Found: One Positive Aspect of Video Tutorials

So, this may not be strictly speaking a SoftwareCraft topic, but I suspect there’s some correlation: people in our industry are possibly more likely to have encountered Video Tutorials than others – so I hope it’s ok for me to sharing a couple of thoughts on this topic in this venue.

A Bad Trend

Don’t get me wrong: Video Tutorials have a lot of good things going for them, when compared to more traditional Text Tutorials. Primarily, they are visual, so they can show you (instead of telling you). However, in my experience, the majority of people using this new tool are mis-using it and the end result leaves a lot to desire. For instance:

  • You can’t search for a specific topic/keyword in a video
  • You have to listen, which we know is a more difficult skill than reading (your brain tends to get bored and wonder off, because listening requires less attention)
  • You have to move back and forth by random amounts rather than moving your eyes to the next/previous paragraph or section

All of these seem to me to be issues with the production of Video Tutorials, so I hope that people will get better at creating them and we’ll overcome these drawbacks. In fact, if you happen to produce Video Tutorials, I recommend and beg you to:

  • Write it out first: as for all communication forms (a book, an article, a music video, etc…) you should first script it out, then shoot it. Producing a tutorial in Video form does not mean you can just hit the switch, record your random musings, and have a high-value end result! Actually, the easier it is to capture your musing with the tool of choice, the more valuable a proper preparation becomes (because when the tool makes it difficult to capture, you are naturally going to want to be prepared to avoid the pain of re-capturing).
  • Write it out afterwards: well, if you really stuck with the initial script, that will work just fine, but the point is: please provide a transcript to make your content discover-able and searchable!
  • View and Review: anyone writing professionally will tell you the first draft is never the last draft. So, expect you need to review and re-shoot your Video Tutorials, if you care about your audience
  • Care for the tools: shooting and viewing, as for all crafts, you should pay attention to your tools. While I think everyone captuing a Video will quickly get familiar (to some degree) with the tools used to shoot the video, I wonder if there’s a lack of attention to the tools available for the audience to view the end result. Nonetheless, you should pay attention to it, because that tool (be it the video player built-in the web browser, or something else) will be integral part of the experience for your end user. Imagine a video player that cuts in with an ad for some random product every 5 seconds: you may not be impacted by it, and your tutorial might be the best thing ever, but I suspect few people will watch it and receive the value you worked so hard to inject in your production!

One Use Case

After viewing video tutorials for years, I happened to notice one positive aspect… a use case, if you will. This works only if the viewing tool allows the end user to modify the playback rate (eg: playback at x1.0 speed, vs x1.5, x2.00 and so on).
You can use the replay speed control to gauge your familiarity with the topic being discussed. Which I find pretty cool. Here’s how it works.
If I’m watching a Video Tutorial on something I’m completely new to, I’ll never move that control past the x1.00 replay speed, and often have to replay portions.
However, when I’m watching a video on something I’m familiar with, I will use replay speeds over x1.00. I still follow the tutorial, remain in context, and listen to each word (because if I don’t it’s likely I will either lose interest and drop out, or be lost once I find a section I’m interested in), but I save time (and usually discover that I haven’t mastered yet some things I thought I knew well enough).

That being said, if you produce video tutorials, you still need to do those things I mentioned above – please! Thank you.

Images: ‘Dexter’ from Showtime; ‘Scotty talks to the Computer’ from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, by Paramount Pictures.

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About FR

Software Craftsman

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