Recently (this evening, in fact) I found myself in front of the computer, script in hand, ready to compose an award-winning piece of user content. Unfortunately, when I looked at my first (and second draft) of the masterpiece, I found that my rosy reflection had become a harsh reality. It’s harder to make UX content than you think. What seems to be an easy script reveals itself when you speak the lines out loud, and then when you watch the instructional content from the perspective of a user, you realize the things you’ve forgotten.
Here are a few suggestions for making your user content more effective. First, write the script and edit it. You may think that you can write the script once and forget it, but a “measure twice, cut once” mentality never hurts. When you are reading your script after the first draft, think about the key points you are going to make at each point in the instructional content, and mark them in the script so that you have a visual cue to sell the idea at the point when you need to make it.
The second thing you need to do is to storyboard your visuals. Many instructional designers I’ve worked with (and I fall prey to the same malady) believe that they can improvise on the fly and get both the visual and the meaning behind that visual across to the viewer. This is a really tough sell, and it’s a lot easier to create a highlight around an idea if you know where the visual highlight might be at the same time (and to not have both of them compete.
The third thing you need to for great UX Content is to record your screencast a few times. Walk through it the first time while recording, and don’t worry about the mistakes. After reviewing the rough draft, try it again while attempting to emphasize the points at which you earlier marked for emphasis. And then try a third (or fourth) time for polish.
When you’re done writing, editing, storyboarding, and practicing, you need to do some post-production work to make your UX content sing. For most pieces, using TechSmith’s Camtasia is perfectly adequate (and dead easy). Camtasia allows you to edit out some rough patches in your audio or video, to add a few effects, and to get the whole thing done and export in less time than a fancy solution might take you. Even though it’s harder to make UX content than you think, you shouldn’t get hung up on making the perfect content. The underlying software or service will change soon anyway, and then it will be time for you to get more practice as an instructional technology professional.