Help Desk Tips is a weekly series featuring best practices and tips from support professionals on optimizing your help desk and support department.

Instructional videos can be a hybrid of support and product marketing, and allow you to show how a feature works, as well as display its benefits. Video walk-throughs are also a valuable training tool because they accommodate multiple learning styles — they can lead to “aha, now I get it!” moments, when a wall of text isn't cutting it. Videos are a great way to make your help content more accessible to your customers.

How to Create Video for Support Docs

1. Write the script

When writing a script for an existing feature, the best place to start is with an existing knowledge base article. Use the instructions in the Doc as the bones of your script, then tell a story — infuse the “why” — about how a person might use that feature.

When you’re drafting a script for a brand new feature, walk through setting it up step by step, and write down how you executed each step as you’re doing it. That way you can be sure you don't miss anything.

Whether you're creating a video for a new feature or an old one, it's also important to keep the “customer story” in mind. How is your customer using the feature? Sometimes you narrate that story in the script, and sometimes it's purely visual. For example:

In the Custom Fields Video, we used the visual screencast to tell the customer story. We set up a custom field to identify the type of account our customer has, since we know it’s common for our customers to track those with custom fields.

 

In our Customer Profiles video, we put the customer story directly in the script: "Merging is great if you have a customer write in multiple times on the same day about different things, or a customer who keeps on asking about the same case a few different times in the week."

 

This way, your video will be more helpful than an abstract sequence of steps no one will connect with.

2. Define your shot list

Here’s where you define the visual examples in the customer story. Take each segment or step of your script and plot out exactly what you plan to record to visually articulate the narration.

It’s important to execute this step before recording narration because if there’s not a clear, visual way to execute a chunk of the script, you end up with a lot of dead space. You may need to pivot and either cut the chunk or change the way you tell the story to something you can easily show. Work within your own limits of screencasting on this one. You don’t have to have to hire an animator to capture an abstract visual idea.

A sample shot list, broken down line by line.

3. Record narration

I use GarageBand and my iPhone microphone headphones to record the narration. That’s it! And it’s surprisingly very clear. I used to use a fancy mic, but it actually sounded worse.

I also put on what I call my “Disney voice”: I widen my eyes and “smize” (smiling with your eyes — all you America’s Next Top Model fans know what I’m talking about) as I read, which naturally lifts my tone and gives it a friendly quality.

4. Edit the narration

Inevitably you'll wind up with a couple mistakes or awkward pauses. Just throw your recorded narration through a video recording software like Camtasia or Screenflow to remove all the boo-boos.

5. Set up your account for your story

Your demo account may not be equipped with exactly the data to tell the customer story you decided on in your script, so you may need to populate the account with fake data to give your customer more visual context.

6. Screencast

Use your shot list as a guide, and record what you’ve planned. If you’ve done a good job plotting the shot list and defining your customer story early on, this is the easy part.

Go slowly and take your time. Execute each action two or three times to make sure your mouse moves smoothly from one point to the next point. The more your mouse moves, the more distracting it is for your customer.

7. Edit screencast

Start by editing out any hiccups, mouse wavers, or mistakes in the screencast. Then, make sure all the recordings line up with the narration. Most good editing software like Camtasia or Screenflow allows you to speed up or slow down certain clips.

After lining everything up, it’s time for the fun stuff! Add zooming in and out, fade ins, fade outs, annotations, and all the things that focus the customer on the right information or make the sequence of events flow smoothly.

If you like, add some final polish by including music, a title card, or an animated bumper at the end. That’s it!

  • Have questions? Feel free to post in the comments!
  • Want more tips? Our friends at Wistia have a great library of video tutorials.

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Mo McKibbin

About the author: Mo McKibbin is a product marketer at Help Scout. She enjoys surprising and delighting customers with feature updates, and spending time with her cats.