Demystifying video guides
A human guide to crafting how-to videos.
Videos take more time and work than writing something up, but that shouldn’t discourage you from creating them. My goal here is to help demystify the process and lower the barrier to entry.
Production value isn't as important as you think
Perfect is the enemy of good
I firmly believe it's more important video tutorials are clear, concise, and up to date versus on-brand.
Fancy graphics and upbeat music with on-brand typography and messaging don't matter if the content doesn't demonstrate how to do something quickly and efficiently. While nice, these items are secondary to the actual content and generally slow the content production process.
When product features and updates are pushed to production, accompanying tutorials should be published as well. (Pro-tip: In fyiio changes are put in a "draft" until you re-publish them. This way already-posted content isn't affected.)
Focus on being clear and concise
Avoid what annoys you when following a tutorial
Tasty recipe videos are great because they quickly provide ingredients and instructions in a fun manner. Recipe websites can be awful when they force you to endlessly scroll past stuff you don't care about to see an ad before getting to the ingredients list.
This is part of the reason why fyiio has a 2.5-minute video length cap — to emphasize content be short, sweet, and to the point. The longer your guide is the more likely people are to start skipping through it, search for another guide, or flatly not consume it and contact support because it's easier.
A great way to start this process is to create your written instructions first. This will mentally help you organize your thoughts and break them down into a step-by-step manner.
While you're doing this...
Would your grandma understand your instructions?
Using a product can become natural when your full-time job involves designing, building, and/or supporting it. As time goes on, you might assume new customers will feel the same way. Do not fall into this trap. Your product is not "easy enough anyone can use it." If that were the case, customers wouldn't create tickets asking for help, knowledge bases wouldn't exist, and you (or others) wouldn't be creating tutorials for your products.
Case in point: fyiio publishes tutorials on how to create tutorials on its tutorial platform.
Forks in the road
Hitting unexpected roadblocks halfway through a tutorial — or needing to look up how to do something talked about in a guide — can be extremely frustrating to a viewer. While creating your tutorials, try to think of potential errors or mistakes a user might encounter or make ahead of time. If you're able, use data from your customer success, product, and/or engineering team(s) to provide insight here.
If there's a chance someone might encounter a roadblock: call it out, provide instructions, and include/link additional resources if necessary.
Mirror, mirror, on the wall, why is this tutorial different from what I saw?
Tutorials should mirror what a user would see in your product as much as possible to avoid confusion.
If creating a web app tutorial, consider using a brand new user account and your browser's incognito mode. This can reduce the likelihood you accidentally skip a step in the process due to browser cookies, changed settings, customizations, permissions, or features that apply to one type of user and not the other.
Hardware product? Start by unboxing the product and setting it up completely from scratch. In the box, include a QR code customers can scan to receive the most up-to-date instructions. Remember, future changes to tutorials on fyiio are applied everywhere, even if it's printed on a QR code.
Ask yourself the following:
- Would grandma understand what I'm trying to convey?
- Am I using a lot of jargon and acronyms? Am I providing definitions the first time they're used?
- Are there any forks in the road my viewers might encounter?
- Am I assuming my viewers understand how to do something in my tutorial?
- Did I go through this tutorial myself, or test it with someone else?
Save your raw files and work files
When I create tutorials I use an external solid-state drive (SSD) exclusively for storing the raw video, images, voiceovers, and actual project files for your tutorials. You can download the template I use below; copy this template for each tutorial you create.
Saving all the assets and work files makes it incredibly simple to update content since you aren't starting from scratch each time. Super helpful if only minor edits are needed. Make sure you're naming each audio file, photo, video clip, etc. (I know it's a pain, but it's worth it.)
Once a tutorial is complete, consider moving the folder to a cloud-hosted service like Dropbox.
Download the template I use »
Equipment and software
Note: fyiio doesn't get affiliate revenue from recommending products.
I wanted this section to be last since it's the final thing you should consider once you have a plan in place and have thought about the types of content you'll create.
Decent mics are pretty affordable, so I recommend purchasing one instead of relying on your computer or camera's built-in one.
Gear I use (and have used):
Blue Snowball ($50)
Blue Yeti ($130)
Camera + Tripod
Your smartphone camera is likely good enough to start — you can always upgrade to a better camera later.
Tripods are a must for everything but screen captures. It's a low-cost way to prevent shots from being shaky and uneven.
Gear I use:
Panasonic Lumix G85 ($700)
Sunpak - PlatinumPlus Ultra 6000PG ($60)
Use a solid-state drive (SSD) for your projects — they're faster and more versatile than traditional spinning drives.
I keep all the files for a tutorial on this drive until a project is complete. Then I transfer the files to Dropbox for easy retrieval when I need to update a tutorial.
Samsung T7 ($80)
The great news here is both macOS and Windows computers have built-in screen capture tools.
In fact, we've created some guides on using them!
How to record a Mac's screen »
How to record a PC's screen »
There's also a wonderful tool called Loom that is super easy to use.
We use Premiere Pro for editing all our videos, but understand it can be overwhelming to beginners.
We created this "starter" tutorial to get you up to speed on the basics:
Intro to Adobe Premiere Pro »
(Coming soon: Intro to iMovie)
I hope this has helped you as you progress through building your tutorials. This guide is meant to be a living document, so if there's anything you'd like to see added or clarified, let us know!
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fyiio builds tutorial software that enables support teams to rapidly create, place, and maintain interactive guides when and where they're needed most.