Do you use screenshots instead of a 'Wall of Text'?

Last updated by Tiago Araújo [SSW] 28 days ago.See history

Communicating effectively often involves moving away from lengthy 'Walls of Text'. Instead, using screenshots can convey the message more succinctly and efficiently, reducing the reliance on excessive wording.

Consider the following points:

  • Efficiency - Screenshots enable people cc’ed to check the task by quickly skimming, not needing to click on links
  • Capture the moment - Tasks can take time to get to, often weeks or months! Reports and dashboards change over time and without a screenshot, a developer probably won't know what the person was looking at
  • Clear and concise - Screenshots are like the ‘x’ in the useful format of change x to y (see related rules) Make the task as clear as possible!

Going further, there are ways to improve the readability of your screenshots:

Tip #1: Avoid blank spaces

By cropping empty spaces in screenshots, you can make things easier to read and understand. Most times you can achieve this by resizing the application window before taking the screenshot.

It's like zooming in on the important bits, making them bigger and friendlier for the users.

screenshot blank bad
Figure: Bad example – Unnecessary blank space makes screenshots hard to read

screenshot blank good
Figure: Good example – Focus on what matters makes screenshots clear

Tip #2: Add a balloon when you need to point at a specific area of your screenshot

You can take screen captures to the next level by adding balloons that have the appropriate text (aka speech bubbles). Sometimes you need only the text in the balloon and no text in the email.

The balloon is great because you can point to a specific part of the image. It is much easier than reading the old ‘Wall of Text’.

Figure: Bad example – The email is using a screenshot so that is good, but you need to read the text and relate it to the image

Figure: Good example – The balloon with text on the screenshot, makes it quicker to understand

Tip #3: Be aware not to overuse balloons

balloon overload
Figure: Bad example – Balloon overload

Figure: Good example – See 3 balloons were not needed

arrow example
Figure: Good Example - Sometimes an arrow is all that is needed

In other words, you can use:

  • Plain screenshots
  • Balloons
  • Circles or boxes
  • Arrows

They are all useful depending on the scenario. Be wise and try to make it as clear as possible to the reader.

Tip #4: Add branding to screenshots

Follow the rule Do you add branding to screenshots?

Figure: Betsy Weber Techsmith - Part 1 - Creator of Snagit. See full series here

Tip #5: Pay attention to the arrow tail

When you use an arrow in your screenshot, make sure you start the arrow from an appropriate place.

Figure: Bad example – Arrow might make people think 'chat' and the direction it points are related

Figure: Good example - If you just want to emphasize what you're pointing to, start drawing the arrow from an empty space

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