Screencasts ARE documentation

We came across a blog post, written by a technical writer, who describes her personal experiences with creating screencasts. Her manager asked each member of her writing team to create a video featuring a product that they document.

This line from the blog post strikes a chord for me:

Another great thing: this product has historically had a bit of an image problem about being hard to use, and Stacey’s video made the product look easy. I laughed, I oohed and aahed at the graphics. I was enjoying the music and the smooth mousework, and I swear to God, I pictured myself clicking around competently in the product experiencing the same feelings I had while watching the video.

And there was this gem, as well:

So I have hope for screencasts. Not to replace our hundreds of procedures, but to do something new that we are missing entirely right now. And, I hope we are going to think about what that is and do it right. Because so far, my impression is that screencasts may be like newsletters–if the first one I open is packed with good content, I’ll probably open the next one, too. If not, I probably won’t.

To my mind, the blogger has set some important criteria to evaluate the screencasts-as-documentation:

  1. Does the video take a complex concept/procedure and make it “look” easy-to-do?
  2. Is the video interesting enough that it could be serialized AND people would want to watch the next episode?

What criteria do you use to evaluate screencasts? Please add your comments to this post!

- Eric S.