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When to Use Images, Text or Video in Your Product Assistance?


I arrived in London yesterday. This morning I gave a presentation in Daventry, at the TCUK conference. Subject?

Using Text, Images and Video in Technical Communication.

Choosing between the three should in principle always be based on how to serve the user of the information best. However, there might be some other things to consider as well now and then.

Sometimes legislation forces you to choose differently. In Europe, the safety instructions of most products need to be printed. That makes video impossible to be the only medium for example (do you want to know more about online/print requirements? Shoot me an email or download one of our templates).

A video might be a good addition, however. Check out this Virgin America video for example. Can you imagine that much more people watch this video than there are actually paying attention to the flight attendants?

When analysing the +2000 manuals that we have developed over the years, we gained the following insights that might help you to make better decisions when choosing between text, images or video:

Insight #1: Video is not possible for print. Check the legal requirements!
Insight #2: Use illustrations to save on printing cost for multi-lingual manuals
Insight #3: Use illustrations to save on translation costs.
Insight #4: Use text when there might be any legal consequences.
Insight #5: Use visuals to support, replace or augment your text.
Insight #6: Use illustrations for installation instructions. They often do not need text.
Insight #7: Use visuals (table) for technical data.
Insight #8: Know your budget. Professionally made videos and images can be expensive.
Insight #9: Know your skills. Video and illustrations require different expertise. There are great tools that can support you.
Insight #10: Use text, if necessary in combination with images, when you expect that the user interface or the physical product design changes often.
Insight #11: Video could be used to complement procedural information with demonstrations of key features and workflows.
Insight #12: Use video when you want to demonstrate movement.
Insight #13: When you want to make sure that your user assistance reaches the largest possible audience, a video should be your choice.
Insight #14: It is best to use text (supported by images) when the information needs to be available offline.
Insight #15: Adding video helps you explain what the state of something needs to look like.
Insight #16: When you need to demonstrate how much force to use, a video is your solution.
Insight #17: Don’t use video when your user often needs to reference specific information. Use text instead.
Insight #18: When users need to remember and reproduce information in a later stage, a video would be the right medium.


Ferry Vermeulen

Founder of INSTRKTIV and keen to help users become experts in the use of a product, and thus to contribute to a positive user experience. Eager to help organisations to reduce their product liability. Just loves cooking, travel, and music--especially electronic. You can also find him on:
Profile PageLinkedin, Instagram and Twitter!

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