Screencasting: Sitting over your customer’s shoulder

Screencasting is one of those ideas that might have sounded weird when people first started doing it: You’re going to shoot a video…of yourself using the computer…and I’m going to watch it?

But screencasting is becoming widely used a tool to enhance the usability of sites. It’s my first go-to recommendation when a customer is building a help section for their site.

Because while written instructions can be very accurate, it’s so much easier when you can just show them where to click. [This is a great example of matching the medium to the message.]

Do you ever have to help someone with a computer task? Your first instinct is to say, “Give me the mouse,” right? With screencasting, you are doing the next best thing. Even though you can’t sit beside your customers as they use your site, you’re still showing them how to do it.

[Caveat: I’m presuming that you have already done the hard UX work to make your site as easy as possible to actually use. If you’re using screencasting to paper over bad technology or bad navigation, don’t bother. It’s not a panacea. But it is a powerful tool to walk customers through common processes on your site.]

crowdSPRING, a crowd-sourced design and writing market site, has built a number of screencasts for their own site — and today they offer some helpful tips to create your first screencast.

We love to create screencasts for our clients, but I’ll give you a peek behind the curtain with my two cents for creating your own screencasts:

  • We use Screenflow and we really love it. It’s powerful, but it’s also intuitive.
  • It’s absolutely worth it to buy the external microphone [even for small projects], and decent ones aren’t too expensive.
  • Buy The Screencasting Handbook. It’s more than worth the money, and the Google Group that Ian Ozsvald and ProCasts manage is also a wealth of information.