Before buying your software application, many potential customers want to know how it works. Although a written description or instructions may help, they can’t compete with a tutorial video that gives prospects a first-hand look and demonstration. A “screencast” — or essentially a movie that displays and narrates the onscreen changes that a user sees over time — is an excellent means for doing so.
Here are some tips for creating a tutorial video for your software products:
- Start with a storyboard. Improv can be great for comedy, but it doesn’t work well when you’re trying to show off a professional service or product. Use a pen and notepaper to sketch out a rough storyboard, which uses bullet points to illustrate the different stages that you plan to demonstrate (from logging on to completing a purchase, for instance).
- Write a voiceover script. Unless you’re simply planning to use text boxes in your video, supplement your storyboard with a script that discusses what’s happening onscreen in real-time. Keep the copy simple, friendly, and easy to follow — an introductory video isn’t the place for technical jargon.
- Use a screencasting tool to walk your users through the system. Dozens of screencasting services are on the market, with costs ranging from free to hundreds of dollars. One good option, Jing, provides up to five minutes of screencasting for free; a version with added features (such as webcam recording and instant YouTube sharing) is available for $14.95 a year.
- Bring on the noise. You can record your own voiceover using a microphone or hire voice talent from an online marketplace like Voices.com. For background music, seek out royalty-free tunes from an online library such as the Music Bakery or NEO Sounds.
- Edit your film. Most people don’t get everything right in one try — you may need to edit a number of different screencast segments together to come up with a tutorial that you’re happy with. ScreenFlow, a Mac tool available for $99, provides powerful editing capabilities, such as transition effects and titling, speed adjustment, and freeze-frame options.
- Seek feedback. Before putting the tutorial up on your website, ask a small focus group of friends and family to take a look and provide feedback. Is the video easy to follow? Is the production quality up to par for a professional business? If you receive the same comments from multiple people, consider refining the tutorial with their notes in mind.
- Spotlight your tutorial. When you’re confident that your tutorial is ready for public viewing, place it on your website’s landing page in a prominent spot. It may also be useful to upload the video to YouTube, Vimeo, and other video servers, tagging the tutorial with relevant keywords that apply to your business.