I think I'm the sort of person who would benefit a lot from what you're proposing. However, I don't think there's a single format that would be best for all kinds of situations. Sometimes, a video demonstrating what a particular effect is or how someone achieves that effect can be much more effective than written instructions, but at other times written instructions may cover some key points that are passed over too quickly (or just assumed) in a video. For me, the key element is detail
. I was recently trying to use a piece of software to get a particular effect with graphics. My attempts were all flawed. I went to a video that the company had prepared to illustrate how to achieve this effect, but though it showed someone successfully creating what I wanted, it somehow glossed over some of the key steps and was thus of no use to me. I finally wrote to tech support, and their response spelled out the steps that had not been mentioned anywhere else. That's what I needed. So whether it's a video or written instructions, I think the more detailed it is, the better. (For that reason, I wouldn't think pop-up help would be all that useful. If it was sufficiently detailed it might turn out to be annoying, popping up every few seconds with another piece of advice.)
I've always learned best by having a general outline and then a specific list of steps that I can then experiment with. I have tried to write as much help as possible in Sagelight, but I am also the sort of person who doesn't read the instructions in software that I buy! I am experimenting with the idea of a quick-info sheet where it can be launched for each function with a concise list of features.
Now that Sagelight has been around for a while, I've been able to see what works and what doesn't work, and I am also finding that what works for some people works well, but it isn't necessarily the thing that works for someone else.
So far, I'm finding that the idea of having a little topical '?' button around each function works pretty well, as opposed to having to search for the subject in the help. I'm also learning that a detailed help discussion isn't as helpful as I'd like. It becomes a bit of a catch-22 in the sense that the reference needs to be there for as much as possible for when you need it, but to get a general intuitive sense of the function, it's better to keep it short. But, then, I'm feeling that a lot of the really cool things you can do with this switch or that isn't really explained, either!
So, the video tutorials seem like a good choice, and I'm also finding that, for people who like the video tutorials, this seems to be a great method (as long as I can learn to speak slower, which has been a comment I've received a few times. ha). But, I'm finding that the video tutorials only works as the best tool for a small percentage of people. I'm thinking that it might be because they are located on Youtube as opposed to something you can load and view immediately in the software?
One of my main things is what you talked about -- writing tech support about how to do a specific thing in the video. I get those letters, and I'm always happy to explain how to do something. But, on the other hand, I want to find a way to get across those basic elements in the video so that it's easier to play with and to mix-and-match components. As Sagelight grows, that mix-and-match ability grows and grows but can also become more obscure because the dots need to be connects, such as doing one filter and then another, and then mixing them, say, with an overlay blending, and that sort of thing.
What do you think about the idea of video tutorial snippets? The idea being to do multiple small 1-2 minute detail on a specific aspect of a function, as opposed to a 10-minute video outlining the whole thing? I agree with you about the issue of detail, but that's when an overall-tutorial starts to become very dry and elongated.