Tutorial videos are an effective way at helping people learn new topics. It’s one of the reasons why YouTube and TikTok are so popular aside from cat videos and bad dancing videos. When you want to learn how to do something quickly where’s the first place you head?
Probably YouTube right?
And TikTok is even becoming a pretty popular destination for learning stuff quickly from short tutorials.
That’s because video is undeniably popular and it’s easy to show and tell how to do something quickly. A written medium can be helpful for certain tasks, but you have to read it and that can take time. For some topics, text is more helpful, especially for performing specific steps in software. It’s always nice to be able to scan as well as easily keep your place.
But tutorial videos are still the preferred method of learning for most from learning to prune a fruit tree to changing the cabin filter on your car (yes I’ve looked up both of those).
Tutorial videos are visual and therefore easily processed and easy to understand. The only thing that might compete with them is a visual job aid that combines pictures with a limited number of words. That can be easy to follow along and understand, but it still doesn’t have the allure of a tutorial video.
What is a Tutorial Video?
Tutorial videos can range from a video of someone how to pollinate fruit to how to perform a task in your new app.
In essence, a tutorial video shows you how to do either part of a larger task or the entirety of a small to medium task.
For the videos that cover a single task, you may have even heard of the term microlearning. That’s a popular phrase in learning & development of the corporate world but outside of that, it doesn’t matter. It’s all about learning how to do a single task quickly.
You’ll find most tutorials are organized in steps or at least in the order you should perform things. It’s not likely you want to watch a video on how to do something and start in the middle.
You’d be surprised how many skip the basics and jump right to the middle, though.
That’s why you need to properly plan a tutorial video and also give people a quick way to see what they want to see. YouTube provides a great option for doing that with its chapters. This post will help you effectively make a tutorial video with the steps broken down and some important tips along the way.
You’ll get help organizing your tutorial video and making it as effective as possible so you don’t leave people needing more. there’s nothing worse than producing a tutorial video and then having people ask a million questions that you should have answered.
A single tutorial video won’t cover every possible topic, but it can be planned well to accommodate the future needs of your viewers.
What type of tutorial video are you making?
Knowing what type of tutorial video you’re making determines how you make it. A tutorial video on how to trim a fruit tree has very different requirements than one on how to set up your new favorite app.
This post will focus on how to create a tutorial video in general but in another video I’ll provide more specifics on things like software tutorial videos which is our specialty when creating training videos. Most of this article will apply to all tutorial videos but when something applies to a physical tutorial video (like trimming a fruit tree) or a software tutorial I’ll be sure to point that out.
No matter what type of tutorial video you’re creating, you likely don’t need much. You either need a smartphone plus some software or just some software that records your screen. We’ll give you some tips on what we like to use for the software side of things. The hardware side is completely up to you.
Let’s get into the simple steps of making your tutorial video.
7 Simple Steps To Make Your Tutorial Video
Before you even begin to think about the details of your tutorial video, there’s one thing everyone needs to do.
In a way, you can connect each step of creating a good tutorial video to the ADDIE process used by instructional designers. I mean, that’s what we are and we want to make sure we create quality, focused training videos that are effective.
I’ll note which phase each of the items described below maps to ADDIE.
1. Plan (Design)
Before you jump into recording or writing a script, or planning what will go on screen, make a broad plan. This means you need to plan with a short bulleted list of the exact topics necessary to cover.
Notice I said necessary. That’s because you can bot yourself, others, and your video down with nice to knows or helpful tips and information. Unless something is essential to the goal of your video or to learn the topic, leave it out.
Write a broad outline without going into too many details, just write down the basics. This will help you decide what is a must for the video to cover and what can be cut.
Making a plan, to begin with, will ensure your tutorial video stays on point and doesn’t have an overwhelming amount of information.
What does that mean?
Just like when building any type of training, nothing is important if everything is important.
Whoever is watching your tutorial video won’t understand or follow any of it if you cover too much. They’re just going to tune out, fall asleep, or worse if your tutorial is on YouTube then the viewer will bounce and you’ll get hurt in the YouTube algorithms.
If you try to cover too much then you risk the most important information being lost completely. You might as well not make the video if you think everything’s important and it’s 10 minutes long when it should be two.
So, when you’re planning make sure you list the following:
- What’s the specific goal of the video in one short sentence?
- What specific topics should be covered to meet your goal?
- Who is the audience of your tutorial video?
- Who are all stakeholders who should review in each phase?
Some of these questions are answered in the storyboard template we have available for download but you might be better off having a separate document with just these questions answered.
With proper planning, your script and tutorial video will be significantly better. Planning allows you to be more succinct and talk to the person you’re trying to teach easier.
You also have to ask yourself important questions such as “Do I need a talking head in my video?”
Sometimes it may be necessary and could fill long gaps of just talking where there’s no action. But if there’s no action then is it content that needs to be covered or is it just nice to know?
Ultimately, talking heads should be limited and only used if there’s no other option and it adds value.
AI talking heads?
Please don’t waste your time or money.
The image principle in Mayer’s 12 principles of multimedia (Mayer, R. (2020). Multimedia Learning (3rd ed.)) doesn’t state that talking heads are harmful. But, if there is a better option (such as helpful visuals), then they will always be better than a talking head.
Ask These Questions First
Who is your audience?
If you don’t know who you’re writing for then you can’t write to them. Knowing your audience and having a picture of them in your head will help you cater your tutorial video to them.
What is the one thing your audience will learn to do?
Don’t try to put multiple topics in each video. Whether you call it microlearning or just a plain old video tutorial, stick to one topic to keep the video simple, easy to understand, and less overwhelming. Multiple topics and tasks in a single video will overwhelm your viewer.
Since videos aren’t easy to navigate it’s ideal to keep them focused and short.
There’s no limit to how many tutorial videos you should create which makes it easy for your audience to find exactly what they need. It’s better to have 10 tutorial videos that cover separate topics than one video that covers 10 topics but is too long and unfocused.
Also, since your tasks will be spread across multiple videos, keep your intros and bumpers short and sweet. Don’t waste your viewer’s time with 15-second bumpers and a 20-second intro. The faster you can get viewers to the topic they came for, the less likely you are to lose them to boredom and eye rolls.
Before you go too far you also need to make sure you have the equipment you need. We’re lucky to live in a time where we can create tutorials with relatively little equipment.
Your equipment will dictate your quality quite a bit, though. While an iPhone can give you create video quality, it won’t always give you the best audio quality. You can get lapel mics for your iPhone, though, so even audio isn’t a problem with a $300 or so investment.
Here’s what you need to consider for equipment:
- A tripod if you don’t have someone to hold the camera.
- Lapel or boom mic for quality audio.
- A quality camera or even your iPhone can provide quality video.
- Backgrounds, lighting, or sound equipment.
- Software to record and/or edit your video (Premier Pro, iMovie, Camtasia, etc.)
There are a lot of things to consider in your planning to figure out if you’re even prepared to create a tutorial video. If you don’t have high expectations for quality then your iPhone and the front-facing camera may be all you need.
Once you’ve planned your video it’s time to script it up.
2. Script (Design)
This one is also part of the design phase because you’re still creating that ground-level framework that you can build your video on top of.
Our process for writing the storyboard is fairly simple, we start with a basic document that has two columns of content. We also have a column for numbering which makes it easy to refer to specific places in the script via email if anybody’s not working off the document itself or can’t edit it.
Here’s what that template looks like and you can also download it for free on our resources page (nope, no email address required).
The first column is the on-screen elements. This could be text, visuals that will go on the screen, and how they will act (move, appear, etc.), or it could be you.
The second column will have the narration. Your narration should be written in an approachable, clear, and easy-to-understand way. Check out our tips on how to write lively for eLearning and training videos.
Each row should be one short scene with a sentence or two and the visuals that go along with it. Don’t try to put too much text in any row because the visual and narration of each row have to go together. Too much in one row also makes it difficult to communicate what’s happening in each scene.
One tip on the narration, don’t be too formal. Have a casual tone that speaks to the viewer. Don’t say “Nurses need to review the tests first” unless it’s necessary to define nurses. Instead, you can say something like “You need to review the tests first.”
That sounds a bit more personal and conversational, right?
It’s as simple as that, and you don’t need to make it more complicated than this.
Two columns are likely all you will ever need. You can signify directions, describe visuals/movement, etc. by using formatted text such as brackets or bold.
Now you wrote your script but it’s not time to get straight into video development. You shouldn’t ever go straight into that. It’s always best to let things stew a bit, review a bit, and maybe have someone else review too.
3. Review Your Script (Design)
There’s nothing more important than this step.
You can cut out time in other categories if you need to speed up the process, but you should never cut time out of review. If you do then you’ll pay with either a poorly produced tutorial video or something will go wrong.
Take the time to read through your narration and review the visuals. Don’t just read the narration in your head, though. Sound silly and read it out loud to be sure it sounds good.
I guarantee that you’ll find some needed changes after reading out loud. There are always changes because we can’t speak it in our head the same way we do when reading aloud.
If you have someone who can review your script, do that too. You could even do a table read which means you read it to someone else or they read it to you. That will also uncover some things you can see that either need more clarification or fixing.
After you’ve reviewed the script then it’s time to move into the recording step.
4. Record Tutorial Video Content (Development)
This step will vary a lot in how you approach it depending on the type of tutorial video you’re creating.
If you’re recording a real-life tutorial video with you on screen then you’ll record audio and video all in one go. But if you’re recording a software tutorial video then you have your choice of recording audio and video simultaneously or not.
For software tutorial videos is it best to record the audio first and then record screens afterward or do them at the same time? That depends on how you want to present the information and how well you’ve planned.
For the most professional final product possible it’s best to separate them. Most of the time this is what we do. We have the narration professionally recorded with good timing and then we develop the video content timing to the narration.
This way looks slick, is much easier to get timing right, and the end product looks better. But it only works for software tutorials or tutorial videos where your voice is disconnected from your face.
Think about something like a tutorial video on how to amend soil for planting vegetables. You could easily record the audio professionally and then simply record your hands doing that actual work.
Or, you could record the narration while on screen, use that as your audio, and add the video you shot separately of your hands for times when that video footage is more relevant.
If you want something a bit more natural and off-the-cuff sounding (it’s hard doing two things at once!) with less development time required then you can record both together even with a software tutorial.
I’m not that coordinated.
There’s no single right answer. Sometimes I create them separately, other times I do it all together in one.
There are times that I don’t even “record” the content. For software video tutorials it’s often best (and more professional and clear) to use screenshots and then recreate the action on the screen.
Many applications allow you to animate items so you can use static screenshots of an application. That allows you to time the video better and also move the screenshots around to create a more dynamic video than a basic screen recording.
With static images, you also can use any cursor you’d like (or finger!) which you can then animate in a more satisfying way that gives you more control.
Recording a tutorial video that has a person in it vs. recording software is very different. In any case, just be sure you have enough storage and test out if your recorded content is the quality you desire.
This part focuses mainly on recording software tutorial videos.
There’s a lot to say about recording audio and the screen. Before I get to that, you need to choose the software you’re using. For this part, we’re going to be using Camtasia. It’s our favorite for editing all kinds of video content because of its ease of use.
This post focuses more on on-screen elements such as software and applications.
If you’re creating a real-life tutorial video (such as how to repair xyz in a car) then your software could be very different. Or it could be Camtasia because it’s extremely versatile unless you’re going for free in which case on a Mac iMovie is quite sufficient.
For capturing your computer or mobile device screen, these are some options you have. Some are free and others cost money.
Tutorial Video Screen Recording Software
These are some of the options you have for recording your screen. Some are free and some cost but you get what you pay for. Many of these options can also be used for editing video from your smartphone also.
- QuickTime (yup, it can record your screen and mic too if you’re on a Mac)
After testing a lot of screen recording options, we’ve found that our favorite is Camtasia. It does cost money, but its capabilities for making great videos make it worth it.
There’s a lot to recording good audio. One of the most important tips for recording good audio? Don’t use the microphone built into your computer. Even the built-in iPhone microphone is pretty bad quality.
Built-in computer microphones lack the quality you need to record good, clear audio. They’re great for video conferences but not for recording professional audio.
Use an external microphone that works best for you. There are hundreds of great options and each one has its purpose. Do your research for your needs and find a quality microphone, you can thank me later.
It’s also a good idea to use a pop filter and also an isolation shield if possible. Either that or use the free method, which is to go into your closet which is great for absorbing echos.
Go ahead, go in your closet and talk out loud, then compare it to your bedroom sound. Unless you have hardwood floors you probably heard a pretty dramatic difference, right?
Good audio is more important than any part of the screen recording. Poor-quality audio can ruin an entire tutorial video. So, focus on getting the audio right before anything else.
If you’re recording the screen while you’re narrating then you’re likely not going to be using an isolation shield. It just physically doesn’t work because you need the microphone directly above (or slightly in front of) your computer screen.
Software such as Camtasia can record your audio while you’re recording your screen, just be sure you remember to choose your external microphone because Camtasia has a bad habit of using the computer mic as its primary choice.
If you’re recording audio separately from your screen (this method is ideal), software such as Adobe Audition is far superior. You can clean up your audio and remove noise much better than the built-in options of Camtasia.
Now that you have your audio (or are recording it with the screen) it’s time to move on to some tips for recording your screen.
You have several options for recording the screen. You can use screen recording software such as Camtasia or you can just use static screenshots that are all the same size and animate them together (this method is best for a highly polished and professional tutorial video).
Either way, you’re going to need some software to edit the screen recording. Camtasia is my favorite software because I can create great tutorial videos, whether by recording the screen or using animations to recreate the screen interactions.
When you’re recording your screen you should keep in mind how the final video will look. That means keeping the focus on what you’re showing. So, rather than recording the entire screen, focus on the part where the action is.
If you can’t do post-recording editing with software like Camtasia then you need to focus before you start recording. With a tool like Camtasia, you can zoom, pan, and even tilt to improve focus as long as you record at a large enough resolution.
If you record at 1920×1080 and your final video is the same resolution then there’s no room for zooming it. If you record at 4K (3840×2160) then you can zoom in 4 times and still maintain perfect clarity. That’s super helpful for when you need to focus on part of your tool and then zoom out to show the whole thing.
Even if you can’t record at 4K (I can’t) even slightly bigger is better. I record on a MacBook Pro and the resolution is good enough to let me zoom in close enough to see what’s going on nice and close.
Once you’ve recorded your audio and screen, whether together or separately, you’ll likely need to do some editing.
5. Edit The Recorded Tutorial Video (Development)
Your post-recording production might need a lot of work or only a little. It could be that you only need to cut certain parts out or you could be doing a lot of panning, zooming, and tilting.
for in-person videos then you might need to do things like add portions where you show something different happening on screen yourself.
Whatever your recording process is will determine how much editing you have to do. Usually, screen recording software will also have editing tools built right in. You’re unlikely to use a separate screen recording and editing tool but sometimes you may need to.
If you’re on a Mac then you could have used Quicktime to record your screen and perhaps iMovie to edit the video. If you used an iPhone then iMovie might be your only editing tool.
If you’re not using your screen recording software to edit then you’re likely going to use software like Premiere Pro from Adobe, Apple Final Cut Pro, or with a small budget iMovie (that’s me!).
I managed an entire YouTube channel with 60,000+ subscribers at one point and all the videos were edited on iMovie. It worked but you’re limited.
If you used software such as Camtasia to record your screen then you’ll likely want to use it to edit your recording also. It’s a great all-in-one tool for recording and editing. You could even use Camtasia to edit video content recorded on your smartphone. It’s that powerful.
Camtasia is great screen recording software because you can not only use panning and zooming but you can also tilt the screen recording layer and edit your cursor. That gives your video a little dimension and helps you emphasize different parts of your video when creating a software tutorial video.
This is also the step where you’ll add callouts, highlights, lower thirds (text in the lower third of the screen), and of course blurs if you have sensitive information. With Camtasia, you can even do things like group a blur onto a screen recording, so any effects you create also move the blur.
However, you choose to edit your video, you should always take the time to get it right. Part of getting it right requires that you review and then review some more during the editing phase.
6. Review The Final Tutorial Video (Implementation)
Once you’re in the review phase doesn’t mean you can’t go back to development. You will inevitably go back to edit and make more changes in development.
You already reviewed your tutorial video during the scripting stage. Now it’s time to review the final video before it’s finalized. This is the best time to make revisions because you just created the video and it all makes sense.
After your video file has been sitting for a while, sometimes you may forget how you put it together (I do that a lot!). Having several review sessions of the final video before you publish it is the best way to make sure it looks perfect. Or, at least as perfect as it can get. Nothing will ever be perfect.
This is also the point where you’d send your video to some stakeholders to review the video. Hopefully, they also reviewed the script because if they didn’t then they may have changes that make you have to go back to the beginning.
It’s always best to have all stakeholders in the review process from the beginning, not just the final produced video where you can’t make changes as easily.
If it’s an option this is also a great time to have some of your most loyal users review the tutorial video. Before you publish the final video, you should gather feedback from the types of people who will use it out in the wild. That way, you can make any changes that will help your viewers successfully use your video and software.
After you’ve gathered feedback and made all those changes, it’s time to publish your final tutorial video.
7. Publish Your Video (Implementation)
Now you have the perfect tutorial video that will make your software more successful. Hopefully, you have a place where you can publish your video but if you don’t, worry not, there are infinite places you can host your video.
The cost of hosting your videos can range from free to hundreds of dollars per month.
If you want free marketing and don’t care about people copying your content or it being private, YouTube is a great option. YouTube is completely free, is fast, and you can embed it virtually anywhere.
Not only that but YouTube also comes with a huge built-in audience who can find and subscribe to your video tutorials.
It is a universal solution.
One problem with YouTube, though, is that you can’t fully brand your tutorial videos. You’ll have YouTube branding everywhere and your users might get confused with other videos that could pop up.
YouTube is also a huge video marketplace which means your viewers will likely get pulled away from your content into other channels. It’s hard to create brand loyalty when you’re in a massive video marketplace.
If that’s an issue for you and your brand, Vimeo is another great option. It’s one of the most affordable video-hosting solutions, is universally supported, and you can fully brand your videos.
There’s more than an entire blog post to write about hosting video tutorials, though. There will be another post where I will cover more options for hosting your tutorial videos.
A good tutorial video takes a good process. Your process can make or break your tutorial video. Good planning and execution with a strategic approach can make your tutorial video. Not doing those things can break it.
These steps will help you lay out a great tutorial video and they are the steps we use to create amazing tutorial videos that help viewers accomplish their learning goals in their organization.
Our goal is to create the best training videos because we know they are sometimes a great option for helping employees perform their job more effectively. There’s nothing worse than having great technology but then it sinks under the lack of proper help for users to learn how to use it.
If you’re curious about how we can help you with your next technical training project, schedule a free consultation, and let’s discuss. We can help make your digital transformation more successful with effective employee training.