5 Sure-Fire Ways To Better Tutorials

by Brian Ritchie


Last Updated: Jan 4, 2013 20:58
776 words · 4 minutes read

Tutorials are better with videos.

I am currently in the midst of preparing a ton of handover tutorials and documentation for my final contract before I take some time off in March to chill and start my own thing. My current co-workers consists of quite a wide mix of people who are very tech friendly to some who have not been exposed to the seedy underbelly of technology and thus have no idea how things work until its broken down, step-by-step. NOTE: This is my own personality – I can’t learn new technologies unless I am shown the basics, step-by-step, after which I tend to explore and pick up stuff rather quickly.

While I loathe preparing step-by-step tutorials by default due to the tedious time consuming black hole that it is, I found a secret loophole and now am enjoying my work more than ever.

Video Tutorials

Video Tutorials – Image courtesy of fensterbme

The loophole … VIDEOS.

People love videos. People enjoy them, people love watching them or at the very least have been exposed to videos on the Internet by the almighty juggernaut – Youtube. We all know it, we all love it (albeit on different levels) and we all know that we can always play, pause, rewind and repeat. This gives us a sort of comfort like no other. We feel secure when we realise that browsing through a compendium of information on whatever current topic our mind fancies will always be there and we are in total control of how much we consume, and for how long.

Despite this, what I have found to be helpful, especially when you are preparing a ton of tutorials and documentation to people of varying skill levels are the following tips :

1) Make sure you breakdown your content down to multiple videos

This is important because while people understand the capabilities of online video with the play and the pause, people don’t like to hunt for their information. Information should be easily accessible, always. The time and effort cost of them getting to your video and consuming the knowledge in it should be as minimal as possible. Breaking your content down to separate sections help tremendously

2) Host your videos on services that caters for low bandwidth and mobile

Youtube is your number one choice to host videos for your personal site, blog, documentations, etc if its not business related. This is because it takes care of most of this stuff without too much effort from you as the user. If you are concerned with privacy, there is always the Unlisted and Private options on Youtube. For businesses, there are a ton more options depending on your budget and requirements so pick and choose wisely.

3) MUSIC, MUSIC, MUSIC

I cannot emphasize this enough. Please, please consider putting some background music if your video involves compile time or wait time. This puts the user at ease and keeps their attention on the video and not wonder around in the bitter silence waiting for you to say something or expecting some other response from the screen. This clause doesn’t necessarily apply if you have whiteboard videos where you have a speaker constantly talking to you and/or drawing or writing something on the board. Those actions including the fact that there is a real human on screen, helps keep the attention on the video.

4) Think like your user, not yourself.

The best way I can say this, is an advice my Math Teacher gave me when I was 10 years old. She said, “Make sure you show every single step, line by line. Imagine the examiner as the stupidest person in the world”. That’s the exact advice I bestow upon you. When you are preparing documentation especially in video form, make sure you take into account that the user may not have ever known whatever you are about to discuss. This generally helps all skill range of users because the experts can skip forward and the novices enjoy the details.

5) Enjoy doing it.

People can sense if you are not enthusiastic about the tutorial. Here’s something to psych you up – Remember that your tutorial video will be used and reused time and time again by multiple people. In a way its a sort of temporary immortalization of yourself. So be sure to give it your best shot.

There, that’s most of what I had to say on that topic for now. I’ll do some follow-up posts in good time on examples of great video practices for you but in the mean time, I sincerely hope this helps you in the next documentation project on your plate.