We were chuffed to have been chosen to host a talk on The Power of Product Screenshots in your Help Documentation at the Write the Docs Atlantic conference on September 12. It was a great couple of days learning all things software documentation with the passionate and engaging community that is Write the Docs. Thank you to everyone who took the time to listen to our talk and for all the thoughtful questions throughout.
Q: In what scenarios have you found screenshots most helpful? Are there situations where they hurt more than help? - Polly Ouellette
While I am surely positively biased towards adding product screenshots and on trying to find some equilibrium I am probably likely to tilt towards one too many. Having said that, I do believe, as you allude to, there are times where the value in applying them is negative. Here are two (not exhaustive) examples that immediately come to mind:
- When the Product Screenshot becomes decorative and detached from the actual text itself. Say, you try to explain something fundamental about e.g. KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and to spice up our text, we add a very nice screenshot of one of our Product Dashboards. All glitter, no substance.
- We take a large (area of screen) screenshot, to allow for full context, but do not apply enough energy in our annotation efforts (rectangles, arrows and numbers, etc.). You might think of this as Mayer’s Signaling Principle.
There are surely many more, but if in doubt, I will still run back to my original argument; which is that most documentation is currently starved for product screenshots and or full of rotten (outdated, might be more polite) images.
Alan: How you do the little things is how you do the big things, and if I see bad or out of date screenshots I'm immediately skeptical of your product.
You can see a summary of the talk and find a link to the recording here.
And you can also find a link to the other great questions from the chat below:
- Recommendations for writing good Alt Text for your screenshots
- Does the title attribute on images help with SEO?
- When to add images in developer-focused documentation?
- Will AI image recognition help with screenshot automation in the future?
- Recommendations for image file formats
- What is the right ratio of images to text?
- Are GIFs better than screenshots with callouts?
- How to automate screenshots that illustrate product capabilities?