Hey! My name is Trey, and I’m a Harvest Expert—part of the support team here at Harvest. I recently finished the Create an Invoice video, which you can see in all its glory below, and I thought I’d write a little bit about how, and why, we make Harvest help videos.
Hopefully this will be useful to you, whether you want to create a help video for your product, or if you’re just curious about the process!
Before we get into the process itself, it’s worth thinking about the main reasons we do these in the first place. First, video can simply be the most efficient means of communication. It’s often easier to show a procedure, than to explain it in words, especially if the feature or operation we’re trying to describe takes many steps. A screenshot can’t show you how a multi-step process actually plays out.
We want to give people enough information for them to be comfortable using Harvest. The more comfortable they feel, the less time they spend struggling with Harvest and the less likely it is they have to interrupt their workflow to write into us, or worse, just get frustrated! So it helps us deliver on our major value proposition of making their lives easier.
Also, people learn in different ways. Some want to just quickly scan the information in text form, but a lot of people find it helpful to actually see and hear what they need to do.
Means of production
The script usually starts as a simple adaptation of the text from a relevant Help Center article, trimmed down to something more minimal. This is both to maintain consistency with the Help Center and to avoid reinventing the wheel.
Then, I start recording audio and video using TechSmith Camtasia. TechSmith have a companion app called TechSmith Fuse, which I use to record video from mobile devices. The first several takes are going to be complete garbage—their purpose is to clarify the order of actions in the video, so that there aren’t gaps and mistakes. For example, if we’re showing a report, what timeframe is best for displaying a decent amount of data? What directory are we using for attachments? What’s the sequence for navigating between fields on a form?
Next is editing, which takes up the most time. The simpler videos essentially play in real time, so instead of worrying about trying to match different takes, I record until I get a solid take. Then I can edit within that, closing gaps in the audio, and adjusting the speed of the video. I chop up that single take into separate clips so I can remove long loading time, speed up typing, and overall reduce time wherever possible. Once I’ve got the visuals down, I’ll usually record several more takes of the voiceover.
Then I add music. Wistia, the platform we use to host our videos, provides some music you can use for your videos, and so far that’s worked out well. But any music with a Creative Commons license that doesn’t overpower the vocals or distract too much from the visuals will do. Finally, I post the video via Wistia, and I add a call to action at the end linking to another video or another page in the Help Center for additional information. Finally, the video is embedded in the relevant help page.
Since video is an extension of the Harvest brand, we try to standardize our help videos so they have a unified look and feel. This standardization also makes it easier for users to comprehend the video content, since removing the need to constantly reorient oneself between videos will result in less distraction. To that end, we use the same sandbox demo account we use for our webinars, and a unified design for our title cards.
The end is near
This process is always going to be subject to change; in the future, we plan to include more highlighting, zooms, annotation, and other effects. Right now you’ll notice I kind of just move the arrow near the thing I’m talking about in the current videos. I do it like a boss, it’s true, but we can Do Better. Eventually we’d like to have enough updated videos that we can put them all in one spot in the Help Center. At any rate, it all takes time—so if you need a help video for your product, make sure you build enough lead time for that into your project!
If you have any questions or comments about this, drop me a line! If you have any insults, keep ’em to yourself, like your mama taught you.