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Software Demo Video Options: The Pros and Cons (w/ examples)

Tell your software’s story with video.

When it’s time to show your software to the world, you have a few options for style/format, which I will outline below. As you’d expect, each option comes with its own pros and cons. As you weigh each option, I’d urge you to consider the audience, market and message with these key questions:

Who is the audience?

What might they already know about your product, category, etc?

Where does this video fit into your sales process? If this the first time they will be aware of your product, first impressions matter more.

How does this affect customers and why would they care?

What do you really need them to take away from this one video?

With these questions in mind, let’s review the handful of options you have for how to effectively “show & tell” your app to your audience:

1. Let’s just talk about it

In some cases, you may not be ready to show your software off. You might consider just shooting video of a team member on video talking about it, ‘developer diary’ style. That’s okay of course, but perhaps not ideal if you’re trying to prove you have something solid and working, rather than just ‘vapor-ware’. This approach seems less likely to build trust in your product and may even turn off your audience from potentially being interested later. It also doesn’t seem like the flashy way to ‘wow’ them into exploring further or making a purchase.

2. Shoot video of a screen

If you can show off your software, great! There are many levels of quality typically available to shoot a screen with a variety of camera, lighting and setting options. Maybe it’s just a camera on a tripod shooting a laptop, or a video game running on an HDTV or even an app on a tablet or phone. There are usually lots of little things that can be done to make that look great. If done at a low budget, they typically feel like they are low budget, which can reflect poorly on the product and developer alike. You’ll want to at least be aware of possible Moire’ and flickering issues.

3. Capture footage

In many cases, it’s possible to capture a feed directly from the desktop of your computer into a higher resolution file. Quicktime, Screenflow and Fraps are all good examples of the software capture options out there and there are many more. There are also hardware capture options like an AJA IO box. This approach can be used in conjunction with a voice-over walk-through of what’s happening on screen. If done at a high resolution, with a concise plan, quality voice over and editing, this can work out pretty well -or it can also be kinda boring. It doesn’t have that personal touch of seeing someone on screen of course, but that’s not always important, especially with tutorials.

4. Wipe-board

You can also go the ‘wipe-board’ approach like all those UPS videos (see video example below) and just shoot a video of someone drawing and explaining. This can help you clearly communicate cost-effectively, but unless you spend budget at the same level as UPS it’s not going to be that polished or premium. If that’s not important, it’s a very easy way to get content out there quickly, frequently. It’s probably more suitable to less formal content at the beginning of development, perhaps in social media, forums, etc.

5. Use screenshots/photos

The term ‘video’ can also include the use of screenshots of your software, which can be animated, zoomed in on, edited to voice over, etc. If motion isn’t important, this too can be easy to make content you may be able to crank out quickly. You also could use photos, schematics, logos, etc. which may be easier to get. Perhaps you have marketing materials that can be repurposed in this way.

6. Create animation

If your product is hard to explain, a little dry or not ready to show, animation can really save the day. A highly polished animated video can help tell the story of your product with a lot of sizzle. This kind of video can be great for making a great first impression if they are learning about your product for the first time. Everybody loves cool animations but they can be expensive and time consuming to produce. There can also be the perception that you are using animation to ‘hide’ the real product.

The Big Take-Aways

No matter which type of video you go with, one more thing that can be tricky is if you change the product your video may be irrelevant quickly. You might want to avoid going into too much detail of the features that can be subject to big changes in your next version.  The most important things to make sure you get right are:

  1. Appeal to the right audience
  2. Engage them enough to keep their attention
  3. Clearly communicate
  4. Make the right impression

I hope these help you tell your software’s story effectively, good luck!

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