Screenshots in Procedures: Mistakes to Avoid
- Use Two Column Tables – instead of embedded a screenshot after each step, consider using a two column table. In the left column, put the text; in the right, the screenshot. This helps the reader check the procedure as they scan it. It also allows them to ignore the screenshot if they wish. This also works for process design.
- Label the images – add the name of the window under the screenshot. This helps the reader confirm that they’re in the right place. Should I be on the Print Options window? Looks at image. Yes, I’m in the right place. And then they continue reading.
- Highlight actions – another way to improve your procedures is to highlight, for example, using a red rectangle, the affected area on the user interface. This is helpful if there are many options on the screen and it may not be obvious where a button needs to be clicked or a field populated.
- Crop the image – if the image if very large, instead of showing the entire window, crop it using a tool such as Snagit. This helps the user see exactly where the action occurs. It also gives them confidence in the procedure as they can match what’s in the text with what’s displayed on the image.
- Screenshot format – make sure all members of your team use the same style guidelines and formatting techniques. For example, use 1 pixel red rectangles, not blue circles. Avoid special effect unless you wanted, for example, jagged edges.
- Online procedures – instead of displaying the image in the middle of the procedure, where it may distract the reader, consider using a popup link. The way this works is that when the user clicks the link, the image pops up. When you click on it again, the image disappears. This is ideal for procedures that have several images, which if displayed by default, would clutter up the page.
When to avoid:
- If the procedure is straightforward, and you’re relatively sure the reader will know where to perform the task, then it’s fine not to add an image.
- If the procedure is one of a series, and screenshots are displayed in other related procedures, then it may not be necessary.