The two main ways to describe the process or the operation are: to make a video help library or refer to a screenshot-based guide. The aim of this article is to show the key advantages and disadvantages of them. I will also focus on the main difficulties one faces while creating or maintaining each of them. On the basis of my research, you will be able to decide which one can make your daily work easier.
Video help library
We need to admit that choosing this option will make it extremely easy both to explain and understand the process you want to describe. However, for every plus there is a minus, so take into consideration that there are also drawbacks.
To illustrate what all of you may face while working with a video guide I’ve prepared a list of pros and cons for this kind of information presenting.
4 IFs signaling that Video help is truly the best choice:
- If you need to present a really complicated work-flow without a strict sequence of steps: this requires a long comprehensive description and people usually feel too lazy when it comes to reading a lot of information
- If the information you have to describe simply cannot be presented in any other form than video: only with the help of this electronic medium it is possible to illustrate a continued action
- If you want to have a learning course and test your knowledge by passing a quiz which is a part of the video guide
- If you aim to make your product well-recognized by posting your video tutorial on respectful video-sharing websites, such as YouTube
However, before you start creating your own video guide, consider the following working moments, which are believed to be its disadvantages:
- It is a truly time-consuming process
- Be prepared: sometimes you have to remake your video guide more than 3 times: if something goes wrong you will have to take some extra steps to get back to previous state. To avoid confusion for the end-users, you will have to start recording from the beginning.
- And some more time for post-production: unnecessary parts cutting, annotations writing and sound adding is an even more laborious part. A must here: to be highly precise as even a small variation may turn your video into a senseless one.
- Updates are inevitable
Keep it in mind: your software will be updated regularly and some of the features present in the video may just become outdated or on the contrary — some new options will not be covered in your guide. All this will definitely add some complications for your end-users.
- Not searchable
Even if it’s often much easier to understand the main idea of the process by seeing it, sooner or later there will be the need to document it or, in other words, print it. Here another complication arises — you can’t print the video!
Let’s assume a user spent a considerable amount of time watching the whole video guide and managed to understand the process. But he/she needs to check one specific detail. The only way to do this: to scroll the timeline of the video until the right moment is found. One should recognize it is quite irritating and again — time-consuming. The drawback is obvious: Video is not a document, so you cannot structure it by dividing into different sections for faster searchability.
- It requires much space
Usually, video guides are used for long comprehensive operations that automatically makes them quite cumbersome. You need to store both the video and original recorded files for maintenance. This might lead to some problems, for instance, some extra spending for the company. But this drawback is not always considerable.
Now let’s look into an alternative solution — a guide based on screenshots.
While creativity and unusual approaches are always welcomed in this field, yet I have to say that traditional methods are widely used and tend to be quite resultative.
Screenshots as a way to present information are a bright example here. Let’s explore their pros and cons and answer the following question:
Why should you say “YES” to a screenshot–based guide?
- No complications
The creation of a screenshot is quick, easy and truly time-saving. Just one click — and a screenshot is done. If something went wrong –the whole guide will not suffer: replacement or deleting of a specific screenshot doesn’t affect the entire document. Regular software updates won’t create any difficulties for you — it will not take you much time to create a new set of screenshots.
- Well-organized document
A set of separate screenshots form a real document. It is possible to have the whole process in front of you — all the steps are ordered and contain a certain description. The less time one needs to start benefiting from a guide, the more efficient one is. Structuring and dividing the guide into respective sections will make it exceptionally easy to find what you need in no time. There is a rule for the screenshot-based text documentation, known as “Open-Found-Got Back to Work”.
Another good point: there won’t be any problems with printing and distributing.
- Screenshots are truly mobile
You can also use a specific part of the document for another document. This kind of screenshot mobility considerably saves your time and you don’t have to do the same job twice.
For every plus, there is a minus. Is it really true?
To be honest, I didn’t find many huge disadvantages for this kind of information presenting, but one point is still worth mentioning:
- Using screenshots may seem very traditional and boring or even less entertaining. However, I believe, in this case we should choose between usefulness and fun. I guess there is no need to comment on what is of more value if one really aims to save time, money and simply — get his work done.
So — video or screenshot-based guide?
It’s high time, to sum up our research.
Those who want their product to be well-recognized among customers and can afford themselves to spend hours recording and editing videos will definitely choose this way of illustrating software operations. While I find video guide a very creative and effective way to describe a really complicated work-flow, personally I have to give my final vote to screenshots.
Firstly, this way of information presenting is much more comfortable to work with. Secondly, it doesn’t require much time while both creating and using this kind of document. Eventually, the screenshot mobility makes this type of information documentation even less resource-consuming and laborious.