1-Minute Marketing blog

How to Take Killer Software Screenshots that Boost Sales

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!


What you’ll learn in this post

Four questions to take the perfect screenshot
How to prepare your software
How to prepare your browser (for web apps)

How to take screenshots on Mac or Windows

How to create a mockup showing the screenshot

Do you have any special tricks for your screenshots? Please leave me a comment below.

Step 1: Four questions to take the perfect screenshot

Preparation is everything and will save you a ton of time later.

To start off, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why are you taking the screenshot?
    Is it to increase conversions and boost sales by attracting new customers who don’t know much about your software yet? Or do you want to delight your existing customers, by enabling them to get the most out of your software?
  • Who is the screenshot for?
    New website visitors who are unfamiliar with your software will need much simpler and self-explanatory screenshots than heavy users who are interested in newsletters with feature updates and improvements.
  • Which feature do you want to showcase?
    In the eyes of your customer, software is complicated enough. Ideally, focus on one feature. Just one. To attract new customers, choose features your customers benefit from the most. For long-term customers, don’t be afraid to showcase small improvements, which can prove super valuable for power users. 
  • Where will you put the screenshot?
    Screenshots for email newsletters and social media should be smaller in size, focusing only on parts of your software. If the screenshot is for your website or a video, it can be bigger, but don’t overcomplicate things by showing too much unnecessary stuff (I’ll come to that later).

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!

Step 2: How to prepare your software

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:

1) Reduce clutter and hide everything unnecessary

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:

  • Hide unnecessary toolbars and sidebars
  • Close unnecessary popups and windows
  • Decrease the size of less important elements (if you can’t hide them)
  • Delete unnecessary demo data

2) Populate the software with data and tell a story

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).

3) Bring in some fun elements

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:

  • Use stars, public people or comic characters.
    If your software displays user names, client names or – even better – avatars of them, populate these: George Clooney, Bart Simpson or Angela Merkel, there’s plenty of possibilities.
  • Put fun elements into the story you’re telling.
    There’s a reminder visible in your screenshot? Why not remind Tim Cook to consider switching to Samsung?

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.

Step 3: How to prepare your browser (for web apps)

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.

1) Reduce clutter within the web browser

Just like reducing all the unnecessary stuff within your software, hide everything within the browser that is distracting your potential customer:
  • Hide unnecessary toolbars and sidebars
  • Close unnecessary browser tabs
  • Hide unnecessary icons from the toolbar
I usually take screenshots with just one browser tab showing the software.

2) Adjust the browser size and aspect ratio

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 1440×810 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.

3) Adjust the zoom factor

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.

Step 4: How to take the screenshot on Mac or Windows

Now that you’ve put so much energy into preparation, it’s time to reap the benefits and take that perfect screenshot!

1) Take the screenshot with Windows/Mac built-in apps

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!

2) Use a professional screen capture tool like SnagIt

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:
  • Take perfect screenshots with the magnifying glass
  • Easily add markup, arrows, etc. to clarify or emphasize important parts
  • Take complete screenshots, even if the lower part of your software is not visible on screen
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.

Next: How to create a mockup showing the screenshot

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.

You’ve done it! Now reap the glory 🙂

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!
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