Creating and Maintaining Instructional Videos

Video camera focuses on woman in background.

When paragraphs of instructions aren’t doing the trick, videos can guide visual learners through steps to complete a task. Whether it’s something physical or on a computer, sometimes the best way to show someone how to do something is to, well… show them! The recording process can sometimes be long and you may need to do some editing after the video is submitted, so here are some tips to help you get the right video the first time and keep it accurate.

Make Generalized Content

When creating your videos, it’s important to keep in mind that they need to be used for as long as possible so you won’t need to revisit them later. Though this depends on the subject material you’re covering, you should always strive to be general and broad with the instructions so the video can be used in a variety of situations in addition to what you’re creating the video for.

Working with online resources or programs can make this difficult, since User Interface (UI) changes are somewhat frequent. Before you begin producing a video based on this, see if that service or company already has instructional videos that cover the topic. Since it’s their platform, they should keep the video updated with any UI changes.

When making videos based on programs or websites, sometimes the instructions will differ from operating systems (OS) like Windows and MacOS. If you have access to different OS, run through your instructions, note of any differences, and include them in your video. It’s okay to favor one OS over another, so long as the menu items and selections are somewhat similar.

When to Update Your Videos

But how often should you revisit these videos to make sure your viewers are still getting accurate information? It’s hard to say, since changes to what you covered could be weeks or months after you produced the video. You should also hear from your audience if something doesn’t match up and they can tell you where a step needs to be updated. Other than that, the frequency in which you check on your videos just depends on how many you have to keep track of. If you have a decent number of videos, a yearly run through of the steps should be fine.

You might get a request from a viewer asking for a change or for another step to be added. Evaluate these requests thoroughly and keep your full catalog of videos in mind before creating a new one. This could be an opportunity to further generalize the instructions for an existing video helping it stay useful for longer, but it could also be close to a video you’ve already done and can be updated instead. You should always be thinking about how videos overlap and could be consolidated whenever a new request comes in.

And before you update a video, make sure to ask yourself these questions:

  • Do any large changes need to be made to the steps?
  • Do the instructions in the video clash with the way the task is actually supposed to be done, or is it just a little off?
  • Are these just cosmetic changes like a logo or graphic set?
  • Can these changes be noted and wait to be implemented in a larger update?

Time is valuable, so it’s important to make sure that the work you’re doing is worthwhile and will benefit your viewers. Whenever a video is updated, you have to consider the time it will take to edit and export, the timecodes that could possibly change, the links that need to be updated, and who needs to be notified of the changes. This does not mean that requested changes can never be implemented, just take note of them and wait to include them in a larger update if possible.

Keep Your Video Project Files

When videos that you’ve worked on in the past need to be updated, it’s not enough to just have the exported video file. In most cases you will need the original project file in whatever software you made the video in (Adobe Premiere Pro, Camtasia, Da Vinci Resolve, etc.). This makes it easy to add or subtract footage so you don’t have to start from scratch (and will save a ton of time!).

Keeping all of these videos and their project files sounds like it’ll take up a lot of space, and it will. Keep all the assets of a particular video in one folder with the video name as the title. Assets include all of the media you used in the project like video clips, pictures, graphics, and music. It’s recommended that you back up these files in at least two places for security, and so hard drive space on your machine doesn’t run low. I like to use a combination of cloud and physical storage to back up my projects, but you can use whatever is available to you. If you work with multiple people, cloud storage is definitely recommended if someone else needs to make any changes. Finally, include any scripts or written documentation that went with your video in the project file folder.

Conclusion

None of these tips are hard and fast rules, just what I have found works as I continue to learn more with each video I produce. Occasionally something won’t work and I’ll figure out why, as well as when something does work. At least to me, making videos is a really fun process and it feels even better when you know you’re helping someone out, and I hope that these insights help other people do the same!

Author: Kyle Winchell, Instructional Media Support

Kyle enjoys working with various forms of media to help teach, tell stories, and bring experiences to those who may not have had the chance otherwise. Off time is usually spent learning new facts or skills, hanging out online with friends, or spending time with family.

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