The One Tool You Need to Create Awesome Visual Instructions

The Tool You Need to Create Awesome Visual Instructions

Things you need to create awesome visual instructions…

  • Easy to understand written or spoken instructions
  • Relevant images or video
  • A consistent, clear design

If you create visual instructions, like a job aid or a step-by-step guide, you’ll know that gathering the information is just the first part of the process.

The next (and arguably more difficult) part is making sure that you display your information so your learners can effectively use it and learn from it.

Designing your visual instructions can be time-consuming. With images, text, and other design elements to arrange, you can spend longer on the formatting than collecting the assets or creating the instructions.

But you don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time you create a new piece of instructional content. There are ways that can save you and your team a lot of time.

Templates are a great way to optimize the way you create your informational content. This way, you can focus on providing great information without compromising the way you present it.

This post breaks down how to use Snagit and Camtasia’s template functions to help you create a more efficient workflow and consistently awesome visual instructions.

You can watch the video on this topic at the top of this post, to listen to the podcast episode, hit play below, or read on for more…

Why templates are great for creating visual instructions

Templates take care of many design features so that you can focus on the element you need to – the instructions.

You can easily get bogged down or overwhelmed by all the different design features that many pieces of software use. And if you’re not a graphic designer, it can be difficult to know what looks good.

That’s why templates are so effective. They remove those problems from the equation. When you use a template, you know that you’re getting a well-designed print-out or video, and all you have to think about is the content.

How to use templates to create visual instructions

This post will break down two ways of creating visual instructions using TechSmith’s screen capture software Snagit. You can use this as a step-by-step guide to using templates to create your instructions.

In this example, we’re going to use screen-captured images to create a set of visual instructions. We’re going to start by showing how to add a card in Trello, starting with collecting the assets.

Adding a card in Trello

Use the ‘All in One’ feature to capture your first screen image. This is your establishing shot, so make sure you include plenty of context.

This example captures the entire window to provide lots of context for the learner, as they might not know what Trello looks like. It’s important to give the big picture before you drill down into the details.

Your image will then appear in your tray and you’ll see a preview of what you took a screen capture of.

The Tool You Need to Create Awesome Visual Instructions

For the second image, it’s important to remain consistent. Select the entire window again, and even include where your mouse cursor is to help the learner understand where they need to look.

Image Capture Tray

A tip to speed up your image captures – turn off the function ‘Preview in Editor’. This way all your screen captures will save, and display when you’re ready, but it will stop the pop-up interruptions as you collect your images.

Once you’ve finished collecting your images, they will be displayed in your tray.

Now, you’re ready to start putting them into a template. There are two ways to do this. The first is to click the grey plus button at the top left corner of the screen and select ‘Image from Template’.

This will open the template window, from here you can select a template you like and then drag and drop your screen captures into the image placeholders.

The second way is faster, only if you already have all of your images in your tray.

Select all the images you want to include in your template by holding the shift key, then right-click. Select the option ‘Combine in Template’.

Combine in Template

This then opens the template window. There are many different templates to choose from, but if you want more, there’s the “Download More” button, which takes you to TechSmith Assets for Snagit. This is a paid subscription service, but it also has free templates available to download.

Select the template you want and click ‘next’ to open the initial creation window.

Create your Instructions

Here, you can begin to create your instructions. You can add a title, captions to your images, and drag and drop the images into the correct order. Then click ‘combine’.

Editing Window

This takes you to the editing window. This is where you can utilize drag and drop functions, intuitive features, and customize options to design your visual instructions.

Everything here is customizable and it’s possible to delete any aspect. Text, images, their order – you can move each part around and edit them to display exactly how you want.

Editing collected images

To help your learners understand what to look at, you can resize images, making them bigger within their windows so they know where to focus. Or you can use the annotation tools such as arrows to draw their attention.

If you need to add more steps or information, click on the blue plus. This gives you the option to add another page. You can drag and drop images from your tray into placeholders, and you can customize it as you like.

The page setup helps Snagit understand how to print these templates. Once printed, they make great handouts for learners to keep and refer back to.

This template process is a fast and flexible way to create visual instructions that grab your learner’s attention.

If you want to level-up your visual instruction game, you can also use this software to take screen recordings. You can record your screen, your voice, and annotate your visual as you work through the process.

You can then use this video to take screen captures. You can include these in a template print-out using the same process above. This way, you create two types of amazing visual instructions using one swift process.

How to create a video template

It’s important to know that you’re not limited to using templates for handouts. You can use templates in a variety of different software to help save you time and optimize your team’s workflow.

In Camtasia, you can create video templates that allow you to speed up your process for creating video. This is an example of how to use Camtasia to achieve this.

Placeholder Example

You can insert placeholders to define where you want certain content pieces to fit. If you’re creating a template to help other people on your team create videos, then give them information. Use the ‘Placeholder Properties’ tab to give your placeholder a title and add any notes that might help.

You might not know how long your placeholder needs to be, but don’t worry. You can design your templates to leave room for adjustment, and Camtasia gives intuitive options for helping you insert video content correctly.

Add video to placeholder

When you drag and drop video footage into a placeholder, Camtasia gives you four options for how it can insert your video. These are:

  • Ripple Replace – this intuitively moves other placeholders around to fit the video in its original size
  • Replace from Start – this fits the video into placeholder from the beginning of the video, but truncates the remainder of the video that doesn’t fit
  • Replace from End – this fits the video into placeholder from the end of the video, but truncates the beginning of the video
  • Replace with Clip Speed – this changes the video speed to fit the placeholder, speeding it up or slowing it down accordingly

In this example, the video is too long for the placeholder. It suited this example to select Ripple Replace and alter the placement of the other elements. You may need to reorganize your media to make them suitable for the finished video.

You could include a range of other elements in your template. These could be specific visuals that you bring up, standard introductions, call to actions, or even lower-third content.

Once you’re happy with your template, save it by selecting ‘File’, then ‘Save Project as Template’. Name it appropriately so you and your team can find it. Then, when you re-open Camtasia, select ‘Open Project from Template’ and select your new template to start using it.

Templates simplify the entire team’s workflow as you can share them, whether you make them in Camtasia, Snagit, or other software. You can give them to your team to ensure that you’re all making consistently awesome visual instructions over and over again.

If you want to know more about these processes, or watch these processes in real-time, scroll to the top of the page and watch the video. The entire process is recorded to help you create more awesome visual instructions. For more expert advice and tips, visit TechSmith Academy, check out our videos on YouTube, or if you’re on the go, listen to our podcast.

Matt Pierce

Matt Pierce is a Learning & Video Ambassador at TechSmith. In this role speaks and teaches about video creation and visual communication. A graduate of Indiana University he has ten years of experience working in learning and development with a focus on visual instruction. He has directly managed the training, user assistance, video, and other teams for TechSmith. Teach him something @piercemr

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