3 Common Video Mistakes That You Can Fix in Post Production

It’s become common practice while filming a video, to say, “Don’t worry, if we made a mistake, we’ll fix it in post.” (Meaning post production or video editing).

These mistakes can range from simple to complex, and in this post I want to focus on a few fixes that anyone can do during the post production phase.

Fixing Audio Narration

One of the most common things to fix in video editing in post production is the audio coming from our subject who is speaking on camera.

For example, if they made three points in their video, but they were made in the wrong order:

Our narrator said, “With the newest version of our software you can do A, B, and C.”

But they were supposed to say, “you can do B, A, and C.”

Here’s what you can do:

Place your audio clip into your video editor’s timeline (in the gif below I use TechSmith Camtasia). Cut the offending clip at the beginning and end, and move it. You can use the audio waveform as a visualization of the words. If the person spoke clearly and concisely this will be easy. You can also learn some basic audio mixing tips if you want to delve deeper at this point.

video editor timeline moving audio clips in post production

Or you don’t want to change what they said, but need to hasten their point, or cut out some embarrassing “um’s” and “ah’s.” In that case, you’re going to want to use the old standard of adding b-roll (extra) footage over your audio to hide any cuts. If you haven’t read our post on b-roll, give it a look to better understand this important video editing standard.

Removing Sensitive Information

Let’s say you’re using screen recordings to give instruction or train new employees. It’s easy to accidentally capture private information in your screen recording. Software such as Camtasia, gives you the option to create an area-specific blur in your video. Now you can better conceal that information.

screenshot showing Camtasia's blur feature in post production

Adjusting Your Frame

You’ve put the camera away, you’re sitting down and you seeing your video for the first time. That’s when you realize you left too much room above your subjects head in the frame. Believe it or not, there is a simple way to fix this as well. If you filmed this at full HD (1920×1080), then you can edit your video in a 1280×720 timeline. That will maintain your aspect ratio and give you room to maneuver your shot.

screenshot of aspect ratios difference

I’ve only scratched the surface with the power of video editing in post production. Improving mistakes you might have made while filming or capturing your video is one use. But video editing is so much more. Use it to craft a story. Make dry information compelling. And yes, you can even figure out how to fix video mistakes that you didn’t catch until it was (almost) too late.

Interested in learning more but are overwhelmed when you look at video editing software? TechSmith Camtasia may be the easy-to-use software you’ve been looking for. There’s only one way to know for sure. Give it a try and let us know how it goes in the comments section below.

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Use a Color Picker to Select an Exact Color from an Image

When working with visuals, you often need to make text, a shape, or another graphic perfectly match a particular color.

If, for example, you’re creating imagery for a marketing campaign, an important presentation, or user documentation, you’ll probably need to follow brand guidelines that include a particular set of colors.

Of course, you can memorize the color values for all of your brand’s colors and enter them every time you need to pick a color, but that can be a bit difficult. Instead, you’re better off using a color picker.

How to Use a Color Picker to Perfectly Match Colors

A color picker is a feature of virtually all software or online image and text editing tools. It allows you to choose the colors of visual elements like text or shapes in a document or graphic.

Nowadays, the color pickers in most image and video editing software include a feature that will identify a color in an image based on its RGB or hexadecimal (HEX) values.

When you are using a color picker, you can click a space that contains a color in question and the color picker will display it. After identifying the color, you can apply it to shapes, text, or other elements on the canvas.

This allows you to perfectly match brand guidelines or maintain a consistent theme.

The color matching feature in most color pickers is indicated by an eyedropper icon. In the three steps that follow, I demonstrate how to use the color picker in Snagit to match an exact color found in an image.

You can use the same process with Camtasia to match the color of callouts, text, and other shapes to specific colors in a video.

Step 1: Open the image with the color you need to match

For this example, I want the red circles in the image to match the blue text.

Step 2: Select the shape, text, callout, or another element to be colored

Now, I’ll select the step markers. I can select all 3 simultaneously by holding shift and clicking on each.

Elements on a image selected.

Step 3: Select the eyedropper tool and click the desired color

To match the selected items to a particular color in the image, I’ll open the color picker and click the eyedropper icon.

The cursor changes to an eyedropper. As I drag it across the image, the eyedropper displays the color it is currently hovering above, along with the associated hexadecimal (HEX) color value.

Once the desired color is displayed, I click, and the selected objects change to that color.

 

 

That’s it! With those three quick steps you can identify and match any color in any image any time. If you want to learn some more about color models (like the RGB color model mentioned earlier), check out this article on RGB and CMYK color models.

 

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13 Tips for Recording Your iPhone, iPad, or iPod

It’s easier than ever to start recording your iPhone and other iOS device screen and turn it into a movie. The release of iOS 11 puts iOS screen recording in the hands of everyone with an iPhone, iPad, or iPad.

You no longer have to worry about mirroring your device onto your laptop to record what’s happening on your screen.

TechSmith Capture is an iOS recording app that lets you create high-quality mobile demos and how-to videos right from your phone or tablet.

These tips will help you get great results the first time you dive into iOS screencasting.

1. Enable screen recording

The first thing you’ll need to do is enable screen recording on your device. Screen recording on your iPhone is simple, but your device is not automatically set up to record right out of the box.

To turn on screen recording go to Settings > Control Center > Customize Controls. Scroll down and tap the plus icon next to Screen Recording.

You should now have access to screen recording in your Control Center.

2. Don’t lose track of time (and storage)

As the saying goes, “just because you can doesn’t mean you should”. Just because your iPhone can record virtually unlimited amounts of video doesn’t mean that’s something you should do.

As far as I know, there is no time limit to how much you can record your screen. The only limit is the amount of empty space on your iPhone hard drive.

You should be aware, however, that your video recording can randomly stop during very long recordings.

3. Clean up clutter

If the iOS home screen will appear in your video, consider changing your wallpaper and creating a new page with just one icon.

To change your wallpaper back to an Apple default: tap Settings > Wallpaper > Choose a New Wallpaper and you’ll see options for Dynamic or Stills. Choose a wallpaper, then Set > Set Home Screen to make it the new wallpaper that appears behind your home screen icons.

Change wallpaper on iOS

4. Enable do not disturb mode

This will prevent notifications or phone calls from popping up in the middle of your recording.

To enable do not disturb (also called “sleep mode”): Tap Settings > Do Not Disturb > Do Not Disturb then scroll down and select Silence: Always.

5. Lock orientation

Before you record, make sure to decide which way will you be holding your device while recording: up-and-down or sideways. It’s best to lock orientation so you don’t accidentally tilt the device during recording. If you do that, your recording will stop or the content will looked squished.

To lock orientation: Hold your device the way you want to record. Swipe up from the bottom of the screen to open Control Center. Tap the padlock icon.

How to lock orientation on iOS

6. Turn off display zoom

If you use zoom mode on a newer iPhone or iPad, you may want to turn it off. If you leave it on, you will not capture the full resolution possible. Using an iPhone 6 in zoom mode, for example, generates a recording at 1136 x 640 instead of 1334 x 750.

To disable zoom mode: Tap Settings > Display and Brightness > Display Zoom | View > Standard > Set. Your device will restart.

7. Unmute your device

If your device is muted via the silence switch, the audio coming from your device will not be included in your recording.

If the content you’re recording has its own audio—like the sound effects in a game—you will want to unmute your device so it is captured.

8. Turn off in-app music

If you’re recording a game or app that has both background music and sound effects you should turn off music within the game settings.

Why? Because the music will compete with your narration. Instead of recording the music in real-time, you can record the sound effects and import the music later into your video editor as a separate track.

Turn off in-game music

9. Free up resources

Capturing is intensive and requires a lot of system resources. This is especially true if your device has a limited amount of storage. To make sure you get good performance during capture, close all other apps, including anything running in the background.

10. Create a new page

To make a new page on your home screen, long-press the icon of an app you’ll be showing in your video, then drag it to the right edge and a new page will appear.

Create a new page on iOS home screen

 

11. Use a good mic

If you need professional sounding narration, you’ll want to get an external microphone that plugs into your device. Or you may want to think about recording your audio separately after you record your screen.

To get better sound right from your phone, I’d suggest using earbuds with a built-in microphone or purchasing a lapel microphone.

But if you are planning on recording your narration in post production you’ll want to find a solid external microphone.

Much like on your iOS device, using your computer’s built-in mic to record narration is not usually the best idea, as you’ll probably pick up a lot of room and fan noise. Ideally, you want to get ahold of a good-quality USB mic like an Audio-Technica AT875R or a Blue Yeti USB Microphone.

Looking for the best microphone? Check out our list of best microphones for recording video.

recommended USB microphones

12. Record in a quiet place

Move to a quiet environment or at least isolate yourself and the microphone from noise. The most common noise culprits: heating or cooling vents, your computer’s fan, doors closing, dogs, or sirens.

If you can’t quiet your environment as much as you’d like, try covering your head and the mic with a blanket (looks funny but it works).

Recording in a clothes closet is also effective. You may even want to invest in a tabletop recording booth.

Portable recording booth

13. Use music

Most videos are helped along by a suitable music soundtrack. If the app you’re recording doesn’t have its own music, consider adding a track that helps set the mood. There are many sources of royalty-free music online; some of our favorites are:

These tips should save you time and frustration when recording your iOS device! Have some tips of your own? Post a comment and share what you’ve learned!

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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When Consumers are Product Aware, Use Videos to Seal the Deal

Hooray! Your target consumer is product aware and browsing your product page and seemingly moments away from clicking “Buy Now”!

However, it’s not time to celebrate….YET.

Instead, you should be using videos to double down and provide validation that they’ve found the one. That is, the product or service that’s going to be the solution they’ve been searching for.

Consumers that view videos of products during the purchasing process are 85 percent more likely to buy. That’s just one obvious reason to include videos on your product pages, but there are other types of video that can help to ensure that product-less consumer makes the switch to customer by clicking that “Buy Now” button.

Before we get into the details, let’s take a step back and review the awareness journey and what we’ve covered so far in previous blog posts.

The Five levels of Awareness 

In previous blog posts, we’ve covered several of the Five Levels of Awareness by Eugene Schwartz. You can read his book called Breakthrough Advertising to learn more of the details on the Levels of Awareness approach. In this post, we’re up to Product Aware, but let’s recap first and read about the previous levels of awareness and how video fits each of them:

Unaware – Consumers are unaware they have a problem or a need
Problem Aware – Know they have a problem and are looking for a solution
Solution Aware – Consumers are looking for proof that the solution works
• Product Aware – Help consumers decide to buy your product
• Most Aware – They’ve purchased! Aid consumers in next steps

Product Aware – Help consumers decide to buy your product

In this stage of awareness, we carry the leads we’ve generated and nurtured throughout each level of awareness across the finish line.

This is where we really let our products and services step into the limelight. Go ahead and showcase those features, provide that rotating 360 view of your product, and let those customer testimonials that mention the products and features by name shine.

Here are a few ways you can use video to accomplish your goals within the Product Aware stage:

 

1) Put your segment-specific customer testimonials to work

Customer testimonial videos work to provide that last bit of approval purchasers need before making the leap from lead to customer.

These testimonials should highlight the specifics of how your offering solved your future customer’s problem and showcase validating proof points that your product or service is the key to success.

If at all possible, have the star of your success story provide actual data points about how your product or service saved time, saved money, or increased overall output.

Additionally, having a customer authentically spell out how great your customer service is post-sale is an excellent way to seal the deal.

When gathering content onsite with your customers to create video testimonials, remember that you’ll need B-roll footage, and ask enough questions to tell their transition story with then and now type insight.

Keep in mind that your final testimonial video should only be 30 seconds to 2 minutes long, but you can always use the rest of the content you’ve captured to build out a longer case study for your sales team to put to work later.

Here’s an example of a completed segment specific customer success story featuring how Camtasia is used to develop training content.

 

2) Product Overview Videos

If you don’t have a product overview video on your product webpage or in the store cart, you’re missing out.

Allow people to double check their selection with a re-confirming, pre-purchase video they can watch during this final process.

These videos should be quick and reassuring. Aim to highlight key points or high level features and reaffirm that their purchase will get the job done. Then, get out of their way so they can make their way through the cart.

 

3) Personalized Videos

If you’re generating leads for B2B sales, a great way to have your sales team add a personal touch is to include a personalized video in their emails or an introductory video in their email signature.

This allows consumers to put a face to your brand name and it allows you to showcase your personality and expertise in an engaging way. Plus, it provides statistics so you know if a lead watched an entire video or even watched a video multiple times.

Use this data driven feedback to score leads so that your sales team is spending their valuable time on those most likely to convert.

Remember, the goal is to reach the right consumer, with the right content to match their awareness level, at the right time.

Doing so with video ensures that you’re doing everything in your power to keep consumers engaged with your brand along their customer journey.

Ready to dive in? Check out our two-part series on How to Make a Video – Part 1 and Part 2.

One more stage to go…

This post is the fourth in a series of blog posts that will talk through each level of awareness and how video can be used to guide consumers throughout each stage. Be sure to catch all five by subscribing to our blog so posts are delivered right to your inbox! Next up? What videos are most effective when leads are most aware and how you can use video post sale to on-board customers while also turning them into vocal advocates of your products and services.

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How To Update Screenshots of User Interfaces Without Starting From Scratch

You know the sense of accomplishment when you finish something that was on your to-do list?

I love that feeling. When I finish a task, I cross it off and move on to the next thing on my list with a renewed sense of pride and momentum.

Conversely, there’s no greater buzzkill than returning to a completed task to redo something I just finished. Unfortunately, that’s a common occurrence when you’re working with screenshots of user interfaces for a product guide or help documentation.

As a former technical writer, I spent several years taking and editing screen captures of product user interfaces (UI) for help articles.

In that time, I experienced the aforementioned buzzkill–sometimes because of last-minute changes to the product before it released, and other times because of changes published after release.

Whatever the reason, the task remained the same: update the screenshots in the product guide to match the new UI.

I’m hardly a graphic artist, but even an artistically-challenged person like me can pull off some pretty compelling patchwork to avoid recreating images.

Maybe sometimes it’s faster to launch the new version of the product and re-take the screenshots, but many of them were more involved and included sample content or required specific setups that I’d need to configure before doing the work.

So, instead, I patch and fudge. I like to think of it as working smarter, not harder. Fortunately for me, my screenshot editing tool got smarter with me, making it easier and faster to update screenshots without starting from scratch.

Replace Text

Sometimes nothing obvious in your product UI changes, but your screenshot shows an outdated version number.

Or, imagine if a drop-down option was a point of confusion for end users, so your product team renamed it.

Whether you need to fix a quick typo or rework an entire dialog, you can now update text in your images. Snagit, a screen capture tool and image editor, uses OCR technology to identify text in an image, and make it instantly editable.

That means I don’t have to take another screen capture or even have the image source files to update text, which makes me happy.

To replace text in an image, open the image in Snagit’s Editor and toggle on Smart Move in the Move Tool properties. Then, double-click on text in your image to edit it.

 

Magically Change Colors

Wait, did we decide if the primary action buttons would be orange or yellow? Should the hover state be light blue or a lighter blue?

Product designers often hesitate or flip flop on these decisions (it’s easy to see why), and sometimes writers forget the final decisions when it comes to in-product colors.

Thankfully, if a color change does happen after you take your screenshots, many image editors allow you to change or replace a color with a magic wand tool, which is a selection tool that bases its selection on color.

Use the magic wand to select a color you want to replace, then fill it with the new color. Or, use it to select a color you want to completely remove if you want to isolate an object.

Move and Auto-Fill Parts of an Image

Selection tools are a con patch artist’s best friend. It’s amazing what visual effects you can achieve with simple selection and fill tools. Move this over there. Select and cut. Fill in the holes.

Yet, amazingly, even the common selection tool is becoming smarter as screenshot editors introduce the capability to automatically fill in areas you cut, move, or delete, which allows you to work even faster as you edit your image.

Fine Editing

Finally, one of my less-frequented but highly-appreciated workflows is to use the lasso tool to edit details in my image. Whether I’m removing, resizing, or recoloring an object, the lasso tool helps me select exactly what I want and nothing more. Essentially, it’s a drawn selection tool that gives me complete control.

To select an object to edit, first draw the selection path with your cursor. This is a really useful function, especially when combined with a snap or magnet option. After you draw around an object, it will snap to the nearest edge so you can edit the finest of details.

These are just a few ways you can update screenshots without retaking them. If you have any questions or would like to share additional tips and tricks, please leave them in the comments below.

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How to Start an Informal Learning Library with Screencasts

Imagine being told exactly how to learn or study something, at what place, and at what time. That rarely happens because everyone learns in their own unique way.

As we mature, we tend to customize our lives to better fit our objectives. So why wouldn’t we do the same for something as important as learning?

Informal Learning helps us do just that. Online libraries that store informal learning content can prove to be very useful for both the learner and the teacher.

What is Informal Learning?

Informal Learning puts a spin on more traditional, or “formal” learning.The formal structure of learning typically involves an expert or instructor, a physical place, start and end dates, and physical training materials. Also, the instructor typically has control over how fast the content is covered.

With such a strict format, it is hard for this style to be useful to every learner in a group. This is where informal learning comes in. Informal learning involves the training material being available online or in another easily accessible format. This puts the learner in control of how fast they want to cover the material and allows them to skip over content that may be less relevant to their end goal. It’s essentially knowledge on demand.

Informal learning can also be created by anyone who has knowledge in a specific area. For example, I know how to use WordPress fairly well. I could create training content walking others through how to use WordPress, making me the instructor. With informal learning, anyone who has expertise in specific areas can share their knowledge with others.

So how do you create an informal learning library? One simple and cost effective way is to create a learning library of screencasts.

Creating an Informal Learning Library with Screencasts

Step 1: Create Your Content

Before we can create a library of any kind, we need content to go into the library. You can easily make training content with screen capture software, such as Snagit.  Snagit allows you to take screenshots or video of your computer screen so you can walk through content on your computer, narrate as you go, and record the whole experience. This is a super quick and simple way to create training content that can be watched anytime, rather than needing to arrange in person training sessions. This works particularly well for new employee on-boarding and showing how to use programs that have set tasks, like HR systems and how to submit time off requests, for example.

Step 2: Upload Your Content

Online hosting platforms are great options to store your content online. They also make it easy for people to go and replay them as many times as they wish. Screencast.com provides a simple way to organize and share content from Snagit and Camtasia with anyone you want. Other platforms, such as YouTube are used to exclusively host videos. Be sure to choose the right platform for you depending on what kind of content you intend to share, and whether you need your content to be private for your audience only.

Step 3: Organize Your Content

Now that your content is uploaded, arrange it to fit how you want it appear to your audience. Playlists are a nice way to sort your videos by topic, time period, etc.

For images, folders allow you to sort your content in the same manner. Certain content might fit with multiple subjects, and in those cases you can include it in multiple playlists or folders.

It might also be a good idea to include an introduction and conclusion video to each topic or playlist. When doing this, you’ll also want to keep in mind how easy you want it to be for your intended audience to find your content.

Some platforms allow you to place tags onto your content. All platforms should allow you to place titles onto your content. Both of these identifiers can be opportunities for your content to appear more frequently in web-searches, and they both also help your intended audience find your content more easily. A true win-win.

Step 4: Share Your Content

The last step is to share your content by either sharing a link with your audience, or sharing it with people individually. When doing this, it’s important to keep in mind how private you intend to keep your content. Adjust the privacy settings of your content as you see fit.

And there you have it! Now you are able to create your own Informal Learning Library. Go you!

Informal learning takes place in the business world, the higher education world, and in our everyday lives. Learning is a lifelong process, so it’s important to not always tie it down to forcing into a certain structure. Informal Learning returns control to the learner and injects life into the learning process.

Have experience with creating Informal Learning content? Connect with us on Facebook or Twitter— or leave a comment below!

 

 

 

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3 Reasons to Start Using Video in your Business

One of the main selling points for inWhatLanguage is our office culture. We have a mannequin named Milton as our mascot, a basketball hoop out back, a popcorn maker in the kitchen, and we wear bright green pants. Not your typical boring translation agency, right? But the struggle is communicating our fun company culture to potential clients and partners.

inwhatlanguage crew

This is when we were introduced to TechSmith Snagit. Snagit allows our B2B agency to record personalized introduction videos to new prospects, train global staff through its screen recording capabilities, and spruce up our marketing by recording customized demo videos. Now we use videos in almost every aspect of our day-to-day operations. Allow me to dive deeper into three dynamic reasons your company should implement videos to connect with your audience and engage with people on a more intimate level.

1. Videos Will Help You Sell

Many people feel uncomfortable making major purchases without any human interaction; but people also don’t want to be smothered by an overbearing and aggressive salesman. It’s a delicate balance, but it can be achieved. When your sales team utilizes videos as part of their overall strategy, potential clients will feel more inclined to work with you.

At inWhatLanguage, we use personalized videos to introduce ourselves to everyone that requests a quote for translation services. It’s very disarming when your potential customers can put a face with the name and see your personality. They feel like they are getting to know you without actually having to talk with you, thus achieving that delicate balance we discussed earlier.

It’s time to evolve your sales process. Impersonal, stereotypical introduction emails and intrusive phone calls are a thing of the past in the age of video interactions.

Our sales team uses video interactions to develop and maintain relationships. Videos allow us to treat clients as human beings, instead of treating them as dollar signs or paychecks. Because of these relationships, your sales team will actually save time and increase overall revenue.

I cannot tell you how many times our sales team has avoided unnecessary and time-consuming meetings with clients because of short explainer videos. Have you ever been in a boring meeting wondering why the information wasn’t just sent out in an email instead? We’ve all been there. A brief explainer video will help the client understand everything you could’ve covered in a meeting and they can reference the video later on if they need a reminder.

2. Use Videos To Train Employees and Increase Productivity

We use a network of professional linguists from all over the world to help us localize content for more accurate and consistent translations. All of our linguists use our translation management platform called UNIFY, which is a technology our developers created.

As you can imagine, training thousands of linguists across the world on a new technology platform presented a unique challenge. We received many of the same questions about how to use the platform and it forced our project managers away from other critical tasks. Even with a written manual and UNIFY support on the website, this problem persisted.

Our sales team noticed our project managers struggling with this issue and recommended TechSmith as a solution. Now our project managers only need to create one video with screen sharing to train our linguists. Every time a problem comes up or a new feature is created, they can create a video and send it to our entire database of linguists and avoid tedious emails.

Even if a new linguist is hired and has questions, we can access the videos we’ve created in the past and easily send it to the new employee.

If you feel like people within your organization are explaining themselves over and over again… training videos will eliminate the process all together and help you increase productivity.

3. Videos Make Marketing Fun and Effective

inwhatlanguage mannequinEarlier, I mentioned the challenge of communicating our company culture to the world as a marketing team. Our goal is to stand out from all the other translation agencies and eradicate the stigma that B2B companies are boring.

We’ve taken advantage of TechSmith to increase our effectiveness when we launch our account-based marketing strategies.

When we’re searching for potential clients to partner with, we work hard to make our pitch feel personal. We research companies we want to work with and use videos to show them why we’d mesh well together. We’ll introduce ourselves and share our screen to show that we’ve researched their website or other content and explain how they can use our technology to access new markets. It’s personal and authentic.

We’ve noticed that people generally respond more positively when they feel like they’re being treated as an individual, instead of a nameless blur within a mass email campaign.

 

How Will You Implement Videos?

I’ve simply explained how our company has benefitted from videos we’ve created with TechSmith Snagit, but every company is unique. How are you going to implement videos into your organization? Will you interact with people on social media? Improve your email marketing strategy? Or perhaps even use some of the same ideas I’ve shared today?

Using videos in a company setting has made all jobs within our company easier and more enjoyable. What have you got to lose?

About the Author

Seth CravenSeth Craven – Marketing Coordinator at inWhatLanguage

Avid binge watcher of the Walking Dead and Stranger Things when he’s not playing basketball at work.

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How to Create Step-By-Step Instructions Using Visuals

There are some tutorials that require more than text to be understood by readers. By creating step-by-step instructions using visuals, you can key readers into details that may otherwise not have been communicated. Those visuals could be still images or screenshots, animated GIFs, comparison charts, or videos. On top of helping readers understand your content, visuals also break up the monotony of a large amount of text.

In the last year, I’ve been working as a technical writer for Joyent writing instructions and creating videos geared towards users of all skill levels. This requires precision — people rely on me to create step-by-step instructions and guides for a technical task. If I miss a step or assume that readers already know a piece of information, they may walk away frustrated and never come back to our content. On the other hand, if I’m too detailed the content could feel excessive and rambling, as well as require more frequent updates. No pressure.

Finding the places where an image can replace some of those overly precise details saves me time and energy. Plus, readers walk away knowing what they’re expecting to see which hopefully makes their life easier. Whenever possible follow some key writing advice: show, don’t tell (so essential it has its own Wikipedia page).

You don’t need to be a technical writer to benefit from precise process parlance. Keep reading for strategies to prepare instructions and add visuals to any document.

Before you start visualizing, consider your audience

Before producing any content, you should know who you’re producing it for and what their expectations are. Although it’s impossible to anticipate each reader’s individual needs, the rules you establish influence the tone of your content and can help you make decisions later down the line when creating your process outline.

audience

 

Consider the following:

  • Are my readers already experts? Have they done this process before, if not exactly then in similar circumstances?
  • Are my readers internal or external? If my readers are within the same company, what language do we share that will help better explain the process?
  • What mood will they be coming to my content with? Am I creating this content for someone who is in a rush to get something done, or is this for a more casual learner who is just hoping to further their education on a topic?
  • What is most important to my readers? What is least important?
  • How do my readers prefer to learn? Do I know if a blog post is more successful than a video? Is there any analytical data to support these claims?
  • Are my readers native English speakers? If I use an idiom, will it hinder their ability to learn how to complete the process?

No matter what you’re creating, you’re always creating it with a reader on the other end. The better you know your reader and produce content with them in mind, the more likely they’ll keep coming back for more content.

Outline the process with only as many details as necessary

One way to prepare a process or tutorial for any medium is to start with a two-column table. The first column will contain each individual step that the reader needs to take to complete a task. Those steps can be as small and precise as “submit your application” or as large and unspecific as “complete the remainder of the form.”

The second column will be your visual process column. At first, this may not include any actual visuals at all, but a description of what the visuals will be. If you’re creating a written document, you don’t need to have a matching visual for every step in column one. If you’ll be creating a screencast, every box should have a note about the type of visual to be included. There should be little to no empty screen time in a video.

An example of this table is below under “Example Outline,” but first you have to know more about the types of visual aids.

Types of visuals and when to use them

Every process can benefit from different types of visuals. The medium will change depending on its purpose.

  • Still images – this is the perfect medium when trying to visualize a physical product, be it a person or specific object like a type of pan. These can be stock photographs or photos you’ve taken.
  • Screenshot – a still image of your screen is great when talking about products that are seen on your computer, such as a website or another piece of software. They’re super easy to take and edit, especially thanks to Snagit.
  • GIF – animated images are perfect for explaining short processes (under 8 seconds) which may not be as easily articulated.
  • Chart – bar charts, pie charts, line charts, so many types of charts! A chart is the best choice when talking about and comparing a set of numbers.
  • Video – the ultimate visual, a video is great for explaining a process. How to make a great technical video is an art form which can certainly be helped by this process but requires much more planning. (Lucky for you, I learned a lot from TechSmith, and they have a lot more to say on the subject).

Feel free to use a mix of mediums with your writing. Each will meet different needs for different steps.

Example outline

Recipes are one of the best examples of a process that often requires precision in which visuals can make a huge difference. Let’s say I want to outline the instructions for making a cake:

STEPS VISUALS
1. Gather all of the ingredients to ensure nothing is missing. If an ingredient is missing, acquire that ingredient before continuing. Picture of assembled ingredients
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Grease and flour a 9 x 9 inch square cake pan.
4. In a medium bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. GIF of creaming process
5. Crack the eggs into the bowl one at a time, stirring to incorporate.
6. Stir in the vanilla.
7. Sift the flour and baking powder in the bowl and mix until just incorporated. There may be clumps or streaks of flour left. GIF of sifting or photo of finished stirred product pre-milk
8. Stir in the milk until the batter is completely smooth. Photo of finished batter (possible side by side with picture for step 7)
9. Pour or spoon batter into the prepared cake pan.
10. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven.The cake is done when golden brown on top. The top should spring back to the touch. Photo of finished cake

If every step had an image, that would be a bit… gratuitous.

The images I’ve selected are helpful in articulating mini processes within a larger process. In particular, the picture in step 7 of the mix stirred so far is a crucial piece of visual evidence. Having baked a number of cakes with this instruction, the difference between just right and over-mixed… I wish I always had a picture. There could be an instruction manual written just on the intricacies of how long to mix — every other page would have to be an image.

After outlining what visuals you need, you have to collect the goods. For this example, it would be best to take pictures of your process baking a cake. For other processes, you may not need to take custom photos. There are a variety of free and premium stock photography websites which have videos, GIFs, and still photos to be used at your discretion.

Testing with your target audience

No piece of writing is complete until it has been read by someone in your target audience and given a seal of approval. Their input will demonstrate where you missed a step in your process or where more visuals are needed.

Interview

The easiest way to go about this (without the large resources of a usability team) is to ask a few people from your key demographic to read your content and try to follow the process exactly as written. Jakob Nielsen is often quoted saying that five is the best number of people to catch the most number of issues.

Unmoderated testing

Unmoderated testing is perfect for smaller projects with limited resources — or just when you need results fast. There are a number of tools you can use for more precise results, but if you’re just looking for feedback on a smaller process, you may be able to get away with just sending the document to your testers with a set of questions you want answered.

Ask your testers to take notes whenever they have questions, see something that may be missing, hit roadblocks in the process, or wish they had more detailed instructions. Hopefully they’ll be able to finish the task before giving you feedback.

Moderated testing

The biggest benefit of moderated testing is that you can actually watch your tester perform the process and see where they are confused instead of relying on them to note that confusion for you. It’s even better if you record the session so that you don’t have to rely exclusively on the notes you take during this session.

Ask questions along the way. For example:

  • Did you understand what task you were being asked to perform? Did that task make sense?
  • What would have made this process easier to complete?
  • If there was a visual with a step, did the visual help you understand what to do?
  • Do you wish there had been more visuals?

Wrapping up

You now know why you should add visuals and have an arsenal of tools to help you successfully create step-by-step instructions with the help of visual aids. Practice makes perfect. Your first attempt at adding images to a process may not be perfect, but with some user testing to guide your editing process, you’ll be on your way to helping your users understand how to complete a task.

Do you have another method of figuring out when to add visual aids to instructions? Share your tips in the comments below!

About the Author

Ali WhiteAlexandra is the Documentation Editor at Joyent, where she takes complicated technical content and makes it friendly for the average human being. She’s been a marketing manager, a web developer, and once upon a time she was the social media intern at TechSmith. She believes in the power of a strong women in tech community. Follow her on twitter for technical strategies and thoughts on women’s rights at @heyawhite.

The post How to Create Step-By-Step Instructions Using Visuals appeared first on TechSmith Blog.

How to Add Video Bumpers To Your Videos

More and more of us are using visuals to communicate messages and transfer knowledge because it tends to have a big impact on our audiences.One useful type of visual communication is video. Videos are easy to customize, and are a great way to quickly display your personal brand. Let’s take a look at what video bumpers are and how to add them to your videos.

What are video Bumpers?

Video bumpers are short (usually 10 seconds or less) video clips that typically show the brand or company that your video represents. Video bumpers can be included at the start, middle, or end of your content.

For example, if you are a marketing consultant, then you might have a bumper clip that introduces your name with graphics and music playing in the background.

Here is an example of a Video Bumper.

Now that we’ve looked at an example, how do you create on of your own? Let’s find out.

How to Create A Video Bumper

Step 1:  Develop Your Concept

What do you want your bumper to communicate about your brand? Should it have music? How long do you want your bumper to be? These are some of the questions you should ask yourself before you get started to make your bumpers be more successful.

Step 2: Choose Your Content

Most video bumpers are made up of three elements: your logo or brand symbol, a graphics animation of that logo, and an audio track in the background. If you decide to include audio, you’ll want to make sure you use a song or sound effects that you fits the tone of your video, and that you are licensed to use. If you want to save yourself some time, there are websites that offer animations  that are ready to use in your video bumpers.

Step 3: Add Your Bumper to Your Videos.

Whether you’re using Camtasia or another editor, video editing software is going to be the easiest way to include bumpers to individual videos. Sometimes you can create bumpers and have hosting sites add them to your videos for you. However, this usually only happens when your videos are hosted on those sites. If you are using video editing software to a add your bumper, you’ll want to make your bumper videos first then attach the finished bumper clip to your video.

Step 4: Share Your Videos

Once you’ve successfully added your bumper to your video, share it to hosting sites such as Screencast.com, YouTube, Wistia or others.  It might also be a good idea to create more than one version of your video bumper. This would help to even further develop your brand, and could also be used to separate groups of videos. Finally, you can choose whether or not you want to replace the videos you have uploaded with the ones that include bumpers.

Step 5: Store your Bumpers

You’ll want to store your video bumper clips on your device or on a networked hard drive. This makes them easy to re-use or attach to other videos in the future.

That’s all there is to it.

Step six is to celebrate because you’ve just created a bumper for your video. Not only are video bumpers important for your personal brand, but they can help viewers know that they are in the right place and viewing the video they intend to view.

Have some other suggestions on how to use Video Bumpers? We’d love to talk with you on Facebook or Twitter— or in the comments section below!

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How to Magically Mock Up Websites with Screenshots

You don’t have to be a professional designer to mock up websites. That’s because mock ups aren’t about design. They’re about communicating your ideas and gathering the feedback that will make the biggest impact. Polish and the flashy colors aren’t what we’re looking for. We want great ideas. With this in mind, screenshots offer a quick and easy way to create successful mock ups and communicate your ideas. Below I’ll walk you through how to do this using my favorite screen capture tool, Snagit. If you don’t have it, you can download a free trial.

Find a Starting Point

Don’t start from scratch. There are already a lot of great examples floating around the web and if you look hard enough, you likely can find one that’s similar to the design you’re trying to create. When you find the right example, capture the entire thing. Don’t worry if it doesn’t match perfectly, as we’ll add to the design and customize it later. If you’re not certain how to capture an entire webpage, including the parts that require scrolling, check out our Scrolling Capture tutorial.

 

Capture the Rest of the Idea

Next, find other pages you like and capture the parts of the mockup that the original capture didn’t include. For example, I’d like to have an email sign-up for a monthly newsletter and a login option that’s part of the top navigation bar. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t worry about things like colors and fonts at this point. Focus on finding concrete examples of the ideas and functionality you want to create. When making a capture, select exactly what you need with the Snagit crosshairs, then use the magnifying glass to perfect the capture.

Snagit capture crosshairs selecting a email signup form.

If you capture too much or want to make changes to your capture, use Snagit’s editing tools. For example, use the selection tool to remove extra objects and automatically fill in the background to make it look like the objects were never there. Or, use crop to refine the size and shape of your capture.

 

Bring it All Together

With all of the parts for your mockup captured, bring them together in the Snagit editor. Start by selecting the initial full page capture. Then, drag and drop captures from the Recent Captures Tray directly on top of the full page capture. From there, you can click and drag to rearrange the captures and position them to fit your desired layout.

Dragging images from the recent captures tray to the canvas

Customize the Design

When you’re comfortable with your layout, it’s time to customize the design. Start by right clicking on your mock up and choosing “Flatten All.” This combines all the images into one, which will make it easier to edit the finer details. Next select the move tool and choose the “Smart Move” option to magically make everything editable (it’s not actually magic, it uses OCR technologies). With Smart Move enabled, you can remove extra objects, change the text and adjust the position of just about anything.

 

To add those finishing touches, use the Paint Bucket tool to match colors, the Text tool to add text and the Shape tool to complete any design ideas. To learn more about editing in Snagit, check out these tutorials.

Get Feedback

With your mock up finished it’s time for feedback. Use the share outputs to quickly send your mock up to a colleague. If the person also has Snagit, they can quickly add callouts, arrows and use Smart Move to provide their feedback.

Screenshots are great for website mock ups, but they work for other types of mock ups, too, including software user interfaces. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below.

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