How to Create a Great Video Tutorial

You’ve decided to add video tutorials to your documentation suite. Next step: learning how to do them well. You don’t necessarily need to spend a lot on specialists, but there are some important points to think about before you jump in.

What’s your style?

Your video tutorials need to be consistent with your company’s branding. I’m not talking just colours and logos – although those can be powerful – but concepts like how your company wants to interact with its target audience. Is it young and experimental? Reliable and conservative? Rebellious? The answers will inform your choice of background, expert, colour, and script.

Find an expert

The best way to have someone speak with authority is for them to actually know what they’re talking about. When I say ‘expert’, though, I’m not talking about the person who designed the product, or one of the people who coded its functionality. Find an expert in using the piece of functionality that the tutorial will cover. Often, if you’re looking in-house, this will be a technical writer or a tester.

Answer a question

Each video tutorial should answer a simple question – simply. If there are multiple ways to do a particular task, consider creating a video for each method. Wandering off-track is a sure way to lose your viewer’s attention.

Keep it short

Short videos that get quickly to the point are generally more useful than longer ones. Remember: the user came to this point with a question that they wanted an answer to. Don’t rush the flow of the video, but make sure that it’s succinct and focused.

Use an outlined script

Don’t use a full script, unless it’s absolutely necessary. Ideally, have a technical writer put together the outline, and perhaps a basic introduction and farewell section script, because being faced with the utter blankness of a camera lens with nothing concrete can be unnerving, to say the least.

The outline should cover each step that the user needs to take, and include prompts for other information that the presenter should cover and actions that the presenter needs to perform.

Sample script

Hi! I’m Holly from Santa’s Secret, and I’m going to show you how to how to unlock your Christmas stocking.

**start screen-share**

  • Click on Menu => Fireplace.
  • Click on Mantelpiece => Add Stocking. [stockings are customisable, which will be covered in another video]
  • Wait until Christmas morning, which is 25th December. [change in stocking appearance]
  • Open your stocking!

**end screen-share**

You’ve all been asking what’s inside! Well, everyone will get their very own surprise, but in another video, Chris will be giving us a sneak peek under the wrapping paper of a few random presents.

Real > Flawless

Most of your intended audience will be familiar with amateur tutorials by now. There are thousands, if not millions, of them available online. Many of them have a host of avid fans that like their style. And the vast majority haven’t spent thousands on the ‘right’ video gear, lights, and other paraphernalia. Stumbling over wording doesn’t have to be grounds for a complete re-take – your expert just needs to take a breath and correct themselves.

Record the person or the screen?

Sometimes this just comes down to personal choice. I think tutorials generally work better using both – full-size shot of the expert talking about what they’re going to show the audience, then a picture-in-picture setup with the main area displaying the video screen capture with the expert video in a corner, explaining what’s happening in the screen capture.

Camera and microphone

Unless you’re aiming for a highly-polished result, you can get away with using a laptop’s webcam or the camera on your phone. Keep the camera steady, preferably securely propped at an angle that allows viewers to watch you as an equal, not as naughty children. As a general rule, don’t talk down to the camera, or up to the camera, but have the camera close to level with your face.

When it comes to microphones, though – especially in environments with a bit of background noise – I really don’t recommend using your laptop’s or phone’s built-in microphone. Unobtrusive bluetooth headsets designed for use with mobile phones often have some noise-filtering features and will provide much clearer audio.

Tools to use

There are all sorts of tools available for creating video tutorials using video screen captures. A couple I know of are:


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