Convincing customers to sign up for your trial and try your software ain't easy. Hey, it's a hell of a job!
You've done the heavy lifting and made them visit your website. Or open your email.
Now how do you close the deal?
This is where screenshots come in. Screenshots are probably the most undervalued aspect of software marketing. Here's why:
You have 15 seconds to capture someone's interest before he or she leaves your website. For good. You do that with a compelling value proposition - and a visual. It's no coincidence that the leading visual is called hero shot.
That hero, that's your software!
In this post, you'll learn how to take killer screenshots and how to transform them into software mockups that increase conversions and boost your sales.
You don't need to be a graphic designer or artist. We'll cover all the tools and tricks you need to up your screenshot game and get those sign-ups and customers!
Overview: What you'll learn in this post
Step 1: Four questions to take the perfect screenshot
Step 2: How to prepare your software
Step 3: How to prepare your browser (for web apps)
Step 4: How to take the screenshot on Mac or Windows
Next: How to create a mockup showing the screenshot
Do you have any special tricks for your screenshots? Please leave me a comment below.
Preparation is everything and will save you a ton of time later.
To start off, ask yourself the following questions:
Don't forget: A picture speaks more than a thousand words.
Your website visitors will get their first impression by scanning your screenshots, not by reading all the texts on your page.
Take the time to answer the four questions, and you have a much bigger chance to spark the interest of your visitors and make them sign up!
(We've prepared a handy checklist - download it here for free.)
Don't just fire up your software and take a random screenshot. Why?
The curse of knowledge.
We all suffer from it, I most definitely do. Here's a short refresher course from Wikipedia:
"The curse of knowledge is a cognitive bias that occurs when an individual, communicating with other individuals, unknowingly assumes that the others have the background to understand."
We know the software we're marketing and selling inside out.
But those new customers we want to attract, those new website visitors, those who have recently signed up - they are totally lost. Try walking in their shoes:
They've just come to your website or signed up for your trial. They don't have much time on their hands to check out whether your software is right for them. They don't know how the software works, how it's structured, how it's navigated.
And with today's super short attention span of only 8.25 seconds, you must capture their interest immediately, or they'll be gone forever.
The good news: That's easier to achieve than you might think. Here's how:
Now, your answers from step 1 come in handy: Which feature are you gonna showcase? Why and to whom?
With that in mind, don't be afraid to hide everything unnecessary that does not help to explain the feature you want to take a screenshot of:
What if your (potential) customers could understand the screenshot without any further explanation? Just by looking at it?
Here's the trick: Populate your software with demo data that speaks for itself.
Are you making a screenshot of a sales pipeline? A customer list? Put in the effort and add a bunch of opportunities, clients, etc., and the screenshot becomes self-explanatory.
Don't publish those ugly screenshots with just one data entry called "test", leaving most fields and lists empty.
If possible, try to tell a story. That's easy if your screenshot shows a timeline, history or list:
When taking a series of screenshots, be consistent with the demo data and thus create a story spanning several screenshots (for example always featuring the same person or user).
Nobody likes boring presentations. And what better than some humor to spark the interest of your potential clients?
I can almost read your thoughts: How the hell can you get fun elements into software screenshots?
Yes, you can. Let's go back to the demo data you used to tell a story within the screenshot:
Put in some thought, ask your colleagues, and you can certainly come up with something.
Populating good demo data takes time. But it pays off:
Your website visitors will immediately grasp what your software is about and how it can help them.
And that's what's gonna make them sign up for your trial or become a paying customer.
This step applies only to cloud, SaaS and web-based software, as these are running within a web browser. So if your software is native, continue with step 4.
Just like reducing all the unnecessary stuff within your software, hide everything within the browser that is distracting your potential customer:
I usually take screenshots with just one browser tab showing the software.
For most use cases, a 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio works best.
Try avoiding square or vertical screenshots, as the human eye is used to horizontal views (unless it's a screenshot of a mobile phone app, of course).
I usually take my screenshots on Google Chrome, as it's the browser that most business applications support the best.
To get the browser size and aspect ratio right, there's a handy browser extension called "Window Resizer" (free on the Google Chrome Webstore):
After adding it to Google Chrome, you can choose from a set of size presets and even create your own.
For use in my YouTube videos, I've created a new preset with 1440x810 pixels. That gives me perfectly adjusted 16:9 screenshots on my 15-inch MacBook Pro, which show without any black borders in my YouTube videos.
Finally, check the zoom factor within your browser (in Google Chrome, you'll find the current zoom by clicking on the icon with the three vertical dots in the upper right corner).
I recommend starting with 100%, which gives you the best rendering of the web application.
If your current software screen is rather empty, try increasing the zoom to 110%, 125% or even 150%. Always check if everything is still visible and correctly rendered.
To quickly adjust the zoom in Google Chrome, use the keyboard shortcuts [⌘ +] to increase the zoom factor or [⌘ -] to decrease it.
Now that you've put so much energy into preparation, it's time to reap the benefits and take that perfect screenshot!
Although rather limited in their possibilities, you can start with the built-in apps on your computer:
On Windows, open the built-in Snipping Tool via Start > All Programs > Windows Accessories > Snipping Tool. Click New and use your mouse to select the desired region or take a screenshot of the browser window.
On Mac, open the Grab Application via Applications > Utilities. Click Capture in the top menu and choose to capture a window. Then click on your prepared browser windows and you're good to go!
I personally use SnagIt from TechSmith for all of my screenshots. It's the most professional tool out there, and offers loads of added features compared to the built-in Windows and Mac tools:
It's also one of the pricier tools out there at US$ 49.95, but the time I save taking screenshots makes it more than worthwhile to me.
TechSmith offers a free 15-day trial, so consider giving it a try.
No matter what tool you use, always save your screenshot as a PNG file, which gives you clear and crisp images with no blur.
In the next part of this series, I'll show you how you can easily create a stunning mockup, showing your screenshot on a MacBook or PC in a real-life environment:
If you're curious: My favorite tool for creating mockups is PlaceIt.net, which does it all for you - no special knowledge or applications required.
Or you can buy a mockup template on Envato, which you then edit with Adobe Photoshop.
Now that you've created all those beautiful screenshots, start looking out for your conversion rates: Are more people clicking your marketing emails? Do you see higher conversions on your landing pages?
Tell me in the comments below!
50% Complete Yeah!
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