Things You Should Do Before Developing Captivate Simulations–Part 1

I have been developing software simulations using Adobe Captivate for almost a decade now. So, based on my experience, I am going to use this two-part post to share the activities that you should consider performing before developing simulations using Captivate. Whether you work alone or in a team, these activities will help you standardize the development process and mass produce high quality simulations that look and work consistently. Not only that, these activities will also reduce rework in your project. 

As you know, Adobe releases a new version of Captivate almost every year. However, the points I am going to share with you in this post are timeless. It is 2019, and these points still hold true today!

Note: In this post, I will be using the words ‘software’ and ‘application’ interchangeably, but they mean the same.

1 Make Sure the Application is Ready for Recording Simulations

This is a very important point. Do not record simulations before the software application is stable or at least some of its functionalities are stable. Your client or subject matter expert (SME) can confirm the status of the application. Recording simulations of an unstable application will lead to rework, because the application’s screens may undergo frequent changes.

There are a couple of ways in which you can work around an unstable application. You can request the application development team for a list of features that are stable for recording simulations. Use this list to prioritize the simulations for development. Moreover, request the development team to update you when new features are ready for recording simulations.

2 Get Access to the Application

You should be able to access the application before you can record a simulation. So, talk to the development team or client and set up application access, which includes creating user accounts and credentials in the application, installing security certificates in your computer, configuring IP range to access client network, installing remote desktop software, making sure the application has enough data in it, etc.

3 Check the Version of Captivate

Check with your client which version of Captivate should be used in your project. I do not recommend the use of multiple versions of Captivate within a team. Opening a Captivate file in a different version may lead to loss of some formatting settings and functionalities, which will result in rework.

4 Train Your Team on Captivate

If you are working in a team, you may get some team members who have never worked on Captivate. So, create a training plan, and train your team members well in advance so that they are productive when the project starts. 

5 Check the Operating System Version

Although Captivate works fine on different versions of the Windows operating system, I have noticed some visual differences on comparing the simulations published in different versions of Windows. For example, the simulations look crisper, brighter, and better in newer versions of Windows.

So, if everyone in your team uses the same version of Windows, you can expect to see the same visual quality in all the simulations developed by different team members. 

6 Configure the Operating System

Perform the following configurations in your computer to record simulations without any distractions and to maximize the application screen area available for recording:
  • Set the screen resolution of your computer to match the resolution specified for the project.
  • Enable auto-hide in the taskbar settings to maximize the recording area.
  • Disable pop-up notifications in Microsoft Outlook and chat programs, such as Skype, so that they don’t accidentally appear on the screen while simulation recording is in progress.
If you are still publishing simulations to the Flash format, then add your project folder in the Flash trusted location. This is required to enable right-click actions within simulations.

7 Request for Client Branding Guidelines

Request your client for their branding guidelines. That way, you can add the brand’s flavor to the simulations also. Having a familiar look and feel will help learners to easily relate with and adopt the content. Not only that, the new content will easily blend with the client’s existing content in terms of look and feel.

The branding guidelines will typically include color palette, logo usage guidelines, and font details.

If your client does not have a branding guidelines document, you can develop the document by referring to the client’s Web site. Make sure to get the document approved by the client.

8 Confirm Which English to Follow

You may be developing simulations for a U.S. or U.K. client. Based on the project requirements, set the language in the Captivate Preferences window. For instance, if you select U.S. English, the text captions within the simulations will appear in U.S. English spellings, such as ‘color’ and ‘center.’ Your client can tell you which English should be used.

9 Finalize the Screen Resolution for Recording Simulations

In most projects, I have used 1024 by 768 screen resolution for developing simulations, but there have been some exceptions where the client wanted me to use a different resolution for recording simulations. So, ask your client about their preferred screen resolution. If they are not sure about it, recommend 1024 by 768.

If you end up recording using the wrong resolution, you can correct the resolution either by rerecording the simulation or by rescaling the simulation. If you decide to rescale, you will have to manually reposition and resize the captions, highlight boxes, click boxes, etc.

10 Identify the Simulation Modes

Captivate allows you to develop simulations in demo, assessment, training, and custom modes. The development effort varies across the modes. So, identify the simulation modes at the start of the project. 

11 Understand the Audio Requirements (Text-to-Speech or Artist)

Although it is rare to have audio in simulations, some clients insist on including audio. If this is the case, then determine whether text-to-speech audio will suffice, or audio must be recorded by a voice artist. This information is essential for you to configure Captivate, work with voice artist, and plan the project.

The text-to-speech feature in Captivate generates audio of decent quality. Before recording audio by a voice artist, send some voice samples to your client and ask them to approve at least two voice artists.

12 Configure Captivate 

Configure Captivate as per your project’s requirements. The following settings should be configured, as required:
  • Spelling preferences
  • Default settings
  • Recording settings
  • Project settings
  • Quiz settings
  • Captivate skin
  • Publishing settings

13 Create a Captivate Configuration Document

After configuring Captivate, document all the settings for future reference. If you work in a team, you can ask your team members to refer to the configuration document and configure Captivate in their computers.

14 Create Captivate Templates

In a team environment, configuring Captivate in each computer individually will be a tedious and time-consuming activity. But the good news is you can create project-specific templates in Captivate. The Captivate configuration settings will be stored in the template. Once you create the template, share it with your team members. When they develop new simulations using the template, the settings stored in the template will be automatically applied to the simulations.

15 Create Captivate Reusable Artifacts

Reusing artifacts in simulations will increase your productivity. So, identify the reusable artifacts, such as highlight boxes and captions, and store them in the Captivate template. When you share the template with you team, they can reuse these artifacts instead of recreating them. This will save considerable time and effort in the project. The reusable artifacts will also result in visual consistency across simulations.

16 Maximize the Application Screen to be Recorded

You should maximize the application screen before recording simulations to capture the full application screen in the recording and avoid unnecessary scrolling. If the application for which you are recording a simulation is Web based, press the F11 key on your keyboard while the browser is open. This will display the application in the full screen mode. In a form-based application, you can maximize the application screen by clicking the Maximize button.

That’s all for this post. I will share the remaining activities in the next post.