Screen capture videos are popular among software companies, and it’s easy to see why. They allow you to put the software’s interface directly in front of the viewer, and show them how to use it – almost as if a friend were explaining it to them in person. By demonstrating your software in action, you can help convert prospects, onboard new customers, and reduce churn while we minimizing customer support costs.
Sounds simple right? Well in some ways it is, but actually creating these videos is more complicated than one might assume. Simply put, they’re finicky. Their technical execution requires a fair bit of skill and coordination. That’s why we developed our own process for creating them efficiently and effectively.
For those curious about creating their own Screen Capture video (or a series of videos), here’s a general overview of how we recommend doing it.
5 Steps to an Effective Screen Capture Video
The first thing to do is create a script for the video. Normally, we recommend leaving the scripting to the professionals for animated content, but in cases where the content of the video is highly technical (“click here to open this window and select this item”), it’s sometimes more productive for someone who knows the interface to at least draft the script. That person is the content expert, so he or she can explain the process in much less time than it would take a scriptwriter to learn it from scratch.
With that said, there are a few best-practices that apply to any script, so we always take time to proofread and wordsmith our scripts, even if we don’t draft them.
2. The 'Walk-Through'
Once we have a script, we do a kind of “dry run” using a screen sharing platform. This is our client’s opportunity to actually show us how the software works – every click, every tab, every button. All of this is recorded, and those recordings serve as a reference for when we create the animation. This ensures that we get everything right – every action has to be exactly correct, or the video will just do more harm than good.
3. Dummy Accounts
One useful technique is the “Dummy Account” method. Create a fake account that lets us use the software without seeing anyone’s private information. Just keep in mind that, if your software is ‘under construction’, we might need work together to create the illusion of a fully functional interface.
Next we record a voiceover, and again there’s a few options. Generally speaking, it’s best to hire a professional voiceover artist to read the script and give it that nice polished sound. But there’s a catch: freelance voiceover artists work remotely, and this back-and-forth communications can slow things down. This is especially irksome if there are lots of minor changes in the delivery of a line (“actually it’s click IN not click ON”).
The other option is that we record the voice in house. Luckily our team is trained in the ancient art of the voiceover, and we are fully set up with a professional recording studio. The big benefit here is that we can quickly and easily change the delivery of a line without having to wait (or charge). And besides, training videos of this nature are often more effective with a more casual and approachable voice anyway.
These videos might look simple, but they can actually be sort of tricky to animate. Sure, there’s no fancy character animation or art direction happening, but accuracy is absolutely necessary. If the cursor always clicks on the wrong button, then the video won’t be very useful.
The content of these videos tends to be on the complicated side, so a few errors will likely come up. Again, it’s important to have the option of making small, quick changes. If your animator is in India, then your project can get stalled pretty easily. That’s why we make sure our animator is capable of quick turnarounds, even for very minor changes.
So what does a simple, yet effective screen capture video look like? Check out the example below that was the first in a series of 30 videos we created for Beanworks to help users with their accounts payable automation software.
Screen Capture videos might not be the most thrilling in terms of storytelling and production value, but video isn’t always necessarily about that. We believe video should be used strategically in whatever way makes sense for your business, and we’ve certainly seen these videos make a difference for our clients.