A tutorial describes in detail how a specific operation or task is performed. Similar to the onboarding guide, it is very specific and learning-oriented. At the end of the tutorial, the user fully understands the feature and can use it.

What is the background of tutorial?

According to wikipedia, a tutorial is a method of transferring knowledge and maybe used as a part of a learning process. More interactive and specific than a book or a lecture, a tutorial seeks to teach by example and supply the information to complete a certain task. A tutorial can be taken in many forms, ranging from a set of instructions to complete a task to an interactive problem solving session.

The background of a tutorial is from university and classic education, where a tutor gives instruction and teaches specific knowledge to a small group of students, beginner or scholar.

How can a tutorial be used in software documentation?

The software tutorial should be very specific and provide short, rich and interactive components as images, video, screenshot and additional resources.

Tutorials can be created for external developers to integrate code e.g. using an API reference, source code samples or developer docs to demonstrate the functionality. Besides typical text-based documentation guides, tutorial videos are used to teach coding for various programming languages and technologies. There are a lot of great and free resources available online, mostly on YouTube.

Video tutorial to learn programming in JavaScript
Video tutorial to learn programming in JavaScript (Source: Youtube / freeCodeCamp.org)

End users of the software or web application are interested in interactive tutorial e.g. to explain complex features or as part of the onboarding process.

Besides the resource and content, cohort-based groups of users or specific courses can be setup to provide a more group-based, interactive learning environment similar to a tutorial course, tutorial school or tutorial class. They could be grouped by topic or learning program.

What are the elements of a software tutorial?

The following elements might be added when creating a tutorial documentation:

  • Explanation and presentation of the specific feature or process, using screenshots of the user interface – so the user clearly understands the steps. This could be a html-based online document, or a PDF to download and store for later reference.
  • Demonstration of the steps to perform as video or screen recording. The tutor or guide should explain in detail what is on the screen and what the button and other UI elements will do. If possible, the element should be grouped into smaller elements that can be watched separately and referenced.
  • Questionnaire, exam, survey or online test to measure how much of the relevant content has been understood and memorized by the user. As the result, the user should see in which elements knowledge gaps are and a link to the specific tutorial documentation and video to “re-learn” the missing know how.

What are the steps necessary to create screen recording and video tutorials?

The main process can be grouped in the following steps:

  1. Plan the content and group by specific topics or milestones.
  2. Create a script. Write in detail what to say, so that the recording process is as smooth as possible.
  3. Create the tutorial content – start with the screen recording, add audio during the screen recording or later (follow the script created in step 2).
  4. Cut the video and audio, and produce the video.
  5. Publish the tutorial – could be inhouse on a documentation platform, learning management system, on a private YouTube channel, or as a public YouTube video (e.g. to attract new potential customers using YouTube as marketing channel)
  6. Add other elements of the tutorial – e.g. exams, queries, exercises or written documentation

There are many online resources available, also as video guides explaining specific screen recording software or cutting applications as Apple iMovie.

Need more guidance to create a documentation tutorial?

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Documentation types

This page is part of the comprehensive list of documentation types.
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