

I also really enjoyed a presentation by Future of Sound. Some very awe-inspiring innovation and talent there . A demonstration of 4-D sound was just one highlight and the approach to technology and art/ music really got my mind racing.

Martyn Ware talked about his Illustrious Company which produces really ground-breaking work. All things sensory can really benefit some people with learning disabilities or mental health needs and one thing that caught my attention was a sensory theatre they are working on to benefit children with learning disabilities in Bath.


April 26, 2008

Yesterday, I gave a presentation at Accessibility 2.0: a million flowers bloom, a one day conference in London organised by Abilitynet. The day was fantastic. The people I met were great.

Due to various reasons, I ran out of time.

So, I wanted to share the full presentation with anyone who is interested. If you need it in another format, please let me know.

Here it is: :-)