How Not to Create User Assistance with a YouTube Video

You Tube IconYoutube is great, right? Over the years, many of us have used or possibly produced Youtube videos to learn about or demonstrate products or services, for example, how to install or fix something. But, you know what? Many user assistance videos (versus entertainment and marketing videos) that you find on Youtube are excellent examples of how not to create user assistance. They often have serious problems and shortcomings. This, of course, is due to lack of planning, knowledge, and experience on the part of the creator. For example, a 15 minute video would be much more effective at 5 minutes (the author threw in a bunch of off-topic info). Or, the author launched into the details without first giving us an idea where in the process we are, what the pre-requisites are, what the outcome is, or any troubleshooting help.

Information Mapping, Structured Writing, Information Types, Organizing Principles

Amateur video tutorials would be so much better if authors followed a simple methodology such as that of Information Mapping with its information types and principles for structuring information that Robert Horn identified. These ideas however, are probably beyond the scope of the everyday Youtube video creator.

Youtube User Assistance Videos are Often Missing a Few Important Ingredients

Some of the important ingredients that are often missing from amateur user assistance includes; meaningful titles, context, introduction, table of contents, references, contact information, and review/summary. These items are often severely neglected or completely omitted by creators of Youtube user assistance-style videos.

Start with an Outline

As you do for all writing projects (all projects???), you should start by creating an outline. I always jot down my outline on paper or in Notepad. If you prefer Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, or another authoring tool, use that. In your video you could display the text of the title and other items, the contents, but you could just as well simply mention them. This depends upon your overall design.

Set up your Environment for Recording

Before hitting the record button, have all of your resources set up and ready to go. Viewers don’t appreciate having to wait while you waste their time setting up your environment.

Don’t Go Off Script

It should be fairly obvious, but you should follow your outline and limit extended and off-topic discussions. You should also have something happen visually every so often so viewers are not looking at an unchanging screen while you talk. You should describe what you are showing and show what you are describing.

Keep it Short and to the Point

The length of the video is something that is often wrong. Take a look at a sampling of user assistance videos. You’ll notice pretty quickly that with the proper planning and execution, that the videos could be shortened considerably. I’ve done no research, but I can imagine that many videos could easily be condensed by one half to two-thirds. That’s significant editing!

A Few Key Points

  • Create an outline
  • Gather materials and resources
  • Rehearse
  • Set audio and video parameters
  • Don’t go off script
  • Remove unnecessary parts in post-production
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