New web content engine, part 8

I think I might have been sleeping when screencasts became so popular, because it seems that every site is now pushing their screencasts on you…

More recently, I’m seeing pieces of software where the ONLY documentation is a screencast.

So why can’t you use screencasts as documentation?

  • It’s not actually faster for you: A good screencast requires you to read from a pre-written script so that you don’t mumble and use “um” a lot. So you have to write it out, THEN make the screencast.
  • You are not James Earl Jones. You can’t afford James Earl Jones. I had to do voice overs for a class in college and I realized that voice talent costs lots of money for a reason…
  • Text can be read on any arbitrary device (iPhone, Motorola Q, laptop with no headphones in a crowded room) whereas a screencast requires a fully functional browser and either headphones or a quiet room.
  • I can read your documentation faster than a 60 second screencast.
  • A deaf person isn’t going to be able to get any benefit out of your screencast.
  • Until web-based screencasts have easily accessible “chapters”, it’s going to be faster for me to find a specific piece of information a second time if it’s text.
  • Audio data has no “search” command.

I know I’m not alone in this… if for no other reason than the audiobook section in every bookstore I’ve ever been in is smaller than the book section.

So, please. Don’t rely on a screencast. It’s like trying to rely on balloon help or a “tip of the day”. Remember balloon help and tips of the day?