Where there’s software, there’s documentation. Whether it’s to increase usage, provide tutorials, or explain your processes, documentation is as inevitable as coding. However, you’ll also need screenshots – or, more precisely, updated screenshots.
In fact, outdated documentation is one of the main reasons why users do not read it.
Unfortunately, as software changes over time, your screenshots quickly become outdated. In other words, every time you add or remove a feature or change your product's functionality, you will need to add more screenshots or update existing ones.
Even minor changes can impact your screenshots and, ultimately, the user experience. You can do this manually, but as the number of screenshots increases, it becomes more time and resource-intensive.
Fortunately, there is a simpler solution, and in this post, we will show you how to keep your screenshots up to date and turn them into another IT task you’ve successfully automated!
You might think that you should consistently update your documentation so that your users can use your product effectively. While that might be the case on the surface, it goes deeper than that.
When you update your documentation, you’ll ensure that your users have access to accurate and relevant information, which means that you will
Ultimately, good documentation keeps your churn rate low and your revenue high.
We’ll mention a few approaches, but remember that there is no single best solution. The solution you use will depend on your unique requirements.
We’ve already mentioned that you can update your documentation screenshots manually. But what would this process look like in practice? To illustrate, we’ll use a simple example.
Suppose you developed a calorie counter app and changed how calories are calculated and displayed. Or maybe you change some visual aspects of your application.
Either way, you’ll work through your documentation to see what impact these changes have had.
Along the way, you can even make notes of any pages or images that need changes. Once you’ve worked through the documentation, you’ll go back and, based on your notes, make the changes from the start.
Now, this approach has a few problems. What happens if a change to the application causes significant changes to your documentation and the screenshots? Also, as mentioned earlier, you’ll need to take more screenshots every time you introduce a new feature.
Not exactly the most efficient approach, is it?
Finally, you can also automate the process when new screenshots are necessary to keep your documentation updated.
For example, you likely already use automated testing to ensure your product works as it should. This allows you to automate your documentation screenshots.
You’ll write unit, integration, or end-to-end tests like you usually would, but then include that it will take a screenshot of the feature once the test passes.
Another opportunity to automate your documentation screenshots is to take them as part of a GitHub Action or as part of your CI/CD workflow. When you do, you’ll take a screenshot of the feature every time you push code to GitHub and deploy your changes.
No matter what approach you use, you can use any one of the testing tools available out there together with a tool like ScreenshotAPI, which lets you take programmatic screenshots effortlessly. You can even extract text from screenshots should you want to keep a searchable archive, so you know which screenshots need to be updated.
No matter what approach you use to keep your screenshots up to date, here are a few tips that can help:
First, you should schedule regular reviews of your documentation, even if you use one of the automatic methods we mentioned above. These periodic reviews ensure that you never miss any information or details that should be added to your documentation.
Moreover, we mentioned earlier how you can use Git to take screenshots automatically. You can also use it for what it was designed to do. So, use it to keep track of any changes to your screenshots.
When you do, you’ll know what screenshots you’re using at any time at a glance, and you’ll be able to quickly identify which screenshots need to be updated when you’ve made a change to your product.
Another effective way to ensure that you have updated screenshots is to ask your user base to provide feedback on your documentation.
In this way, you’ll identify any outdated screenshots or errors and make the necessary changes.
You now know why you should keep your documentation up to date and some of the methods you can use to do so, depending on your requirements.
No matter what method you use, a tool that simplifies the process of taking screenshots is always helpful.