You have just purchased a high-end printing machine but its numerous buttons and their respective functions look too overwhelming – sounds familiar? Guess what, you are not alone, and this is precisely why we have help manuals and video-based demos! You can always educate yourself about any product or software through the user manual. But what if you had a choice, between reading a manual and watching a video tutorial? Which one would you choose?
Traditional forms of technical communication have always struggled to capture a user’s attention. It is not difficult to understand why users would be overwhelmed to refer to a lengthy user guide or help manual to find the exact assistance they are looking for. In an era where information is constantly exploding from both offline and online sources, the task of reading yet another text-based help document is understandably tedious.
Video is the new preference in media consumption
As information developers devise new ways to present useful technical content, the upcoming and ongoing trends in media consumption and learning do provide a definite direction:
- According to a Nielsen study in 2018, adults in the United States spent nearly six hours per day watching videos.
- Research shows that people absorb, process, and recall information differently. The largest part of the population (65%) learns through visuals.
These findings are not surprising because, of course, anything visual (like a video) attracts our attention like no other. As humans, we prefer to view and hear any information instead of poring over pages of voluminous text. Technology has now made it possible to get information via videos. From televisions to smartphones, the ever-evolving communication mediums have ensured that videos remain at the forefront of creating and transmitting digital information. In today’s time of increasingly short attention spans, videos act as the perfect means to engage our audio-visual senses. Be it for entertainment, infotainment or just to acquire relevant knowledge, videos have become our default choice.
Learning through videos is easy and quick
Using videos in technical communication has revolutionized how a user interacts with technological products or software. Videos not only reduce the steep learning curve but also encourage the user to emulate the intended action through clearly understandable steps. The users also trust the content being shown in a video because it is captured in real-time for an actual product or software. Furthermore, videos with good content set an optimistic learning environment from the very beginning. The clean visuals, soothing background music, and a comprehensible voiceover of a video help the learners connect instantly and feel at ease.
The global audience’s varied linguistic needs can be addressed through appropriate video subtitles, which makes video outreach that much wider. The information communicated through a series of short videos is easier for the viewers to decipher and absorb.
Videos in technical communication
Technical communication usually caters to the following video types:
- Screen casting/Screen capture/Screen recording
The software running on a user’s computer screen is recorded along with a voiceover through popular screen-recording tools such as Camtasia, Camstudio, OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) or Screencast-O-Matic. The recorded video can be edited later for enhancements, including annotations. Screen-recording videos are useful to address Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and act as troubleshooting guides as any potential customer’s doubts are resolved proactively and pre-emptively in real-time.
- Interactive software simulations
Simulation videos replicate how to work on a software, along with interactive features where users have to press buttons, enter data, select options, and so on. The voiceover of such videos explains the software features while the user interacts with them. Additionally, the on-screen instructions also provide guidance to avoid incorrect user input. Users find simulation videos interesting as the interactivity of videos takes away any boredom while learning. Adobe Captivate is a popular tool for creating interactive software simulation videos.
- Video tutorials
Both screen recording and interactive software simulation videos can also be used to produce a series of short videos known as Video Tutorials. Such videos focus on a specific feature of a software and train the users through successive and serial-wise content.
Videos do not always seek to encroach on the territory of conventional technical documentation. They can be easily embedded along with the existing written content, to enhance a user’s learning and understanding of a topic. This strategy not only increases the user engagement but also acts as a marketing tool.
Things to remember when creating a videoYou must consider these factors while creating a video:
- Target audience – A video’s tone and content are decided as per the target audience. A training video for employees will differ from a video for end-users.
- Purpose – Videos must have a specific purpose, such as introducing a new feature, explaining a complex functionality or providing a product overview. A well-identified purpose helps to create an appropriate voiceover script and content strategy for video production.
- Title – The video title is the first line of interaction with a user. Hence, the title should be crisp and self-explanatory, and should adequately describe what to expect in the content. For example, the titles of video tutorials mostly begin with “How to…” as the user at once feels assured about the anticipated learning after watching the video.
- Duration – A video meant for sharing technical content should ideally be less than five minutes, as users tend to feel overwhelmed if the duration is any longer.
- Format – The format of a video should be easily playable on popular media consumption devices such as smartphones, computers, laptops, and televisions. Commonly used video formats include MP4, AVI, FLV, and MOV.
- Hosting sites – Technical content videos may be hosted on a company’s internal server, official website or on its official channel on popular platforms such as YouTube or Vimeo. The company can decide to keep the videos free for all or access-based, as per its policy.
Things to remember when creating a video
In a nutshell
Videos in technical communication have quickly evolved from being optional (good to have) to mandatory (must have). They have emerged as the perfect choice to comprehensively explain any complex or tricky feature, where the traditional forms of documentation might not be as helpful. They also increase the user engagement with a product or software, as users are more likely to watch and learn through software demonstrations.
Consequently, effective technical communication will continue to witness the increasing role of videos in knowledge creation and dissemination.