Article written by Ferry Vermeulen on INSTRKIV 

Video has become one of the most important mediums in use today for communicating instructions. It is a great way to communicate with your users and to embrace both user communities and user-driven information.
But you are probably wondering: “How do I successfully create video tutorial instructions?”
Well, I will make it easy for you today. In this post, I will give you 20 tips that you can implement directly, so you can do video too. No matter what your resources or skills are. Are you ready? Let’s do this!


Your 20 Tips to Create Better Video Tutorials Right Away

1. Work more efficiently with the right tools for YOUR specific tutorial video
Videos are excellent for teaching your audience how to use a piece of software or demonstrating how a product or concept works. What you want to demonstrate is important for deciding the right tool that you want to use for creating the video tutorial.
Software is first installed on a computer. Recording and showing how the software works can be done best by using a screen casting tool. Instructions for how to use a physical product, for example, instructions on how to install an internet router, can best be created with animation software or with any other video recording device and editing tool. If you want to create eLearning modules, there are other tools that might be a better choice.
Based on what you want to create, several tools are available for your specific purpose.
Below these 20 tips you find an overview I created of all available tools (this is an independent list and I do not get paid for these links). Choose the type of video you want to create and check out any tools you need to make the right choice for your video.

2. Make sure the video can be easily found by a well chosen title
Those looking for video instructions for a particular software feature often encounter two issues during their search:
First of all, they must find the most likely source of that video. Often this is the manufacturer of the software, but it may also be another party like YouTube or eHow.
Secondly, a user must decide which of the available instructional videos is best.
The video tutorial’s title is a critical aspect of this decision. Consider the importance of an article headline when looking for interesting news. It should follow the rules of sentence structure, containing a subject, verb, and object phrase that concisely describes the video instruction content.
Always avoid using jargon or other informal language tools. It's a good idea to include a synopsis of the video tutorial to encourage readers to view it.
So grab a piece of paper and a pen and craft your title carefully. Because you want to teach someone how to do something, you might want to start your title with “How to….”

Figure 1 - This title may look simple, but a great deal of experience is behind it


3. Let users learn better by using both video and narration
The most common format for instructional videos used for training is a recorded demonstration. Typically, that is a screen capture animation with background narration.
The speaker should describe the processes involved in the video tutorial along with some background to provide confirmation of the narrator’s qualifications.
This tip recommends using a combination of video and narration and is based on empirical evidence. The multimedia principle proves that beyond a shadow of doubt, humans gain a more thorough understanding when presented with a combination of video and spoken words than either of those alone.
Narration is a critical ingredient. It adds much in the way of keeping the story flowing, while providing additional information that is beyond the scope of visual media. It is difficult to say whether the narration, or the video itself, is the most important aspect of any instructional video.
Record your own narration by using one of the tools with that functionality from the list I created or you can hire a voice artist. You can also use a computer generated text-to-speech voice, although this is not particularly recommended (see tip 5).

4. Support understanding by being faithful to the actual interface
Video developers often make the mistake of presenting the events that occur during the task in an unnatural sequence.
It is much easier to remember and comprehend the events described when the media representation aligns with the physical acts being described.
The idea is to demonstrate to the viewer the same imagery, sounds, etc. that they would experience when actually executing the process being demonstrated. Most likely this involves displaying the entire product and using all of the available screen space.
The demonstration then shows task execution in its context and supports the user in developing insights into the structural layout. Obviously, any video instruction is enhanced with zooming, especially when the imagery includes text, movements of a computer mouse, or when product parts are small.
Make sure to align your video tutorials in a logical order with each step that the viewer is likely to encounter.

5. Enhance learning by using a spoken human voice
It is important to accompany the story with an audible voice, rather than just showing written words. Ideally, the words should be generated by a live person rather than a computer.
We all respond to video learning more positively when there is an actual person narrating it. Make sure you use a consistent visual channel to process both the words and imagery for paper tutorials.
When dealing with video tutorials or video instructions, the goal is to balance the use of the user’s visual and auditory memory. It is a mistake to emphasize one over the other for users who do not experience a physical disability, which are the target of this discussion.
Most studies demonstrate that users have a distinct preference for the human voice as opposed to unnatural computer-generated versions for video tutorials.
As discussed by tip #3, use one of the tools from the list I created to record your own voice, or hire a voice artist.

Figure 2 - Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with a program within his operating system in the motion picture "Her"


6. Decrease the cognitive load by synching action and voice
Ideally, video instruction is a concise description of every event that a user will encounter.
It is important to tell the story behind the actual process. It is a mistake to actively promote the product being described.
In simple terms, the narrator is explaining a process that coincides directly with the active video demonstration.
The temporal contiguity principle confirms that any time video and narration are presented, they should occur simultaneously rather than successively.
Whenever processes are presented successively, the user is being forced to rely upon his or her memory as one gives way to the next. This is often challenging for many people.
This synchronization tip eliminates the issue.
When recording your video, make sure you explain exactly what is seen in the video. If you are using a voice over artist, tell him to do that as well.  

7. Make an instructional video that fits the user’s capabilities by choosing the right speed
It is important to fine tune video tutorials to match the capabilities of the user. This is where the speed of presentation becomes critical.
The user must be able to actually engage with and remember any new information being presented. The goal is to fit the information to the capabilities of the user.
The term system-based pacing is used to describe the appropriate speed used to demonstrate and explain a task, so as to enable the user to fully comprehend the described process.
In order to choose the right speed you should:

  • Not speak too quickly
  • Maintain an active pace with tonal inflections
  • Extend natural conversation breaks by an additional few seconds

8. Enable user controls to support users as they process the information
An additional means of matching information to the user’s abilities is by enabling as much user control as is practical.
This means that the user has adequate control of the video instruction being transmitted. We are all familiar with video buttons that enable starting, stopping, pausing, and the replaying of segments.
Standard control buttons such as those displayed below provide each of these facilities. They also enable users to skip ahead past familiar video segments and easily control volume.
When creating a video, at least make sure you add a start, stop and pause button. Additionally, you could add a replay, forward and backward button for even more control.

Figure 3 - Typical control buttons

9. Reduce the cognitive load by giving a preview of the task ahead
Another crucial element in the process of providing video instructions is to provide a preview of the content that follows. Previews introduce the user to the upcoming presentation with a condensed version of the task. The preview functions as a tour of what is to follow.
Since the user has some awareness of the task ahead of time, this often increases the capacity to learn. The user is prepared in advance to respond to the primary aspects of the described process and can more easily distinguish between those and the less-important supporting narrative.
In this way, the user has become acquainted with the focus of the descriptions that follow, eliminating elements of surprise that can often be disruptive.
This is also known as the pre-training principle. This principle states that users should be familiar with all of the components of a system before receiving instruction in the way they interact.
This enables all users to minimize their cognitive load. It is often difficult for many people to absorb video information, product specifications, and locations simultaneously. Previews minimize that impact.
When drawing up the storyboard of your video, begin with a summary of the task that will follow.

10. Stimulate active processing by using the first or second person
To increase user engagement with the demonstrated tasks, the narrator should speak informally, yet professionally. This can often be challenging.
The personalization principle (Mayer, 2005) states that the best way to present instructional video tutorials is in a conversational tone.
In order to fully engage the user, videos today should rely upon a first or second person sentence structure. This involves consistent use of the pronouns “I”, “we” and “you” throughout the narrative.
The natural result is that the user feels more a part of the conversation, rather than just a listener. It is generally understood that an informal tone is less taxing cognitively.

Check out the rest of the tips of this article on INSTRKIV.