When learning about software, do you prefer using a video tutorial (YouTube-style), or well-written text instructions?
There are positive aspects to both mediums. A video is excellent in illustrating how to navigate a software’s interface. Text, on the other hand, provides the advantage of searchability and also makes it easy to take in instructions step by step. Anyone that has tried to create a knowledge repository is familiar with the struggle of deciding which medium is best to use.
We at Explain Everything have recently been going through the process of creating a knowledge repository in the form of a help center. We were in the same boat in deciding how best to go about creating our help center. Video? Text? In the end we went for mixing both communication forms, text and animated videos. And only after using our tool for the job did we learn that we have an interesting perspective to share.
Ways of sharing knowledge
Building a successful help center or knowledge repository is an exercise in empathy considering the user’s needs of getting their job done. After all, you’re not delving into a support section without a cause.
Users are motivated either with a desire to learn about a product before their buying decision or resolving issues when using it. That’s why on the one hand we wanted to satisfy those looking for in-depth answers, and on the other – make it easy for newcomers to find big picture information.
It was clear to us that the right formula has to do with a mix of illustrative videos and text. Luckily our platform is about knowledge exchange, so we genuinely used it to the fullest extent.
Consider what the process of producing animated videos entailed in the past. Scripting and then producing animation was a cumbersome and lengthy process taking days if not weeks to finish. And what’s more the process had to be redone with every change to your product interface. Updating a text article is easy. Updating videos was a pain.
Explain everything with Explain Everything
We created Explain Everything on the presumption that video animation should be as smooth as moving objects across the screen with a finger. Fast forward seven years and this idea resulted in an interactive whiteboard platform used by over 10 million users that share their knowledge visually by recording videos without a need of a script or studio.
A tablet makes it easy to capture what users show and tell. And once knowledge is captured, it can be repurposed easily as the recording process does not work like a video. A camera would capture a sequence of frames that are difficult to manipulate if one doesn’t have post-production skills or equipment. Instead, Explain Everything records object manipulation as it happens as well as audio. That way it is easy to iterate and improve once recorded, replacing elements or adjusting animations when needed.
The way Explain Everything’s recording features works makes it super easy to document any software. To demonstrate how a piece of software works all one needs to do is to screen grab the process of using it, put the recording into Explain Everything and explain the video using any means of expression available. For our Help Center videos, we decided to use a header title, employ subtitles under the video, and add minimal, subtle animation or highlights for attention.
The feedback we received after producing the first explanatory videos was of two kinds. Appraisal of clarity and authenticity on the one hand and a surprise that the result hasn’t been pixel-perfect. But should it?
Immediacy and its results
Any software company could procure the creation of ideal animations. A software company advocating authentic just-in-time communication shouldn’t. By watching videos embedded in our support articles you’re getting a taste what you can create not as an animator, but as an individual that has something to convey.
The software tutorial is not meant for animated feature film awards. It is a way to source the knowledge directly from a person who knows something to those that want to learn. Authenticity comes with immediacy. With Explain Everything we strive to shrink the distance between those that know and those that want to learn.