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Visualizing Product Use: Infographics and Videos for Documentation

Introduction

Technical product documentation need not be dry walls of text. Visuals like infographics and videos immerse users in experiences actively demonstrating workflows rather than solely explaining.

This guide covers best practices for incorporating visual content into product documentation to more clearly convey complex interfaces and operations. Follow these tips to craft dynamic guides users intuitively follow.

Whether documenting software, apps, devices, or services, use visual documentation to lift key processes off pages into interactive memory. Some ideas deserve motion and image.

Map the Key User Journeys Needing Visualization

Before visualizing, identify high-impact user journeys and processes defining typical product usage.

Prioritize sequences like:

  • Onboarding and initial setup
  • Core recurring feature workflows
  • Key periodic maintenance procedures
  • Important notifications and alerts
  • Customization and configuration options
  • Troubleshooting top issues and errors

Focus efforts on routes users traverse daily avoiding rarely-used niche tasks lacking ROI until essentials finished.

Outline Infographic Content Structure in Advance

Plan informative impactful infographics through deliberate content structure and sequencing:

  1. Opening headline/subtitle framing graphic’s purpose
  2. Initial user goal/motivation starting journey
  3. Step-by-step progression through key stages
  4. Tips and directives guiding actions
  5. Final outcome from completing journey
  6. Visual indicators reinforcing flow direction
  7. Supplemental text elaborating on elements

Detailed outlines lend cohesion before design rather than improvising randomly.

Select Visual Metaphors to Represent Abstract Concepts

Align visual motifs with intangible processes to forge contextual connections aiding memory and understanding through symbolic association.

For example:

  • Illustrated file cabinets as databases
  • Trees and branching paths for conditional logic
  • Lightbulbs signifying ideas
  • Puzzles representing integration
  • Doors as access controls
  • Factories/conveyor belts as workflows

Metaphorical themes add personality online interfaces lack while enlightening digital concepts through familiar physical corollaries.

Use Color Strategically to Direct Attention

Color spotlights and connects relevant infographic elements through:

  • Unified shades consistently associated to specific tasks, items or concepts
  • Contrasting hues isolating distinctions like various paths
  • Vibrant colors overlaid on points demanding focus
  • Desaturation drawing eyes away from decorative elements
  • Patterns with meaning like stripes indicating movement

Strategic color guides eyes through graphics advancing understanding and storytelling.

Include Relatable Character Guides For Engagement

Friendly illustrated characters throughout infographics personify instructions:

  • Mascots modeling desired behaviors in sequences
  • Mini avatars representing the user journeying through stages
  • Animated helpers narrating steps via speech bubbles
  • Groups of characters demonstrating collaboration
  • Fun appearances signaling inviting tone over sternness
  • Expressive reactions showing successes and setbacks

Characters inject levity, aid recall through story association, and keep readers engaged on tedious topics.

Animate Transitions Between Steps For Seamless Motion

Link key infographic stages through animated microinteractions demonstrating flows:

  • Objects entering and exiting on clicking arrows
  • Speech bubbles sequentially appearing in order
  • Sections seamlessly sliding or scrolling into view
  • Pop-up windows or menus reacting to button taps
  • Loading sequences between major steps
  • Visual transitions like dissolving between phases

Animated sequences unite disjointed singular panels into integrated workflows.

Enrich With Supplementary Mixed Media Elements

Layer mixed interactive elements engaging various learning styles:

  • Integrated quizzes confirming progress
  • Spinning objects and hidden reveals rewarding exploration
  • Zoomable areas detailing granular sub-steps
  • Rotating 3D models from various angles
  • Filtering showing conditional variant flows
  • Search integration to jump to steps easily
  • Direct in-doc linking to external resources
  • Layered popovers defining terminology

Mixed interactive content keeps readers actively manipulating, not passively observing.

Structure Videos Around Learning Objectives

Outline each video’s exact teaching goals before filming to prevent meandering confusion:

  • Summarize the specific skill or understanding viewers will gain
  • List crucial concepts, facts and steps to unequivocally convey
  • Identify reflexive habits needing to be changed
  • Call out key milestones viewers should achieve in practice implementations
  • Note any pre-requisite knowledge required for comprehension

With objectives defined, remain ruthlessly focused on imparting core learnings within given durations. Videos teach; they don’t wander.

Plan Videos Scene-By-Scene with Detailed Scripts

Write full scripts detailing shot sequences, transitions, on-screen text, narration and imagery. For each scene:

  • Note individuals on camera and their actions
  • Describe visuals like software screenshots, props etc.
  • Specify camera perspective, movement and framing
  • Label demonstration steps aligned to audio narration
  • Time spoken narration and on-screen text lengths to match visuals
  • Cue transitions and effects like zooms, graphics etc.
  • Mark cues for interactive elements like quizzes

Scripts tightly synchronize layered video elements preventing disjointed final output.

Mix Media Styles for Visual Engagement

Combine illustrated animation, on-screen talent, and software capture avoiding monotonous consistency.

Possible styles include:

  • Screen recordings of software workflows
  • Hand drawings animating concepts
  • Host bookending videos with introductions and conclusions
  • Stock b-roll demonstrating ideas visually
  • PowerPoint/Keynote slides reinforcing key points
  • Text callouts and highlighting drawing attention
  • Picture-in-picture windows showing context
  • Green screen background effects explaining concepts metaphorically

Layering media provides engaging focal shifts keeping viewers actively absorbing information.

Plan Easy Video Navigation Through Chapters

Chapter markers with time links enable navigating videos like reference articles using:

  • Numbered chapters beginning each new sub-topic
  • Concise textual labels summarizing chapter contents
  • Links allowing clicking directly to sections
  • visually distinct chapter cards or animations
  • Reminder annotations when referencing other chapters

Nonlinear navigation empowers viewers scanning for specific information without enduring irrelevant sections. Videos become reference libraries.

Prominently Overlay Interactive On-Screen Quizzes

Reinforce learning through on-video quizzes appearing as instructional overlays:

  • Multiple choice and true/false questions
  • Selecting correct regions of screen recordings
  • Typing answers into on-video text fields
  • Drawing/annotating directly on question slides and images
  • Pausing to prompt writing or calculating steps on paper
  • Think-pair-share moments to discuss responses with others

Frequent low-stakes quizzes stimulate active learning and comprehension checks during videos.

Demonstrate Workflows Visually on Real Interfaces

When possible, demonstrate functional workflows on real interfaces rather than static screenshots. Capture:

  • Live software walkthroughs showing real menus and options
  • Typing into on-screen fields and forms
  • Executing available actions like clicking buttons
  • Dragging objects and manipulating visual elements
  • Step recording showing cursors moving and commands executing
  • Device recordings physically interacting with hardware

Seeing live software response cements application understanding and ability.

Make Code Demonstrations Digestible for Non-Coders

When covering coding, simplify explanations using analogies and visuals decipherable to non-developers:

  • Compare coding concepts to common real-world metaphors
  • Use visual diagrams rather than solely code on screen
  • Annotate code samples with explanatory narration and labels
  • Optimize font sizes and zooming allowing code inspection
  • Break code into snippet sections rather than immense walls
  • Highlight structural patterns and conventions explaining structure
  • Call attention to crucial lines using arrows and pulsing
  • Use consistent color schemes for code components

Streamline code walkthroughs emphasizing high level patterns over granular nuance.

Conclusion

Words alone often fail adequately guiding users through events best understood visually through motion, sequence, and emotion. Infographics and videos bring limited static instructions to life conveying behaviors actively better than text descriptions alone.

Savvy technical writers enrich documentation through selective mixed media optimizing engagement and comprehension. Some complex ideas deserve images. Choose media fit for purpose.

By Dani Davis

Dani Davis is the pen name of the writer of this blog with more 15 years of constant experience in Content marketing and informatics product, e-commerce niche.

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