Add media to your topics - when and why

No matter what content you create, it is almost certain that adding some visuals to it, will make it more clear and appealing. With Inline Manual, you can use images, videos or GIFs to enhance your articles, walkthroughs, and tooltips.

In this article, we’ll discuss when and why you should add media to your in-app guides.

When to use images and illustrations?

Images can illustrate overviews of conceptual ideas users need to understand before they even engage with your application. With images, you can easily grab users attention, as well as make a point, and emphasize a statement in your message.

What kinds of illustrations can you use for in-app training and user onboarding?

· Diagrams to illustrate relationships between elements in practice, services or applications.
· Pyramid diagrams to show foundational elements.
· Venn diagram to show shared relationships between sets.
· Bubble or radial diagrams to show connections between concepts, such as mind maps.
· Flow charts to illustrate a process. Standard symbols are easy to read. Examples: decisions indicate diamonds, process indicate rectangle, directional arrows indicate flow.
· Swim lanes to illustrate the flow of tasks moving between the responsibilities of specific stakeholders, individuals or teams.
· Timelines to illustrate a plan, change over time or important historical information.
· Milestones plotted on a course to show an expected progression.
· Gantt charts to show dependencies over a plan in time.

What kind of images to avoid?

Avoid screenshotting and recording your ever-changing UI! A good tip when it comes to adding media is: don’t screenshot what you can show directly. We recommend to keep screen recording to a minimum and avoid using screenshots. A natural idea would be to record your screen using a tool such as Screenflow or Camtasia and embed a video tutorial to launch from your in-app knowledge base articles with Inline Manual. However your UI is always changing and reproducing an entire screencast is much more time-consuming than editing an Inline Manual tutorial on the fly.

Likewise, you might be tempted to take a screenshot of your UI and embed it in a walkthrough. For example, in the case you want to make a legend or key of icons used on your site. However you could run into trouble if you change the icon used in a specific case. Instead, use your app's CSS to mark up your key, and then you don’t have to worry when graphics change.

Use media to communicate what users can't see in the UI. A warm welcome video from your company’s CEO, photo of your Support Team, or perhaps illustrations and animations that can help users understand processes and concepts at a high level.

When to use animated GIFs?

Sometimes, you’ll want to show an aspect of your application before users have reached a specific point. For example, you might want to show users what happens next. In such case, recording the screen is helpful.

GIFs can also be convincing and encouraging showing how to do something in the UI which may not be completely obvious. “You can drag and drop these elements to combine them,” or “Use this selector tool to grab multiple elements in the workspace.”

Though GIFs are limited by the size, quality of compression, and the lack of audio. If your animated sequence is long, use video.

When to embed a video?

It’s probably redundant to show screenshots and screencasts of your UI in your Inline Manual walkthrough or tooltip. It would be one more thing to update when your UI changes. That’s part of the beauty of in-app walkthroughs: they are updated as soon as your app is.

With that said, a video could be particularly useful in a few cases.

Show users what they can’t see in the UI. There are plenty of reasons to embed live action video in your tours. It might be a welcome video from a community moderator, or a video showing users how the product they are purchasing is made. A video can tell stories to motivate your site visitors.

Show users a quick overview of concepts which are not apparent in the UI. You can create simple animations in slides such as Powerpoint or Keynote to build up graphics. Keep colours, animation and movement down to a minimum. For example: use a simple “fade in” animation to have each element appear, rather than a sweeping motion.

Show them something they can’t see at their level of access. Embedding a video in your new feature tour could be particularly helpful if your application’s new feature is only available through an upgrade. That could be the key message that helps users discover the benefits of your new feature, and the convincing nudge to get them started.

Resources for making great graphics for your tutorials

Here are excellent resources to help you. We browsed the Internet and make a list of our favourite tools. Don’t hesitate to use them!

Video and GIFs
· Creating animated GIFs - Invision App
· Tutorial Step-by-Step: Creating amazing GIFs to announce new features - Baremetrics
· Live action video DIY - Wistia
· Creating help videos - Wistia

Graphics and images
· Font Awesome Icons
· Iconmonstr
· Cacoo is a tool for collaborative diagram making. See samples.
· Sketch App is a great drawing tool, with a very active community.
· Lucid Chart for flow charts and mind-mapping.

Related articles

Here's how to embed media in your in-app walkthroughs with the Authoring Tool:
· How to: add a video
· How to: add an image

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