Tips, Tricks and Inspiration for Creating Great Screencasts

Posted in Inspiration4 years ago • Written by 2 Comments

We are currently in the process of redeveloping our website, and with the new design will come a new screencast. As such I set out looking on the internet for some great screencasts.

What I discovered were a huge number of screencasts that were very poorly done, spent way too much time to get their point across, or didn’t even explain their product, site or service at all at all.

There are numerous things that can cause your screencast to be a letdown (which I will talk about later), but for now lets look at ten top-notch examples from around the web that did a great job with their screencasts.

10 Best examples from the web

1) Dropbox.com

The Dropbox screencast is really a poster child for quick, simple, effective screencasts. It uses eye-catching animations and a very clear voice to explain the service and give you numerous use cases. It makes the service really simple to understand, and it would certainly lead me to sign up – except I already have an account (and highly recommend the service).

2) Kaleidoscope App

This screencast does a great job of showing off a variety of different features of the application in a quick, easy to understand fashion. Again, I find a key point is the way it provides you with different use cases for the application, as well as demonstrating several of its key features. This screencast also uses a British accent, which according to some results at least can lead to higher conversions than an American accent. Go figure.

3) Capo

A different approach to screencasting here, but considering the target market for this application, it should work very well. Capo is an app for reverse engineering music, enabling you to slow down tunes and quickly create tabs of whatever you are listening to. This could be a complicated concept, but the screencast does a wonderful job of showing off all the key features in a very short amount of time – time being another key ingredient for making great screencasts. The only point I’d make here is that they should make the screencast more prominent on their site as it really does a good job of showing off their product.

4) Espionage

This screencast stands out to me because of its slick transitions, and the way it subtly injects humor into the screencast. This is another good way to make yourself stand out, and to help your users relate to you more. Again it gives great examples of how to use the application, walks you through all required steps, and leaves you ready to give it a go yourself. You can easily imagine how this would lead to more conversions on the site.

5) The Indesigner

This is actually a series of tutorials for using InDesign, but again, it provides a great example of how to make a great screencast. The host uses simple effects to help focus attention on different elements within the software, and really helps the users keep up to speed with what he is working on. It’s one of the longer running tutorial series around, so obviously the host is doing something right.

6) Socialite

Socialite does a great job of showing off the core features of the software, and has a nice, gentle background track which testing has shown can help to retain the users attention. It is really short and to the point, which is exactly what you are looking for in a screencast. Two things to note though; there is an error when the voiceover says “pressure” instead of “precious”, and possibly they could afford to cut out some of the loading time when opening the image. Some people might say they are just being honest though, so you can look at it either way.

7) Tatango

Without knowing anything about this site or service, you could go, look at the screencast, and come back a minute later with a strong understanding of what they offer. They use really pretty images and effects to show of their site to great effect, and have a great voiceover to top it off. Again, short, sharp and sweet, the secret recipe for a great screencast.

8) ScreenCastsOnline

This is a series of screencasts on using a variety of mac apps. Again it is well narrated, and the host uses different effects to illustrate his points very effectively. Unfortunately most of the screencasts require a subscription, but I suppose you get what you pay for. The important thing to note with these screencasts is the logical fashion in which information is displayed, something all screencast producers should remember.

9) Divvy

Really interesting voice for this screencast – some people might say similar to James Earl Jones; regardless, it adds another interesting aspect to the screencast. It also shows off the functionality of the application very succinctly, and demonstrates exactly how to integrate it into your workflow. There are a couple of odd pauses in the voiceover, but all in all, it’s a very good screencast that does it’s job of explaining the application very well.

10) Things Mac | Things iPad

Both the Mac and iPad screencast for Things really show off the application in great ways. The Mac version walks you through step by step, and explains the whole process of using the application. The iPad version uses lots of slick transitions and effects, and looks absolutely stunning. Of course, they won an Apple Design Award in 2009, so you’d expect nothing less. A great example of two different styles of screencast, and both working in their own way.

What makes them great:

All of these screencasts achieve their goals in different ways, but there are a number of different factors that help to make them stand out:

  • Great voiceover voice
  • Great audio quality
  • High quality video
  • Good use of effects to help focus attention in the screencasts
  • Great images/pretty
  • To the point
  • Shows all the important features
  • Explains the use case for the site or application

Chances are if you meet these factors, you’ll have a pretty great screencast on your hands, and conversions will increase. A great screencast will really add to the value of your site.

Common mistakes:

In all my searching for great screencasts, I came across a huge number that simply weren’t up to scratch, and were in fact more of a liability than an asset. These are some of the common mistakes that I found:

  • Choppy video
  • Poor quality audio
  • Poor voice for the screencast
  • Monotones – I can’t believe how many of these there are out there
  • Not really explaining anything
  • Too long – nobody wants to watch a 10 minute screencast for a twitter client
  • Too much information – only explain the core features, not every last one
  • Look pretty but don’t show anything
  • Poor resolution – bandwidth isn’t such an issue; no one wants to see a 320×240 screencast
  • No audio – silent video is a bit too 1910 for me

You’d be amazed how frequently these issues pop up, especially when all of these issues can be easily addressed with just a little bit of advanced preparation. Try to follow the following tips to avoid these issues.

A few tips:

Most of these are really common sense, but it helps to have a list when you are working away because there are a certain elements that are easy to forget.

  • Find a relatively silent spot to record the audio
  • Create a list of key points about your software, site or service that you want to get out
  • Make a storyboard so you know what you should say and when you should say it
  • Invest in a reasonable microphone to get better audio quality
  • Try and find someone with a good voice
  • Keep length in mind – how long does it really need to be?
  • Make the video a logical sequence, from start to end of using the software/site/service
  • Give usage examples
  • Clear your desktop or use a separate user account to create the video
  • Try and aim for a decent resolution
  • You know your target market; aim the video at them
  • If you make a great screencast, don’t be afraid to show it off

If you follow these simples tips, you will greatly improve the quality of your screencast. Remember, a little creativity will get you a long way, so experiment and see what you can come up with.

Further resources:

Conclusion:

Hopefully this list will give you the inspiration you need to go and get started on a screencast of your own. A great screencast can really add a lot of value, and do wonderful things for your conversions, not to mention it’s also a great way to communicate with your users and to really show off the personality behind the brand, and the usefulness of a great product.

So get out there and give it a go. Have a site or software you are working on a screencast for? Be sure to let us know in the comments.

5 Written ArticlesWebsite

Jacob is a usability geek at IntuitionHQ.com - a new, quick, easy to use usability service from Boost New Media. When he's not indulging his passion for the internet, he is probably bloging about China and Chinese learning (having spent three years there) at Sinomatter.com. You can find him on twitter talking about usability @intuitionhq.

2 Comments
  • Scott

    Wednesday, October 13th, 2010 13:41

    1

    I would add the CSS-Tricks screencasts to the list as well, they’ve always got good, useful info and are very enjoyable.

    0
  • Brett Widmann

    Tuesday, January 25th, 2011 05:11

    2

    These are all very helpful and definitely gave me some great inspiration. Thank you.

    0
  • Brett Widmann

    Tuesday, January 25th, 2011 05:11

    2

    These are all very helpful and definitely gave me some great inspiration. Thank you.

    0
  • Scott

    Wednesday, October 13th, 2010 13:41

    1

    I would add the CSS-Tricks screencasts to the list as well, they’ve always got good, useful info and are very enjoyable.

    0

Comments are closed.

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