Animated GIFs vs. Screencast Videos

How Did you Make that GIF“I love your animated GIFs!”

I get some version of this tweeted to me daily, if not multiple times a day. A few years ago, I regularly shared video screencasts. I definitely did not receive “I love your screencasts!” tweets daily. In fact, I don’t think I received a single one. So, why do animated GIFs seem to resonate better with some people? Let’s start by discussing how this all began.

First, animated GIFs are essentially the halfway point between image and video. They’re image files, but animated. Unlike videos, though, they’re silent. They’re also much shorter than your typical video. Pronounce them how you want (I prefer hard G like gift, not soft G like giraffe), but GIFs are everywhere now. GIFs have actually been around for years. It’s just that today’s devices and internet are fast enough for us send and post files that are a few megabytes without hesitation.

video viewsWhy did I start making GIFs? In January of 2017, I decided to really commit to producing content on my website that would benefit my primary audience — educators. So, I started making videos with that in mind. I committed to making three or four a week. These weren’t animated GIFs, though. They were 5-10 minute screencasts with audio and webcam video of myself (looking professional in a dress shirt, despite the fact that I was wearing PJ pants).

So, how did I go from making screencast videos to making 20-40 second animated GIFs? Data and reflection, of course! I was disappointed when I checked back in on those YouTube videos a week later to see single-digit views. The worst part: one or two of those views were me checking to make sure the upload and link worked and at least one was my mom. I was spending at least an hour recording, editing, posting and tweeting each of these videos to net a handful of views. This just wasn’t the effect that I had hoped for. My content was good, but I couldn’t get it in front of an audience. What was I to do?

tater tot casserole

Source: Delish YouTube Channel

After thinking about this, I got my inspiration from tater tot casserole. If you’ve ever had tater tot casserole, you know that it’s pretty tasty, but you’re likely surprised to hear that inspired me. The inspiration actually came from a video on Facebook about making tater tot casserole. You’ve seen these recipe videos before – they’re silent, they autoplay, they move quickly, they’re easy to follow and they’re nearly impossible to ignore. I sat there learning how to cook tater tot casserole – Why was I watching!? I don’t even do much of the cooking in our house! – and realized something important. I needed to avoid the hardest step in preparing online video – getting viewers to press play. If the video automatically plays while they scroll past it on Twitter, I only need to create content good enough to get them to stick around —and to keep coming back for more.

That’s when I discovered the option to export screencasts as animated GIFs. The rest is history. My tweets average nearly 900 impressions*. And if the content is good enough, those impressions lead to followers who keep coming back and retweets that lead to even more impressions. TechSmith even has a blog about ways you can use GIFs in the workplace, should you need some inspiration other than social media uses.

Want to see some of these GIFs? Check out bit.ly/MillerGIFs or just visit my site (jakemiller.net) or my Twitter Feed (@JakeMillerTech).

Want to learn about how I create these GIFs? Check out jakemiller.net/CamtasiaCourse.

*28-day period ending June 19, 2018 – 550K impressions, 613 tweets.

The post Animated GIFs vs. Screencast Videos appeared first on TechSmith Blog.

TechSmith’s Three-Pronged Training Content Strategy

At some point, virtually every business conducts training. From the neighborhood coffee shop teaching new baristas how to make lattes, to software behemoths deploying millions of dollars worth of technology all around the world, companies use training to keep their customers happy, sales rolling in, and business running smoothly.

The goals and purpose of training provided at different companies varies. In the case of the small coffee shop, training is likely informal and delivered from one person to another. For the global technology provider, things are a bit different.

Three-Pronged Training Content Approach

venn diagram of 3 audiences for training

Most companies that provide a complex solution or product encounter a three-pronged training challenge. First, they need to make sure their customers can easily learn to use the product. Second, they must prepare sales people who have a deep knowledge of their product’s functionality and applications. Third, they may want to help potential customers expand their skills and knowledge that relate directly to a product offering. This last one is akin to thought leadership combined with professional education and it can be a boon to a company’s reputation as a leader in the market.

At TechSmith, we know this challenge well. We have a large user base that wants to quickly learn our products and the best workflows. At t he same time, we have internal sales folks and external channel sales partners that need to have a thorough understanding of our company and the products’ we offer. And, third, we genuinely want to help people learn useful skills when it comes to video, image creation, and visual communication.

Each of the three prongs has a unique set of benefits, which means deciding what to take on first depends on the needs of your organization and its goals. Let’s look at the benefits and key considerations of each.

Training for users

Venn diagram highlighting Users as training audience

For a lot of companies this is the first type of training they create. The goal of training for users is to give them an easy onboarding path. Essentially, your goal is to, as quickly as possible, help them arrive at a point where they experience value from your product.

Training for users is an industry standard these days. Customers expect it, but that doesn’t mean they take it for granted. Well-designed user training is often perceived as a feature of the product offering. Indeed, at TechSmith we feel our tutorials are part of the package we offer to our customers.

Benefits

Training for users is a huge driver of customer satisfaction. Simply knowing they have a company-supported resource is a confidence boost in their ability to learn and implement a new product. It is also helpful in sales conversations. Managers or directors buying a solution will want to know that their employees can easily learn your solution and will have access to the necessary resources.

Product tutorials serve a marketing function, too. They are a great way for new and prospective users to see functionality and features without devoting a ton of time or effort. A user can see what we offer without ever downloading and installing. Once it is confirmed we provide desired features, they move to the next step in the funnel: downloading the trial.

A final bonus is that by making your own tutorials, you control the message. If you’re not making them, someone else might do it, designing with their own motivations in mind. By making your own, you take advantage of another touchpoint with customers and communicate the message you want.

Key Considerations

  • Think about providing tiered training series (e.g. Beginner and Advanced tutorials)
  • Make sure to cover core features and workflows
  • Use a consistent template or pattern in videos to help viewers become familiar
  • Needs to be kept up to date and refreshed when new features are released

Training for sales

Venn diagram representing sales as training audience

Whether you have internal or external sales people, this is an important focus. Sales folks need both the language to talk about your products and solutions, along with a way to spot opportunities. Offering training to help grow product and company knowledge is an excellent way to solve this problem. At TechSmith, our biggest focus with this has been creating content that can be used by our channel sales partners.

Create a series that keys salespeople into the big problems that your product(s) solves. Features are less important here, while characteristics of prospective customers are critical. What are the activities or interests that customer organizations or individuals will express that make them a good fit for your offering? Training for sales should provide a complete answer to this question and give sales people the knowledge and language to communicate to customers.

Benefits

Especially when it comes to channel sales partners, this type of training can be a big benefit. Channel partners often know little about your company and have a number of other products they sell. Giving them an easy way to gain familiarity with your company and talking points can be a big plus. Any way to make sure you are top of mind in the right situations can lead to more sales.

Key Considerations

  • Do internal sales people need different information than channel or outside sales folks?
  • Find a balance between product knowledge and customer characteristics knowledge
  • Make sure it is easy to access and consume
  • Think about tracking and viewership needs
  • An LMS may be necessary for creating courses and educational paths
  • Provide additional sales or marketing resources

Training for the industry

Venn diagram representing industry as training target

Your product most likely provides a solution that benefits a particular industry practice or activity. TechSmith’s products, Camtasia and Snagit, help people create amazing images and videos and use them to communicate in new, more effective ways. Of course, not everyone is familiar with how to record and edit videos or create graphics and images. To solve this we created the TechSmith Academy. The Academy helps anyone interested in making video learn the fundamentals. The knowledge we provide is valuable, whether or not an individual uses our products.

Benefits

Creating educational content that anyone can use, even without using your product, can be highly beneficial to business (so long as the content you create relates to your solution). You want your company to be seen as a leader in the industry for which you provide solutions. Helping others grow their competencies in the area is one of the best ways to achieve that status.

Key Considerations

  • Identify core or critical skills in the industry
  • Match the skills you teach with ones that make using your products easier
  • You may be able to offer a ‘certification’ of sorts
  • May need an LMS for delivery and tracking

Making all of the content suggested above could be overwhelming. My suggestion is to decide which one of the three would be of the greatest impact on your business. While I have presented these in a particular order, that does not imply that one should always be of higher priority than another.

Consider your companies needs when it comes to your customers, your sales people and partners, and position in the industry. What do you most want to achieve? Then, pick a path and start creating and sharing great content!

The post TechSmith’s Three-Pronged Training Content Strategy appeared first on TechSmith Blog.

The Secret to Social Media Video: Captions! Here’s how (and why) to add them

Social media streams are crowded, fast-moving, and crazy competitive. As social networks throttle back organic reach, being noticed is getting harder everyday.

Your fans and followers are scrolling past posts, ruthlessly dismissing most headlines and images they see. But then they slow down … pause … there’s something moving in their stream … it’s a video!

Social media video has stopping power. Movement is more visually prominent than still images. And images are more prominent than text.

This is part of the Law of Visual Hierarchy.

Laws of visual hierarchy

Remember 10 years ago when marketers suddenly realized that they needed to use images in their Facebook posts? Well, times have changed. Images aren’t enough anymore. Now you need to add video.

Captions are the Key to Social Media Video

Ok, so video is good, but not all videos get engagement. Why do some videos do so much better than others? The secret is captions.Video gets them to slow their scroll, but captions get them to engage.

Social media videos start out as silent. There’s a talking head, but no sound. It may be saying something funny or useful or provocative, but we have no idea — because we can’t hear it.

Enter captions.

There are actually four important reasons to add captions:

1. Social media engagement
Beyond colorful visuals, captions actually let viewers know what the video is about, giving them a reason to tap and turn on the sound and listen.

2. Accessibility
Some of your viewers are deaf or hard-of-hearing.

3. Environment
A viewer in an open office or in public can get the meaning without reaching for headphones

4. Foreign Language Speakers
Captions aren’t the same as subtitles, but still, if your language isn’t their first language, captions help overcome the challenges of accent and dialect.

How do you add captions to video?

There are tools that try to do it automatically, but as you can imagine, they make a lot of mistakes. You’ve probably seen captions with missed words, bad capitalization, and weird punctuation.Doing it by hand is best. But you need a simple tool and a little bit of time.

Here is my three-step approach to adding captions with my favorite tool and the host of this blog, TechSmith Camtasia.

Step One: Shoot the Video

Use basic best practices for lighting and sound, but don’t go rent a soundstage. This is social media, not Hollywood. I recommend a tripod, a window, and a decent microphone. Here’s what my office looks like in studio-mode.

Andy Crestodina Recording Setup

We’re making social media videos, so keep it short and sweet. No need for a long intro or pre-amble. Just jump in with the topic and get right to the point.

Pro Tip: While you have things set up, shoot a batch of three or four videos. Make the most of the time you spent on wardrobe, hair, and makeup …I don’t personally wear makeup, but I know people who do.

Step Two: Pop Open Your Video Editing Software

If you recorded directly into Camtasia, it’s going to open a file for you with your tracks set up. If you recorded on another camera or phone, move the file to your laptop and then open it in Camtasia.

You’ll want to start with some editing basics before you start adding captions:

  • Frame yourself in the video – Your head should be pretty big, filling around a third of the frame

Video frame dimensions

  • Trim the beginning / end, cut out the outtakes, and add some jump cuts
  • Mistakes are fine, since those cuts keep things interesting!
  • Filter out background noise or adjust the sound levels as needed
  • Add an intro/outro (If you don’t have one, Camtasia has an entire library to choose from)

Step Three – Add the Captions Track

Once you’ve cleaned up the file, you’re ready to add captions that make your social media videos engaging and accessible.

This is a social media video, so you probably didn’t start with a script and you don’t likely have a transcription. No problem.

Select the audio track, then from the main menu, click Modify > Captions > Add Captions. (or just right click on the audio track and choose “Add Caption” from that menu)

Add Captions

Now you’ll see a new track above the main timeline. It’s automagically broken up into short segments.

Step Four – Type the captions for each segment

Next click on the first segment, which will highlight it in purple and bring up the captions editor above.

Now just type in the caption for this segment. Camtasia will play that segment for you, so you can listen to the audio as you type. Finished with the first? Move on to the next segment and type in the next caption.

edit captions

Tedious? Not really. Social videos are usually short, so adding captions might take 5 to 10 minutes at most. Plus you get total control over timing, punctuation, fonts and capitalization.

ProTip! Add emojis to your captions. That automatic captioning app on your phone can’t do that!

Step Five – Change the Captions Font Size

Before you wrap this up, pump up the size of the text in your captions. Some of your visitors will be on small screens.

  • Click on the gear to the left of the caption track to see the captions menu.
  • Choose Caption Settings.
  • In the Caption Settings window (at the top of the screen) increase the size of the captions. I recommend a font size of 55 or so to make sure your captions are legible in mobile social streams.

caption settings

Step Six – Save, Export and Publish

You’re all set. Export the video to your laptop, upload it to a social network, then lovingly write a post to go with it using every trick in the social media post checklist: numbers, hashtags, mentions and special characters! Give it all you’ve got.

social mention

Bonus Step! Track traffic from the social post in Analytics

Of course, you’ll see the engagement metrics (likes, comments, shares) right there in the social channel. But to measure traffic from this social post to your website, you’ll need to add UTM Tracking Code to any links in the social post that point back to you.

Joel Don created a nice UTM Builder that make adding these campaign tracking codes easy.

utm parameters

If you added these tracking codes, traffic from this social post will appear in your Google Analytics campaign reports. It might look something like this…

google analytics conversions

Don’t be surprised if this post gets way more traction than a typical social media post. And a lot more traffic than a typical social media video. You just learned the secret to social video stopping power: captions.

That’s a wrap!

Marketers going big are doing better. And the one way to go bigger than anyone else is to upgrade your content to maximum power. That’s social media video.

Social media videos are so engaging that the networks are pushing them way to the top of social streams. Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn all want us to do more in this all-powerful format. It wins in the algorithms and in wins for attention.

As a social media marketer, video is your most powerful tool.

So rather than just post a headline and link to your article, make a tiny commercial of you introducing your article to your followers.

The post The Secret to Social Media Video: Captions! Here’s how (and why) to add them appeared first on TechSmith Blog.

Get Your Point Across Quickly with Visual Content

If you’ve ever written public-facing anything, or “copy”, as we call it in the marketing world — whether it’s an internal email or a public-facing blog post — you want to believe that people meticulously read every. single. word.

It’s more likely, though, that readers are merely skimming your content. In fact, according to research, users will read only about 20% of the text on an average page.

But there’s good news. You can convey meaning more quickly — grabbing and keeping their attention with visual content.

 

Use photos – the most common form of visual content!

While this may seem obvious, it’s still important enough to mention. Long sections of text can seem daunting to readers. You can alleviate their fears by breaking up those blocks of text with photos. There are tons of stock photo sites available. Many are paid, but there are free options as well. Here are just a few:

  • iStock offers a wide array of photos and other visual content for a fee.
  • Pixabay offers photos (and vector graphics, illustrations, and videos) for free.
  • Unsplash offers free hi-resolution photo downloads (note that crediting isn’t required, but appreciated for this site).

Stock photos often work well, but use them carefully. While your audience may not notice the difference between a good photo and a great photo, they’ll definitely spot a terrible photo. A bad stock photo is one that is obviously fake, disingenuous, or overly cheesy. Listen to your gut, and if you still aren’t sure, check with a colleague. Avoid photos of women laughing at salad.

collection of photos of women laughing at their salads representing photos as a type of visual content

Avoid using photos of women laughing at salads. Source: Google search.

You can always take your own photos, as well. In this era of smartphones, most of us have 24/7 access to a high-quality camera. You don’t need to be a professional to take a great photo. There are simple steps you can take, such as cropping your photo after you’ve captured it, to make your visual content look professional and focus viewer attention.

 

Don’t forget Illustrations!

According to research, more than 64% of millennials say they understand information faster when it’s communicated visually, vs. just 7% who don’t. If you want to convey something very specific, that is a great opportunity to use an illustration.

There are free icons you can incorporate into a custom graphic or illustration available through TechSmith Assets if you choose to build your own. TechSmith Snagit is helpful if you want to put something together that is directly related to your topic quickly and easily.

Below is an example of a custom graphic created to illustrate the process involved in ordering video editing operations.

graphic illustration showing the irrelevant materials being filtered out during the video editing process representing graphics as a type of visual content

This custom graphic was created to accompany a blog post about ordering video editing operations.

 

And then there are screenshots!

Capture a screenshot when you want to share exactly what you see on your screen. The possibilities are limitless. Screen captures can be especially helpful if you are providing instructions or when you need to describe something.

Use a screenshot to capture a software application’s user interface, explain a common error message, convert a section of an excel spreadsheet into an image, make your own meme, and more. There’s plenty of room to get creative.

GIF of Snagit capturing a screenshot of an error message, representing a screenshot as a type of visual content

A screenshot is a quick and simple way to incorporate visuals into your content.

 

What about typographic hierarchy?

Glad you asked! Don’t let the term intimidate you. Think of typographic hierarchy as approaching your text as if it were imagery. Leverage white space, bold font, italics, styles — keep it interesting!

Use different header levels–headlines, subheads, and body copy to draw attention to important parts. View the below example from Canva to see the contrast between hierarchy done well vs. not done at all.

examples of text with and without typographic heirarchy, representing that text can be made more visual depending how it is laid out

This example from Canva shows how incorporating different text levels can be impactful in your writing.

 

Conclusion

If you are still reading, thank you! No hard feelings if you mostly just skimmed your way through, though. While most of these tips are probably familiar to you, hopefully this information served as a helpful reminder that putting a little extra time and effort into your planning phase can make an impactful difference when it’s time to distribute your content.

If you are interested in learning more about ways to leverage visual communication, subscribe to the TechSmith Blog to receive weekly updates. Download our original research data to learn more about the value of using visuals.

The post Get Your Point Across Quickly with Visual Content appeared first on TechSmith Blog.

How to Get Crisp, Clear Screen Video

There are lots of great reasons to use screen video. Maybe you want to record a simple video showing a coworker how to submit time off on the new system or even a more elaborate corporate training video. Or maybe you want to respond to a client’s question by showing them the numbers you see on screen with some webcam video to add personality. Regardless of the reason, you don’t want to end up with blurry or distorted screen video.

You’ve come to the right place! In this blog post, you’ll learn how to use recording dimensions, project dimensions, and production settings to get crisp, clear screen video. So, let’s start learning.

Let’s start with three key things you need to know to get crisp video. Keep these definitions in mind as we go along to better understand how you can avoid blurry video.

Three Keys to Crisp, Clear Video

 

Recording Dimensions
This is the size of your recording. If you record full screen, it’s usually the same as the resolution of your monitor.

Project Dimensions
This is the size of your canvas in Camtasia, or the area in which you build your video

Production Settings
These are the options you choose when producing your video, including the size of your video.

Now, that we have those terms under our belt, the rest should make a lot more sense.

Screen Video Loses Quality When Scaled

scaling screen video

 

You may have noticed that when you scale images the quality often decreases. Screen video is no different!

Scaling is stretching or shrinking a screen recording to display it at a size different than the original recording size. This causes screen video to quickly lose quality and appear blurry or distorted.

To help ensure crisp, clear screen video, remember to display your screen video at its original size, which avoids any scaling.

A Shortcut to Crisp, Clear Video

matching video dimensions

 

Match your recording dimensions, project dimensions, and productions settings to help ensure crisp, clear screen video.

This guarantees your screen recording shows at its original size, or 100% scale—the highest quality you can get from screen recordings.

varying screen size

 

That’s great advice and all, but what if you can’t avoid scaling? Don’t worry! Sometimes it’s not possible to match your recording and project dimensions. For example, if you record a screen that is bigger or smaller than the size of the video you want to create, or if your monitor doesn’t fit a standard 16:9 aspect ratio.

In these situations, scaling the recording is unavoidable. But, you can use scaling to your advantage, and I’ll walk you through how to do it.

Use Scaling to Your Advantage

 

Our instructional designers here at TechSmith often use scaling to create tutorial videos. They record on a monitor that is twice the size of their project dimensions. They know that when they fit the screen recording to the project, it will be displayed at half its original size and will have some quality loss. It works for them, because they spend most of their time zoomed in and focused on specific parts of the user interface, which is where they want to see the highest quality.

To get the highest quality and most detail, they zoom to the original size of the recording, or 100% scale. When we need to show something on an adjacent part of the screen, they pan over, remaining at 100% scale. (You can learn more about zooming in TechSmith Camtasia by checking out our Animations In-Depth tutorial).

Scale video 100 percent

 

That brings me to my last point. When in doubt, keep your screen recording at 100% scale so it displays at the highest quality possible.

I hope after reading this blog post you feel more confident in recording crisp, clear screen video! And if you’re looking to learn more about video, check out our blog post on 50 tips for better video.

The post How to Get Crisp, Clear Screen Video appeared first on TechSmith Blog.

How to Get Crisp, Clear Screen Video

There are lots of great reasons to use screen video. Maybe you want to record a simple video showing a coworker how to submit time off on the new system or even a more elaborate corporate training video. Or maybe you want to respond to a client’s question by showing them the numbers you see on screen with some webcam video to add personality. Regardless of the reason, you don’t want to end up with blurry or distorted screen video.

You’ve come to the right place! In this blog post, you’ll learn how to use recording dimensions, project dimensions, and production settings to get crisp, clear screen video. So, let’s start learning.

Let’s start with three key things you need to know to get crisp video. Keep these definitions in mind as we go along to better understand how you can avoid blurry video.

Three Keys to Crisp, Clear Video

 

Recording Dimensions
This is the size of your recording. If you record full screen, it’s usually the same as the resolution of your monitor.

Project Dimensions
This is the size of your canvas in Camtasia, or the area in which you build your video

Production Settings
These are the options you choose when producing your video, including the size of your video.

Now, that we have those terms under our belt, the rest should make a lot more sense.

Screen Video Loses Quality When Scaled

scaling screen video

 

You may have noticed that when you scale images the quality often decreases. Screen video is no different!

Scaling is stretching or shrinking a screen recording to display it at a size different than the original recording size. This causes screen video to quickly lose quality and appear blurry or distorted.

To help ensure crisp, clear screen video, remember to display your screen video at its original size, which avoids any scaling.

A Shortcut to Crisp, Clear Video

matching video dimensions

 

Match your recording dimensions, project dimensions, and productions settings to help ensure crisp, clear screen video.

This guarantees your screen recording shows at its original size, or 100% scale—the highest quality you can get from screen recordings.

varying screen size

 

That’s great advice and all, but what if you can’t avoid scaling? Don’t worry! Sometimes it’s not possible to match your recording and project dimensions. For example, if you record a screen that is bigger or smaller than the size of the video you want to create, or if your monitor doesn’t fit a standard 16:9 aspect ratio.

In these situations, scaling the recording is unavoidable. But, you can use scaling to your advantage, and I’ll walk you through how to do it.

Use Scaling to Your Advantage

 

Our instructional designers here at TechSmith often use scaling to create tutorial videos. They record on a monitor that is twice the size of their project dimensions. They know that when they fit the screen recording to the project, it will be displayed at half its original size and will have some quality loss. It works for them, because they spend most of their time zoomed in and focused on specific parts of the user interface, which is where they want to see the highest quality.

To get the highest quality and most detail, they zoom to the original size of the recording, or 100% scale. When we need to show something on an adjacent part of the screen, they pan over, remaining at 100% scale. (You can learn more about zooming in TechSmith Camtasia by checking out our Animations In-Depth tutorial).

Scale video 100 percent

 

That brings me to my last point. When in doubt, keep your screen recording at 100% scale so it displays at the highest quality possible.

I hope after reading this blog post you feel more confident in recording crisp, clear screen video! And if you’re looking to learn more about video, check out our blog post on 50 tips for better video.

The post How to Get Crisp, Clear Screen Video appeared first on TechSmith Blog.

Keeping Video Content Up To Date

Today, companies rely more than ever on images and videos to provide instructions and deliver information, and to communicate with customers and employees. This development is driven by the advantages of visual communication as well the changing expectations of the market itself.

A recent study by TechSmith showed that 67% of test participants understood & performed tasks better when the instructions included text with images (screenshots) or video compared to plain text; and another study by Hubspot showed that video is the format demanded the most by users.

As content creators develop more visuals to be used in their documentation, training and marketing content, a challenge is growing in the industry: Keeping those images and videos up to date.

The speed and number of release cycles is increasing rapidly and product updates are requiring more frequent updates to all visuals. Many departments struggle to keep up with this time consuming task and it is time to explore some established techniques for updating video content.

(Techniques for updating images and screenshots are discussed here in a different article).

 

Design video content that is reusable

Simplifying the process for updating video content starts with the planning of the video itself.
The content can be structured a way that facilitates any future updates while it should be designed to reduce the actual need. need for updates.

 

Leverage short content or content blocks

When changes are introduced to a software interface or workflow, for example a new dialog, it is often only a section of the pre-existing content that is affected by this change. Tying into the principle of intelligent content and microlearning, video content can be designed in shorter blocks or scenes that are then linked together. Oftentimes, these blocks can stand on their own and are not dependent on the previous or following micro-content.

Imagine a basic software tutorial consisting of a title clip, two feature highlights, and an outro.

Timeline showing a video consisting of four unique content blocks

If an additional feature needs to be explained, a newly created clip can be inserted in between the existing scenes using your video editor.

Updating individual blocks and shorter clips is considerably less work than having to update an entire video, saving content creators valuable time.

 

Create evergreen content

First, one should therefore ask themselves: Does existing content even have be updated to still be effective? Depending on the audience and goal, content designed for a previous version might still be relevant. More often than not, elements that are insignificant to the actual information one is trying to communicate are the factors that become out of date.
Greetings, software version numbers, small interface changes, references and corporate branding elements come as regular examples to mind.

By generalising some of these elements, one can often prolong the re-usability and shelf-life of content. Imagine the following beginning to a video tutorial:

To start a screen recording in Camtasia 9, click on the Record button.
vs
To start a screen recording in Camtasia, click on the Record button.

By purposefully leaving out the version number in the second example, the video content can likely be repurposed for the next version of the Camtasia software without causing user confusing.

Amy Rottmann and Salena Rabidoux offer additional advice in their article to increase reusability of content, such as referencing years instead of time passed (2016 vs. 2 years ago) and choosing a more generalized title for your videos.

And according to video marketing platform Vidcredible, creating evergreen content and keeping it up to date is also a great approach to increase SEO and traffic coming from established content.

 

Using Simplified User Interface (SUI)

At TechSmith, we’ve been using a design technique known as Simplified User Interface (SUI) for some of our video content. SUI has many advantages, and by representing software interfaces through a simplified visual representation that focuses only on key elements, content creators can create videos that require less or no effort to update.

The same SUI content can often be used across multiple versions and languages, decreasing the overall need to update content.

 

Edit in a way that allows you to easily revisit the content.

There are several techniques that can help to make updating an existing video easier.

Always archive a finished video project

Simply keeping a finished MP4 video file doesn’t offer the flexibility to make adjustments to a video at a later point. It is best practice to archive the actual video project in such a way that it can be re-opened and re-edited at a later time by yourself or a colleague. This includes saving the actual project file used by the video editing software, as well as all all recordings, images and audio clips that are incorporated in the video.

CAREFUL: Simply saving the project file is often not enough; as most video editors only reference the actual media clips used in a project. These media clips need be archived as well.

TechSmith Camtasia includes a handy “Export as Zip” option that will bundle the project file and all media together into a single ZIP file that can easily be stored and re-imported at any point for such purposes.

Export as Zip Dialog in Camtasia, accessed via File - Export as Zip

More information on managing recordings and project files in Camtasia can be found here.

It is also recommended to store any supporting elements, such as scripts, storyboards and image source files that relate to a project for later reference.

 

Edit audio and video separately

In many cases, either the audio or the visual portion of a video need to be updated, but not both. Keeping the audio and video content on separate tracks allows content creators to replace or change just one element without affecting the other. Many multi-track video editor offer an option to separate audio and video clips if they are initially combined on the timeline.

A clip's audio and video can be separated into two individual clips in most video editing software

 

Fix a section with an overlaid screenshot

Screenshots can often be used to mask a small visual change in a screencast. Positioning and sizing the screenshot to the right area does require some practice (and a multi-track editor such as TechSmith Camtasia), but it is usually faster and more effective than recreating an entire recording. Keep an eye on the mouse cursor in your video to make sure that your screenshot does not cover it.

Example: The “background fill” properties are added to an existing video by overlaying a screenshot.

Choose a Flexible Video Hosting Platform

The video hosting platform you choose can also have an impact on the ease of updating content. Many companies host and distribute their finished video content through online video platforms such as YouTube, Wistia, Screencast.com or Vimeo.

While each platform has its strength and weaknesses, the most critical feature to look for in this context is the ability to replace a video after it has been uploaded without changing the URL.

This feature allows content creators to replace a video in the backend without breaking any of the shared links and embedded instances, making version control much easier and ensuring that anyone with the link will always and only see the latest version. Vimeo, Screencast.com, Wistia and others currently offer such functionality, but YouTube does not.

 

Bonus Tip: Using Voice Generation Technology

We have recently seen great advances in the field of voice generation technology (speech synthesis) and its quality is getting better by the day. The voice-quality of services such as Polly by Amazon, IBM’s Watson and Microsoft’s Azure services is impressive and affordable.

Example: IBM’s Watson Voice Technology was used to generate the voiceover

As an advanced practice, content creators can leverage this technology to generate the audio voice overs for their videos instead of recording the audio themselves or hiring an expensive voiceover artist. This method is particularly helpful when updating video content: Any subsequent changes in the video voiceover can quickly be generated with a few clicks. And, unlike a human recording, the tone and voice of the new snippet will match the existing content perfectly.

Despite it increasing quality, the available voice generation technology is not yet perfect. It still sounds a bit robotiy and lacks the required emotion needed for marketing content. Further, any unique terms such as brand names are not supported by default. However, the technology can certainly be acceptable in documentation and training content and already offers many advantages for creating, updating and localizing content.

 

In Summary

Updating video content is an unavoidable challenge, particularly as the amount of content and the frequency of product releases increase. Video creators can prepare for this challenge by incorporating the need for later updates into all stages of their video process. Using the right design, organization, editing techniques and technologies can greatly reduce the burden of updating videos. This in turn keeps the video strategy agile and frees up valuable time for other projects.

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3 Great Examples of Simplified User Interface

Simplified user interface (or SUI) is an a term that you may not recognize, but you will definitely know it if you see it in action.

SUI is popping up more places these days. Everyone from technical communicators to marketers are seeing the value of keeping things simple in visual communication.

So let’s look at some stand-out examples of simplified user interface and see why it works so well, in a variety of different ways.

You’ll be able to apply these three examples whenever you’re trying to easily guide someone’s attention.

1. Slack: Guide users through onboarding

When I go to sign up for a product or service I want it to be quick and easy. If it’s too complicated or confusing, I’m likely to bail out and try to find something else.

This is why it’s so important for companies to create simple and quick workflows for people signing up for their service.

That’s why I love the what Slack does within their onboarding.

slack onboarding screenshots

Not only is the content itself simple, but they do a great job of mixing in SUI into their onboarding experience. This makes it easy for me to see how the service is laid out, without being overwhelmed from the beginning.

2. Bluebeam: Use SUI for video content

Some of the most effective examples of simplified user interfaces are videos. You don’t have to be limited to just still images.

This example from Bluebeam is a smart use of showing a process in simple, yet effective way.

bluebeam sui example

If you make users think too much about your product, process, or service they’ll move on. The faster they can visualize success, the more likely they are to stick with you.

3. Conductor: Market a service with SUI

When you simply the interface of a product or service it makes it easier to focus on the message, not just the image.

When you’re marketing a product the last thing you want to do is cause confusion. By stripping out the complex areas of your screenshot, you can draw the focus to your message.

Conductor does a nice job on their website of using simplified images of they’re product. They are able to show off key features without being overwhelming.

conductor website screenshot

No matter what you’re trying to show off, there’s a lot to learn from how these different brands use SUI to show off their products and services.

Want to create your own SUI graphics?

I love using Snagit to create simplified graphics out of screenshots. It only takes a few steps and you end up with pretty great results. Get started today by checking out our complete beginners guide to create SUI images.

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How to Make an Explainer Video

Think of an explainer video as the modern day elevator pitch. Successful ones are concise, focused and have a very specific purpose: to communicate the value of your product in the shortest amount of time. The explainer style of video is designed to grab people’s attention. Of course, attention is a hot commodity, which means most explainers have high production value and a clear call-to-action. They are often displayed on landing pages, in emails and more commonly, as ads on YouTube. Now, all of that can sound a little intimidating, but don’t worry, in the rest of this post, we’ll walk through how to make your own explainer video, stress free. To get started, let’s look at a great example.

Now onto the big question, how do I get started creating one?

Start with the end in mind

Let’s return to the elevator pitch analogy and imagine ourselves standing next to a potential customer with roughly one to two minutes to get across the value of our product. That’s not long. Given the time constraints, the best way to craft your message is to first take a step back and look at why you’re even saying it. The goal is to figure out what you want the customer to do when the conversation ends. Should they sign up for your service? Create an account? Visit your webpage? Make sure you first set a clear end goal before you go any further.

One way to help establish this goal is to write a purpose statement. For example, a purpose statement might be something like “to drive current users to upgrade,” or “to increase the amount of trial sign-ups from people in their 20s and 30s.” The most helpful purpose statements include an actionable phrase and an audience.

Elevator with two people riding it.

Once you establish a purpose statement, the next step is to determine your audience.

Determine your audience

Explainer videos are short by nature and if you don’t speak to a specific audience, your video is doomed to fail. Think about the people that you most want to target with this video. The goal here is to get the right people on the elevator, so you can tell them the right message. Choose a specific subset of your total customers; a group that is strategically picked for the purpose of this video. You can’t target everyone and you shouldn’t try to. A broad message is often a muddled message, which means less people taking action after your video.

Silhouette of three people with one highlighted

Craft your narrative

After establishing your audience, it’s time to craft the narrative. You have roughly ninety seconds to introduce your product/company, the problem your users are facing and how your product can solve it. This is a lot to cover in a short amount of time, and I recommend breaking it down into more manageable chunks.

Start by focusing on the problem. Take the time to dig into customer data, make customer calls and get to know the biggest problems facing your users. These problems are key to your message, as they’re the reason your potential customers are even looking for a solution.

Funnel with multiple icons falling into it and only one coming out.

Once you have a firm grasp on the problems, it’s time to focus on solutions. Here’s where you start crafting the narrative and the key is to focus on solutions, not features. Think of it less as a chance to show off your feature set, and more of a chance to communicate how your product will make them better at what they do. Focus on telling a relatable story about the problems they’re facing, then introduce your solution and show how it will improve their life.

Choose a format

Explainer videos tend to leverage four common storytelling formats: animation, live action, screencast video and whiteboard drawings. Each one has pros and cons, and the best explainer videos know when to leverage each to best tell their story. To help you decide what’s best for your audience, I’ve laid out the common benefits for each:

Animation:

Animations are great for communicating abstract or intangible ideas and are also great for creative storytelling. They’re the most versatile options for explainer videos, which also makes them the most expensive. They’re typically used to explain software or services.

Live action:

Few things can beat a relatable person, communicating a relatable message. Including people in your videos can build a connection between the viewer and the message you’re communicating, so any time there’s an opportunity to use live action, take it.

Screencast video:

Screencast video is ideal for showing software in action. This is a powerful method to use if your goal is to provide people a clear look at a product before they try/buy.

Whiteboard drawing:

There’s a certain appeal to having content created right before your eyes. Use whiteboard drawings when you need to communicate a bigger topic within the context of it’s smaller parts. The ability to zoom out at the end of a whiteboard drawing to show everything within context is a powerful tool.

Decide who’s going to build it

Before you roll up your sleeves or hand off your project to an external company, let’s take a step back and make sure the right people are making your video. The biggest factor in this decision is often budget, but I suggest you start by considering the level impact you want the video to have. This will help gauge a rational size for your investment. Is this video going to lead your marketing efforts for a campaign? Will it live in a prominent place, such as on the landing page of your website? The greater the desired impact, the more you should consider higher investment levels.

On the flip side, if you’re simply looking to dip your toes into the explainer video world, then you might want to consider rolling those sleeves back up and making this yourself to save some money. If you’re a little unsure how to proceed, I’ve laid out the pros and cons of the three most common options for building an explainer video.

Hire an outside company

Pros: Video production companies have the talent, skills and experience to create the best explainer videos. Good companies work with you to make your video exactly how you want it.
Cons: It’s going to cost you. The average cost for a custom 60 second explainer video is roughly $8,000.
Summary: If there’s a lot depending on this video, you should probably hire an external company to produce a “knock their socks off” level explainer video. This will cost you, but the pay off will likely be worth it.

Make it yourself

Pros: You have complete creative freedom and more control over the budget.
Cons: You’re limited by your own skills, time, software, and hardware. If you’re looking to get into video creation, I recommend trying out the new TechSmith Academy. It’s designed for people new to video production and it’s free!
Summary: If the stakes are low or you’re willing to try your hand at video production, then build it in-house. You have more control over the budget and complete creative freedom.

Use an online platform (templates)

Pros: These tend to be quicker to create, not-as-expensive as hiring a professional company and the end results is often fairly polished.
Cons: They’re still pretty expensive. You lose a lot of creative freedom with templates. This often limits the methods available to tell your story.
Summary: If you’re willing to take a gamble on a cookie-cutter platform, then a template based service is a viable option. They tend to cost less than a video production company and the turnaround time can be quite quick.

I made the video. Now what?

With your video finished, the last steps are to host it and determine how the video performs. The performance will be a low-level litmus test for how well you chose your audience, purpose and stuck to your message. If you’re looking to develop strategies for testing the performance of your video, I recommend looking into Wistia. They have services that make it dead simple and they tend to be the current thought leader for this industry.

Best of luck in your video creation and if you’re looking for more information on creating videos, check out TechSmith Academy.

The post How to Make an Explainer Video appeared first on TechSmith Blog.

Performance Support Tools Your Employees Can Start Making Today

Performance support tools (PSTs) are used by learning and development professionals to encourage “just-in-time” learning. These job aids are most often delivered as some form of content, though augmented reality and professional coaching are also becoming popular. Still, for most organizations, content is king when it comes to on-the-job learning.

In this post, I want to share types of performance support that learning professionals deliver. These don’t have to be developed by trained learning professionals, and don’t only support formal learning. Peer-to-peer and social learning is necessary in many professions, so organizations are investing in programs and technologies that allow anyone to create content that helps someone else excel at their job.

This is especially beneficial when employees work in dangerous or hazardous environments and accuracy is critical. Key performers know the right words to say, the order of operations, etc. and can be the ones best suited to create these tools.

Take a look at these three examples of content-based PSTs that anyone in your organization can make.

Infographics

Desk with computer and tools and paper with infographic

 

Infographics are highly visual, information driven storytelling. Most are eye-catching, easy to scan, and tell a story. But, you may wonder why you would tell a story using an infographic instead of text?

Research shows that visual information is more memorable and that 90% of information transmitted to our brain is visual. So, if presented with the same information in the form of both text and visuals, the brain will be more likely to retain the information communicated through the visual.

Now that’s a compelling reason to create a visual.

And with so many user-friendly tools like Visme and Canva Infographic Maker, I bet anyone in your organization could create an infographic.

Microvideos

small tiles of videos

 

You may or may not have heard of microvideos. The term has been floating through professional learning communities as one of the biggest and latest trends in video learning. It may not be the most technically advanced of all learning experiences, but when done well it seems to be highly effective and accessible, making it an attractive option to deliver learning.

Last year, we hosted a guest blog post by eLearning professional Josh Cavalier, who defined a microvideo as a small collection of “micro moments” (i.e. thought, image, concept, or idea) delivered in a video that’s six to sixty seconds long.

microvideo figure

Two or more of these micro moments create a macrovideo.

These short, pointed videos leverage the viewer’s sensory and working memory without being cognitively demanding, making it a perfect option as an on-the-job support tool. And with video recording and editing tools like Camtasia, anyone who can operate a computer can make a video.

Guides

Most people at some point have layers of sticky notes on your desk or work station with tips and reminders about workflows, processes, or workarounds. Reference documentation, or a simple guide, can compile that information in a more organized, searchable way to help you and your coworkers be more successful with their everyday tasks.

Does your desk look like this?

Quick reference guides can be in the form of a SharePoint article, a PDF, a Word doc, or a printed handout, but the benefit is the same—the content quickly gives the learner what they need to keep working. For example, a technical writer is publishes new guides once or twice a year. A quick reference guide can quickly reinforce publish and printing parameters to ensure that the work is done as efficiently as possible across an entire team and that the quality of the printed piece is high with every update.

Check out these tips for making better looking visuals for your technical guide.

At the end of the day, so much of PSTs has to do with efficient and effective communication to increase productivity and quality at work.

So, whether your organization chooses to hire learning professionals to develop performance support tools or rely on your high performers to share their knowledge, consider the above tools as tried and true solutions.

 

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