Complicated products and processes are difficult to explain online. Text often falls short (or drags on for too long), and static images are inherently limited in the amount of information they can provide.
In order to convey information effectively, many companies are turning to a more immersive and dynamic tool: video.
We talked with Tim MacDonald of ConforMIS (a company that manufactures customized knee-implants and instrumentation) and Daniel Murphy of Onshape (a computer-aided design software company) about their respective experiences using video as a medium for communication.
ConforMIS: Clarifying an intimidating process
On ConforMIS's website, you can find this description of the manufacturing process for their customized knee implants:
This paragraph accurately describes their manufacturing process, but let's say you are a potential patient with no technical background. Chances are, you're already stressed about getting your knee replaced, and all of this in-depth medical jargon is neither comforting nor straightforward.
In comparison, take a look at this video, which is also featured on ConforMIS's website:
"The industry we're in is highly visual," Tim explained. "With the animations in these videos, our patients can visualize exactly what the process entails. Our customized replacements are fairly new and different to most people, and it's important to give patients information that they can understand and digest."
Onshape: clarifying and teaching technical workflows
On their front page, Onshape uses a video to deliver a general explanation of their product to visitors. The inspiring music paired with the message of "reinventing CAD" brings excitement to an otherwise dry subject.
But beyond that, the shots depicting different applications for their product clearly demonstrate the benefits of cloud-based CAD software. In my case, I knew nothing about CAD before I watched their video, and by the end of it, I could easily relay the value of their product to a friend.
Onshape also relies on video to teach multifaceted workflows to their current customers. Daniel explained, "Our tutorial videos in particular are highly consumed by our users who are trying to learn how to use our software (and prefer video to webinars or documentation)."
Onshape's tutorial videos give learners the freedom to consume information at their own speeds on their own schedules. "Our videos are performing very well across the board: high volume, high engagement rate, which is what we're monitoring right now," explained Daniel.
How to communicate the complicated
Create a repeatable process
It's likely that complicated products will benefit from multiple videos to explain different aspects of the product or parts of the workflow, so nailing down an efficient production process is key.
In Onshape's case, their in-house "CAD experts" create a lot of demo videos for their website. "They write the scripts and do the screen recording and narration. I then take those videos and add some 'polish,' which mostly means animation, music, and our video bumper," explained Daniel.
This collaborative workflow allows Onshape to produce video as their product evolves. "There are 4–5 team members (of a marketing team that's under 10 employees) actively involved in creating video content," Daniel commented.
Target a specific audience
Identifying a specific audience is one of the first steps in any content creation process. Since ConforMIS has two distinct audiences—patients and surgeons—they create testimonial videos for each group.
"We're a fairly new company, relative to our competitors. Testimonials are standard practice, but for us, it gives us credibility, especially among surgeons,” said Tim. “When you have all these people willing to go on record, it communicates that it's not just some experimental new thing. Our patients and our surgeons are using our technology and seeing great results."
Inspire your learners to become doers
To avoid making dry informational videos, keep the larger context in mind, and try your best to form a connection with your viewers. On a larger scale, what are you helping them achieve? How will this information change their work or their lives? Aim to inspire, whether it’s through some upbeat background music, an encouraging call to action, or even a friendly tone of voice in a screencast.
Offer multiple mediums
It's important to remember that your audience is made up of viewers with different learning styles and viewing environments. While a good portion of your audience might be able to access and learn best from a video, others will benefit from text and images. Offering multiple mediums allows your learners to decide what works best for them.
Use visuals to explain
Video gives you the power to show, not tell, the details of a complicated workflow or product. When you begin to concept and storyboard your video, try to think about your audience's perspective. What would a learner want or need to see in order to understand the content?
In Onshape's case, their marketing videos show practical applications (engineers and designers seamlessly sharing work with others), while their tutorial videos are mostly screencasts, in which they step into their audience's shoes and walk through specific workflows.
Have you seen any videos that successfully communicate something complicated? As a consumer and learner, what do you need from video to learn something well?