Screencasts are video screen captures that are often used by companies to highlight and demonstrate new features, create tutorials, collaborate remotely, and troubleshoot bugs. Since the barrier to entry is low - all you need is a web cam, screencast tool, and video hosting site - anyone, regardless of tech savvy or budget, can make an effective screencast to share with co-workers or customers.
If you're just getting started with screencasts it's best to keep a few things in mind when it comes to function, audience, and duration. Start by defining the purpose of the screencast, and make sure it can be boiled to down to solve one particular challenge or express one singular idea. The simpler the purpose, the better. If you've got multiple points to convey, that's okay, just try to separate them into their own separate videos.??Next, identify the audience for the screencast. Are they internal staff, and how senior are they? Are they clients and business professionals? Or is the audience composed of consumers, clients, or end-users? Defining the audience will help you define an appropriate tone and voice for the screencast.??Once you've defined the purpose and the audience, you can zero in on the content and length of the screencast. Since you've eliminated a number of extraneous variables in this process, you're left with a strong concept that you should then try to keep as simple and short as possible. If you can't express the idea in less than 2 minutes, then it's time to rethink why you're creating the screencast, who you're trying to reach, and how you can get to the point faster. The video should flow pretty quickly from intro, to demonstration, to final recap.
Hopefully, you're already starting to think about the many ways you can communicate in video form, but if you need a nudge in the right direction, try these examples on for size.??
Tutorials: If your small business has a product or service that customers or clients use, screencasts are an excellent way to teach your audience how to use a particular feature. Find a feature that you think is especially cool but underutilized, determine why it should appeal to users, and which type of users. Then, jot down a few steps or points to highlight, and talk yourself through a few test runs. When you're ready, start recording. When you're done share the how-to screencast with your support team, via social media (ie. blog/Twitter/Facebook), and other appropriate communication channels. What took 10 minutes could result in new customers, reduced support inquiries, and more power users.??
Bugs: Whether you're testing new functionality or troubleshooting a current version, screencasts that recreate the error will be handy resources for your IT or support staff.??
Team projects: Projects involving more than just you tend to get a little tricky to manage. Most challenges on this level are associated with communication and interpretation errors. You can use screencasts to help with some of those obstacles. This works especially well if you know you want something done, but you can't express the idea succinctly in words (eg. a website redesign with video animation loops). Use a screencast to visually show what you're having trouble expressing with words.
Get the Right ToolsThere's not a lot of heavy lifting involved when it comes to creating screencasts. A standard webcam, screensharing tool, and hosting provider, is all you need to get up and running. Here are a few recommendations and tips to help during the initial setup process.??
Webcam: If you don't have a computer with a webcam built-in, definitely go snag one online or at your local electronics store. You can find a number of quality cams for under $100, so don't overspend.??
Recording Tools: You have a number of options for sharing your screen while you record. Mac users should spend the $99 bucks and buy ScreenFlow. It's sophisticated and simple at the same time, so it's the perfect software to grow with as you transition from beginner to advanced screencaster. CamStudio is an incredibly popular free open source tool for Windows, while CamTwist is the Mac equivalent. Also worth checking out is ScreenToaster. The web application does not require any software to use, works for both Macs and PCs, and is perfect for users with zero previous screencasting experience.??
Hosting: For internal videos, hosting on your own server makes sense, but if you don't mind outsourcing the hosting to the cloud, you can turn to Vimeo for high quality hosting with plenty of privacy settings, or opt to use Drop.io's web-based real-time sharing and collaboration tool for hosting screencasts that are specific to a particular group. Vimeo's also a great hosting site for tutorial or how-to screencasts when your audience is your larger user base.