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Vaijayanti Nerkar, BMC Software
August 1, 2022

In recent years, we have started seeing a growth in delivering information through visuals. Rich media deliverables are getting as popular as text-based documentation. In this article we attempt to understand if there is a need for certain percentage of information to be delivered through rich media. We also scrutinize whether cloud-based products need more rich media, or whether more rich media equals to higher customer satisfaction.

What consists of rich media?

Rich media covers infographics, videos, screenshots with annotations, self-help, and other interactive media that helps users engage with your content.

  • Infographics are graphics that convey a piece of information completely; for example, graphics such as workflow diagrams or process flow diagrams.
  • Videos cover different types of information such as troubleshooting, conceptual, procedural.
  • Screenshots with annotations are mostly used to provide more details about a complex UI.
  • Self-help is not directly a rich media deliverable; but it becomes an important consideration if your product has an in-application help.

Does product delivery and type of product influence rich media decisions?

Let us inspect if product deployment methods like cloud deployment or on-premises deployment or product type like large Enterprise product or UI-based product influence rich media decisions.

Information that needs to be conveyed to end users is usually agnostic of how the product is delivered. For example, let us assume that we have a product called Microsoft Word, which is an on-premises installation. Let us assume that we need to deliver information for a use case called Creating a new document. While evaluating the right way to deliver this information might consider creating a quick 30 second video or if the product has self-help, we might decide to deliver the information through a quick walkthrough. In our process of finding the right delivery medium we do not get influenced whether the product is on-premises or a cloud subscription.

Only while creating install or upgrade information, there is a need to consider if the product is an on-premises installation or a cloud-based deployment. For these use cases, based on the user information need and the complexity involved, the right delivery format can be identified. So, it is the user information need and not the deployment method that influences rich media decisions.

A general belief is that for SaaS products, customers expect more visual-based information than for on-premises products. However, as we examine use cases it becomes evident that what you want to convey determines how you convey it. If the installation of an on-premises product is not complex, a video could be a good way to deliver this information. Simply because it is an on-premises installation we need not discard visuals as possible delivery mediums.

Similarly, while working with Enterprise products or UI-based products, the use cases determine if the information is best presented via rich media, text, or a mix of visuals and text.

For example, while documenting use cases for a mobile phone which is predominantly a UI-based application the information is best delivered through videos or in-application help. For an Enterprise product where we have complex use cases such as Administering or Integrating could have multiple personas within the use cases. Therefore, for such complex use cases it is best to break the information down and deliver it through a mix of rich media and text-based documentation to enhance user experience.

How much?

To determine how much rich media should be delivered it is important to understand the use case.

Typically, while creating the documentation plan user information should be designed depending on how the end user is going to consume the product feature. The more consumable the information, the higher the end user satisfaction. Another strong belief is that end user satisfaction is higher if the information is delivered with a maximum number of rich media. However, this is not true. Once we correctly identify the use case and the user information need, the information can be designed and delivered in a way that is easy to understand.

A simple use case will usually have only one best way to deliver the information. A complex use case might need a combination of multiple delivery mediums such as videos, text-based topics, and diagrams to make the information clearer. The key is to focus on delivering the right information through the right medium. Because our decisions are use case centric, it is not possible to determine in advance what percentage of information should be delivered via rich media.

How much is too much?

While delivering information through visuals, it is easy to go overboard. After the right delivery medium is identified, it is important to not repeat the same information through other delivery mediums.

For complex information it is best to break the information into concepts, procedures, overviews and combine different delivery mediums to convey that information holistically.

Let’s summarize

Adding rich media increases the quality of the information and drives more end user engagement, but only if the use case demands it.

More rich media might not always guarantee more end user satisfaction. If we try to force fit rich media deliverables into use cases that do not need them, we may end up with dissatisfied customers.

The information that needs to be conveyed will determine how to convey it. Usually for complex information a good balance of visuals and text can make the information easier to consume and enhance the end-user experience.