There are 50 millions of deaf and hard of hearing people in USA, but only about 300-400 certified real time stenocaptioners available which is not enough for a significant number of people who rely on real time captions, and it’s not only deaf people who benefit from them.
As an experienced captioning and communication access consultant, I educate media owners and event organizers about importance of quality captioning as universal access and encourage people to consider real time captioning for their career – it is one of fast growing professions.
More of the current stenocaptioners are nearing the retirement age, and there’s a high dropout rate from court reporting schools in addition to expensive tuition, software, and hardware. So this causes a scarcity of quality captioners. To solve this issue, Mirabai Knight, an experienced stenocaptioner based in NYC, and some developers created an open source steno program called Plover that makes it easier and cheaper to learn for those interested in using steno.
They needed a new website on openstenoproject.org. Originally they had a basic page with some links to resources. Mirabai welcomed my help with redesigning it and was happy to go through an user experience process by discussing business goals, doing user research, content strategy, usability testing, wireframes, and HTML prototypes before making a final design.
The purpose of redesign was to create a “hub” page with basic information about The Open Steno Project with links to other websites like Plover Wiki, Open Source Git Hub, Plover blog site, download pages, tutorials, etc. The challenge was to create a simple page that contains enough of basic information that could be beneficial not only for people new to Plover, but can also for regular Plover users.
I started with asking Mirabai questions about project needs, reading discussions in the Plover user group, and analyzing Plover Community Survey results.
Then I discussed with Mirabai about target audience and developed the following personas:
- Coders/techies/developers: These people work with text a lot and are on the forefront of technology, so they’re more likely to be early adopters. They are potential users of Plover and also potential contributors to Plover’s code base and learning tools.
- Writers/translators/data entry people: These people aren’t as technically inclined, but they still have an incentive to process text efficiently.
- Current or prospective steno students: These people might have steno machines but not professional software. Or they might not be sure about whether steno is the right career for them, but they want to explore it.
We also discussed what content to be used on the page, and I created sketches and wireframes. Then I got feedback from Mirabai and Plover users on wireframes – that way they could focus on content and page organization without thinking about visual design or functions. Then I created a bare-bone HTML prototype where they could comment on functions and how usable they are.
I normally don’t do visual design and coding as my primary focus is on strategy (user experience process) and I would pass on user experience deliverables to visual designers and developers and collaborate with them to finalize design, but I made an exception for this project. I discussed color palletes with Mirabai, and we settled on green and yellow. Page sections can be opened by toggling – they are closed by default to make it less overwhelming for users. I also made sure that the page can be viewed on any device by using responsive design and is accessible to users with disabilities. I created another page where I added full text transcript with video descriptions – even though the video featured on the “hub” page is captioned, the transcript page would give more options to users to either listen to the video and watch captions or to skim through the transcript.
Following are examples of user experience process for the project in a 3-slide slideshow:
3 stages of redesign process: wireframe, a bare-bone HTML prototype, final design.
Responsive design for a computer, phone, tablet.
Before and after redesign.
If you are interested in learning steno, The Open Steno Project website would be a great tool for you to use. Even if you do not feel you are fast enough to be qualified for real time captioning, steno would still save you time if you want to transcribe recorded audio/video or to code a long program or to write a novel.
Based on my captioning survey, I got answers from many respondents that they were not aware about real time captioning as a fast-growing profession or that there are easier and cheaper ways to learn steno. I hope The Open Steno Project website will bring more awareness about real time steno captioning and other ways to learn it than in a traditional court reporting school.