Launching a new project is one of the most exciting possible moments for a designer or developer. Your hard work has been approved by the client, you’ve been paid (or you’re about to be paid), and it’s time to show the world your new creation.
In all the excitement, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that a lot of things may be changing from the client’s perspective. If the project was built on WordPress, a new theme may mean a new way of creating content. Featured images may need to be sized differently, for example, or you might have added a custom post type to showcase certain content in a special way. The new theme may have different widget areas or a homepage with custom fields.
All the new elements, while probably a vast improvement over the former website, can lead to serious overwhelm for the client when s/he is left alone to figure out what comes next. Depending on your role in the project and/or your relationship with the client, you may provide training or documentation to ensure that s/he knows how to use the new theme. But what if there was an easier way?
Theme Walkthrough Videos: Why You Need Them
Creating a theme walkthrough video is a great way to introduce your clients to their new and improved website. In half an hour or so, you can create a short video that will serve multiple purposes:
- Add a personal touch to your project launch
- Provide the client with a reference s/he can access over and over again
- Show where to click and what to do instead of just explaining
- Prevent multiple “How do I do this again?” emails
Since I started creating walkthroughs for my projects, I receive far fewer panicked emails where a client has forgotten what image size to use or where to change the wording in a widget area. Clients really seem to appreciate the ability to go back and review the steps needed to make changes without contacting me or the designer.
While I’m always glad to help a client post-launch, usually I’m developing on behalf of a designer and I’m not directly involved. A walkthrough video is helpful for the designer as well, since s/he may also need to become familiar with the way the new theme is structured in order to provide more detailed training. I’ve never yet encountered a project where I regretted taking the time to create a video.
How to Create a Theme Walkthrough Video
Step 1: Find a good screencasting app.
I use Camtasia for Mac I just switched to Screenium 3 for Mac to record all my walkthrough videos. (I used Camtasia for a long time but I found Screenium much easier to use.) There are tons of other options available, though, so it’s mostly a matter of choosing the tool that is easiest for you to use. I generally advise against free screencasting apps since (1) they are often limited to 5 minutes or less and (2) they may not offer the option to export your recording.
Step 2: Make a list of all the theme’s features.
It’s helpful to keep a short list of the features you need to review in your video. This helps you stay focused without lingering on a topic that the client may already understand.
If a site was built on Genesis, for example, and you have built a new child theme to replace the old one, you probably won’t need to go over the Genesis settings (unless you’ve changed something there that needs to be explained). However, if you installed new plugins, it’s a good idea to point out where the plugin settings are located and what options are available.
Step 3: Record!
My screencasts are usually 10 minutes long and I don’t spend a lot of time scripting or preparing ahead of time. Being yourself is perfectly okay! I log into the dashboard, set Screenium to record, and briefly go through all the elements on my list. This part takes 15-20 minutes max depending on the complexity of the theme and how many times I lose track of what I’m talking about and have to start over. 🙂
Step 4: Test your video.
If you’re like me, you may hate hearing your own voice. Unfortunately, though, you need to play your video back to make sure your audio is working correctly, it’s not blurry, etc. before you turn it over to the client.
Embedding the Video in your Client’s Dashboard
Creating a theme walkthrough video is great, but it’s even better for your client if the video can be embedded directly in his/her WordPress dashboard. This makes it incredibly simple to find the info s/he needs.
Step 1: Upload your video to the service of your choice.
I send all my walkthroughs to YouTube as unlisted videos, which means they are only accessible to someone who has the direct link. (Not that they’re top secret, but I just don’t want to clutter my channel with them.) You can use any service you want as long as it provides an embed code. I usually create an image with the site’s logo to use for the video thumbnail, but that’s totally optional.
Step 2: Create a simple plugin.
I like to add my videos via a functionality plugin to make it easy for the client to remove the video once s/he no longer needs it. To do that, paste the following into your favorite text editor:
A couple of things you’ll want to change:
(1) The plugin title. I use a title that is specific to my business, but you can name the plugin anything you’d like. Whatever you enter is what will show in the Installed Plugins screen.
(2) The plugin URI. I use the client’s site URL here but you can also use your own site’s URL if you prefer.
(3) The author info. Obviously you’ll want to replace this with your own information.
(4) The widget title. On line 18, you’ll see ENTER A WIDGET TITLE – this is the heading your client will see in his/her dashboard, so replace that with whatever you want.
(5) The text and embed code. On line 22, you’ll see the short paragraph I place above the video for my clients. You can replace that with anything you’d like. After that, you’ll want to replace EMBED CODE GOES HERE with the actual embed code for the video.
Here’s what the video will look like in the dashboard:
Step 3: Upload your plugin.
Create a folder and place the plugin’s PHP file inside it, then zip the folder. You can now upload the plugin via Plugins > Add New in your client’s dashboard and activate it to see the embedded video on the dashboard homepage.
That’s all, folks!
By following the steps above, you can create theme walkthrough videos for your clients and embed in their WordPress dashboards via a functionality plugin. Your clients will be thrilled that you took the time to make things easier for them and you can celebrate the project’s launch without worrying that your inbox is about to overflow.
Do you create videos for your clients? How do you introduce them to a new theme and all its features?