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Successful Software

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Jonathan Matthews
Creator of DeepTrawl, CloudTrawl, and LeapDoc

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BreezeTree Software

Bob Walsh
host, Startup Success Podcast author of The Web Startup Success Guide and Micro-ISV: From Vision To Reality

Patrick McKenzie
Bingo Card Creator

Screencasts - what would you like to know?

For the Startup Success Podcast, Pat and I are interviewing Ian Ozsvald, founder of ProCasts, http://procasts.co.uk/, about the art and science of doing screencasts that increase sales on Friday, 3/26.

What questions do you have for him?
Bob Walsh Send private email
Thursday, March 26, 2009
 
 
It is more effective to use your own voice, have someone else do the voice, or use text captions to communicate the functionality being displayed?
Darren Stokes Send private email
Thursday, March 26, 2009
 
 
For multi-language screencasts, is it better to use subtitles, or redo the audio for each language?

I suppose it depends on the market and the specific customers, but in his experience does targeting the language make any difference in terms of customer response?

Can he give any advice for anyone generating screencasts that suspect they might need to translate it in a future date?
IanH. Send private email
Thursday, March 26, 2009
 
 
Hi Bob, thanks for the post. 

I'm the Ian who will be interviewed, I'll keep an eye on this thread so I have the right background for the questions that Bob and Pat might ask.

If any questions here don't make it to the interview (Friday evening UK time) I'll answer with a follow-up here over the weekend.

Do ask anything you want to know about screencasting, I've got 4 years of personal screencasting experience (between  http://ShowMeDo.com and http://ProCasts.co.uk ) and I'm happy to share. 

MicroISV-wise I've founded 3 of my own companies in the last 5 years after a 5 year role as senior programmer for a UK/French A.I. start-up.

Sidenote - on our blog we're starting a 9-part series that goes through all the steps a MicroISV needs to know to make beautiful screencasts that help sell your product, I'm very open to feedback if there's more we need to post about.  It starts here:
 http://blog.procasts.co.uk/2009/03/why-screencast-if-a-picture-is-worth-a-1000-words/

Looking forward to seeing what you all want to know,
Ian.
Ian Ozsvald Send private email
Thursday, March 26, 2009
 
 
Are there strategies that your guest can share to minimize the need to redo some or all of the screencasts with each product upgrade?

And to follow on Ian's question, should the foreign-language screencasts show the localized UI (if available), or is just the English UI with foreign language captions acceptable?
Mike Sickler Send private email
Thursday, March 26, 2009
 
 
How long should a sales-oriented / demo screencast be?  Are you better off creating one comprehensive screencast or multiple smaller screencasts focused on different features?

When it comes to recording your screencast, do you recommend recording and doing the voice all at once?  Is it better to come back later and re-do the voice?

To script your screencast, what is the ratio between written words and length of video?  It would be helpful to know while writing how long a screencast I am likely to end up with.

Should the tone of the screencast be more formal and professional or more playful or humorous?  For example, most screencasts I see are pretty bland - but that's okay because they do the job of telling me about the product and what it does.  But, when FogBugz came out with v6.0, Joel and one of their devs did a pretty entertaining screencast.

Whew - I think those are all of my questions :)    Good timing - this is something I've been planning to add to my site.
Glen Cooper Send private email
Thursday, March 26, 2009
 
 
Great questions, Glen - I want to know the same things ...
Patrick Foley Send private email
Thursday, March 26, 2009
 
 
Personally, I dislike screencasts since I find them a poor way to collect information since it's hard to navigate, and usually the pace is too slow for me.

But I understand that it's a personal preference, so I'd like to understand better how screencasts compare to other vehicles to provide information about your product.
In my mind there are a few ways to provide this info in addition to static pages and live demos:
* Screencasts
* Flash movies with flyouts and no voice like http://www.6zap.com/offline-mode
* Static pages with screenshots and next/previous buttons.

I'd be interested in any serious analysis comparing the effectiveness of the three (Maybe Jakob Nielsen has done it). Cases where one mode is better than the others, optimal length, etc.

I suspect that Screencasts are popular because they're easy to do, but suspect that a lot are done badly.
Dror Send private email
Thursday, March 26, 2009
 
 
What's a good way to storyboard the screen cast?  E.g. Lay out the topics, balance the stuff going on with the program, develop the script,  make the story board re-usable so it can get better and better as it is fine tuned.
Intellectually Stimulating Vocation Send private email
Thursday, March 26, 2009
 
 
What is the best size window to use for a screencast of a product that is mostly text?  I suppose it's a compromise between showing everything you want to show on the one hand and fitting in the likely viewing window on the other.  How does one decide in a particular case?
Joe Landau Send private email
Thursday, March 26, 2009
 
 
@Bob Walsh - Since I rarely listen to podcasts, I was wondering whether you publish transcripts for these?
Nicholas Hebb Send private email
Thursday, March 26, 2009
 
 
What's the optimum length for a screen cast, I know I'll happily watch for quite a while if I'm interested in the product but that doesn't mean prospective customers will.
Tony Edgecombe Send private email
Friday, March 27, 2009
 
 
Is there a significant difference between a screencast where just the screen is recorded, or one with a "talking head" in the pic, or one where you cut back and forth between the "person" and the "screen".  I suppose it's pretty subjective, but I'm interested in your opinion.

Bob - please post a link to the podcast when it's available.
Bruce Johnson Send private email
Friday, March 27, 2009
 
 
Nicholas - we don't right now: no budget for it. Maybe it's time to find a sponsor or two!
Bob Walsh Send private email
Friday, March 27, 2009
 
 
FYI - Just finished interview Ian - excellent! Lots of good, meaty detail. Should be available Wednesday (4/1) at  http://startuppodcast.wordpress.com/
Bob Walsh Send private email
Friday, March 27, 2009
 
 
Bob, Pat, thanks, interview was great.  I hope the detail is useful to everyone here at BoS.
I look forward to hearing the finished podcast, urls and useful info will follow.
Over the weekend I'll post some extra responses here to clarify things that weren't covered in the interview.
Cheers,
Ian.
Ian Ozsvald Send private email
Friday, March 27, 2009
 
 
Follow-up replies for topics not discussed in the podcast...

@Darren - voice is more powerful than text annotations or subtitles.  Think of your end-users - will they understand the voice you've chosen?  There's no point choosing a heavily accented voice that can't be understood by your end-users, that's the main criteria.

@IanH - again voice is more powerful than subtitles but subtitles are a good way of presenting to foreign languages if you've got a limited budget.  Native voices will always be better...but that's a lot of production and many videos you have to host (and update for each new version of your software).  Again, think of the end-users, if they're mostly English-reading then perhaps an English voice and English subs will do a 'good enough' job?

@Mike - think of the foreign end-users...can they read the text that's shown in your video component?  If they can't then there's no value in showing your native tongue, you'll have to make foreign-worded visuals.  I'd say that localised visuals and voice is the most powerful technique but the maintenance overhead is likely to be high.

@Glen - as discussed in the podcast I suggest 2 mins for a frontpage video and 5 mins for tour or tutorial videos, no longer.  Doing the voice after gives you more control but requires much more time (I always do my voice work separately for best results for my clients).

An A4 page of narration sentences takes about 2.5 minutes to read, so don't do more than that for a frontpage video.

Re. humour/straight-laced, I tend to go for clear explanations but want to play around with humour.  I'm not sure how well humour travels to different cultures do I'm always a bit wary and my English sense of humour (Monty Python...) might not work well for others, even in the UK :-)  Joel's screencast is indeed very cool.

@Dror - I'm not familiar with any research, it is personal but most people I know (from academics to company founders to techs to my mum(!)) like watching a short video with nice audio as it tells them everything they need to know in one concentrated moment - then they can decide whether to invest more time on your site or to go elsewhere.

@ISV - storyboarding is discussed in the podcast.

@Joe - choose a size (and use zooms+highlights) that makes the final presentation as readable as possible...it all depends on what size you're exporting your video at.  I'd suggest 640x480 for maximum playability on a wide range of monitors, so record at 1024x768 if possible (your mileage may vary!).

@Nicholas - I'll arrange for a transcript to be produced.

@Bruce - talking heads are discussed in the podcast.

Note that the above material (and plenty more) is covered on our blog in a 9-part series teaching your how and why to screencast, the series starts here:
http://blog.procasts.co.uk/2009/03/why-screencast-if-a-picture-is-worth-a-1000-words/
and will be completed over the coming 2 weeks, with an eBook to follow.

Cheers,
Ian.
Ian Ozsvald Send private email
Saturday, March 28, 2009
 
 
Do British accents convert better than Texans?

I love me some Brits!
Fat Bird Send private email
Sunday, March 29, 2009
 
 
I don't know if Brit accents convert better (though we've won some of our work because of my accent :-) but I do know that a clear English voice is likely to be understood by a wider group of people (US and Europeans at least) than any strong local accent.
That said, if your Texan accent is clear such that a French/German listener can understand you (and they're in your target market) then why not go with the local voice?
Ian.
Ian Ozsvald Send private email
Monday, March 30, 2009
 
 
@bruce - I was intrigued by your question about using a talking head.  This was also discussed in the podcast interview (still forthcoming, hopefully it'll be released soon).

I'm a co-founder of http://ShowMeDo.com , for my latest series, using ScreenFlow on a MacBook with iSight I recorded my head talking as the main intro, the video then shrinks to the side so I'm present throughout the screencast tutorials.

The full series needs to be bought to get access (do you want to learn Python programming quickly?) but this intro episode is free:
http://showmedo.com/videos/video?name=7160000&fromSeriesID=716
and should give you a quick idea of whether the technique works.

Compare it to this introductory video in the 'what does Python look like?' series, recorded months back on Windows *without* a webcam, again this episode is free:
http://showmedo.com/videos/video?name=2750000&fromSeriesID=275

Let me know your thoughts?
Ian.
Ian Ozsvald Send private email
Thursday, April 02, 2009
 
 
Bob and Pat have posted the Startup-Success podcast interview:
http://startuppodcast.wordpress.com/2009/04/04/show-21-the-art-and-science-of-screencasts/

It is 42 minutes long, we discuss a lot (and Bob and Pat discuss some other topics - see link above).  If you want lots of background on how you can use screencasts to sell your software and how to improve your productions, please have a listen.

Ian.
Ian Ozsvald Send private email
Sunday, April 05, 2009
 
 

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