Mar 15, 2007

PowerPoint sucks, take two

This is a point that bares repeating... a lot.

(Taken from Seth Godin's blog)

Bullets Are For the NRA
Here are the five rules you need to remember to create amazing Powerpoint presentations:

  1. No more than six words on a slide. EVER. There is no presentation so complex that this rule needs to be broken.
  2. No cheesy images. Use professional stock photo images.
  3. No dissolves, spins or other transitions.
  4. Sound effects can be used a few times per presentation, but never use the sound effects that are built in to the program. Instead, rip sounds and music from CDs and leverage the Proustian effect this can have. If people start bouncing up and down to the Grateful Dead, you’ve kept them from falling asleep, and you’ve reminded them that this isn’t a typical meeting you’re running.
  5. Don’t hand out print-outs of your slides. They don’t work without you there.
The reason I keep bringing this up is to hopefully force the point that there is no prize for putting as many words and crappy clip art on a slide.

Mar 9, 2007

Breeze is not always the answer

In a department where time always seems to be short, the technology solution for online courses generally turns out to be Breeze. The problem is that this delivery method is decided on before the design of the course material has been created. The content should drive the technology, not the other way around.

One project that I'm currently working on is to create an online tutorial for new users of a new application that is being purchased for the company. The tutorial should allow new users to quickly learn the tasks needed for their job. Examples and scenarios should use real-world situations users would experience on the job. Existing materials include the user tutorial of the application vendor.

I already know that time and budget is tight and one of the constraints is that audio will not be used in the tutorial. This means that users will need to rely on text or simulations to lean the tasks. Reading large amounts of text on paper is daunting enough, reading text online is even worse.

The project manager already is suggesting that Breeze be the delivery method. I disagree. Here's why.
  • Breeze is essentially PowerPoint. Who wants to read slide after slide of paragraphs of text and bullets?
  • Often words are crammed into a slide to get as much information in a possible. If the text is getting too small, users have no opportunity to change the font size. They're stuck with what is given to them.
  • The real estate given for the presentation is less than half of the available screen size. This is because Breeze wraps its presentation is their own branding skin, with navigation bars and pretty backgrounds. So in a text-heavy or simulation-heavy tutorial like this one, users will either have to strain their eyes to view 680x800 worth of content into a 400x300 size viewing area, or click through a lot of slides.
There are other delivery options that may be better suited for this project.

HTML pages would be much easier for a user to absorb text.
  • They can adjust the font size to one that makes readability better and the page length is not finite.
  • Flash can be embedded in for demonstrations or simulations with much less hassle than trying to embed it into PowerPoint.
  • Content edits can be handled much easier and publishing changes would require less testing. If a change is made in Breeze, everything has to be retested once its been published because Breeze has a habit of being unpredictable.
Flash would also be a delivery option. But it requires a stronger technological skill set -- much higher than all of the team members of this project. Also, the development time would be greater than if HTML or Breeze (shudder) was used.

My point is, the specific delivery tool can't be the driver for developing content. The needs of the project will determine which delivery tool to use.