Sometimes a QRG is not long enough!
The QRG (Quick Reference Guide) is brief for a reason, but sometimes you need a bit more space to fully explain a process.
Adobe Captivate to the rescue!
I have used this amazing piece of software for almost 10 years now and I find it incredibly versatile. I do all sorts of things with it, including:
- Software Simulations – a walkthrough of a process step-by-step that gives more detail than a QRG
- A high-level animated introduction to a topic
- As a navigation tool or to encourage interactivity with users
- Creating mock-ups of systems that are at an early development stage
- Video demos of software
For me, the most powerful feature of Captivate is to create a simulation of a process. I have made hundreds of these type of demos and they are popular with users who want the detail of each step. They give a learner the ability to see the process in action.
They also have several advantages over just recording a video walkthrough:
- No need for audio, so people don’t need a headset and it’s easier to maintain.
- They can be played back in HTM5 format through a browser – useful for corporate intranets.
- Captivate takes a screenshot when you click so they are easier to record (i.e. you are not under a time pressure like video recording).
- I can edit them easily because new screenshot can be slotted in later on.
Here’s an example of a software simulation:
Animations on intranet pages
Intranet pages in organisations can be quite dull without something that moves. I start from a blank project in Captivate and build small animations to help explain the high-level part of a system or process. A typical example might be to explain “What is X?” or “How does Process Y work? as the first piece of content the users sees.
The animation catches the eye and allows understanding to begin before they delve into greater depth.
In this first example, the user can find out the basics about the topic by clicking the ‘Find out more” button, or (if they already know the basics), can just explore the content below the animation…
As a navigation tool (interactivity)
Video is a great format but what you see is what you get and there’s no ability to interact with it. When you publish Captivate demos as HTML5 (playback in a browser), you get that ability for a user to click a link and move to something else.
This is important because it prevents the learner becoming frustrated and scrolling the content forward. They need to feel that they are in control.
In this example (for a Search page), the user can choose which tab to learn about. This is a also a good example of a demo in which I created a character just purely from vector shapes in Photoshop – the robot (and his various body parts) were created there first and inserted into Captivate during the development process…
Sometimes a new IT system is unfinished, untested or just not reliable enough for live demos and training. To get round this problem, I use Captivate to walk delegates through live demos from screenshots that I have captured.
It ensures that the training session will be able to continue despite any technical difficulties, it provides a predictable platform for your session and in most cases is indistinguishable from the live system. It is also possible to do this using PowerPoint – have a look at this page.
In this example, (created for a desktop rollout), the system was not yet ready for the users but we wanted to show them ahead of the rollout what to expect from the new login procedure and the new features of the various parts of software. It was a highly interactive demo so that the user could just look at the new features of the apps they used the most:
Captivate can be used to create animations and demos that can help in the marketing of new systems or processes. It is also possible to output these files as PDFs (with active Flash content) or as videos (in. mp4 format).
This is something I have done quite a bit in the past, here is an example showing a design concept for an app I did once for a major water company…
Click for Horizon-scan example
There are products out there that are specifically designed for making videos of software processes. Techsmith Camtasia is probably the most famous and it’s very good.
However, Captivate can do that as well now, so if you already have it you can make video walkthroughs. You can record an audio narration in the background as well, but bear in mind that this makes it more difficult to edit later on. (Also, some people in corporate environments are not keen on having to put headphones on to watch such videos).
Here’s an example of a video walkthrough of an iPhone process: