Lessons learned and tips on managing team development projects

Dec 23, 2013

I'm just finishing up a rather large development project, one of the first in which we used Storyline, and I'm looking to share some lessons learned that might help us next time around.

The Process

Here's the process we used this time:

  1. The existing content (which was built using a custom Flash SCORM engine) was scraped into a series of Word documents and placed on a network share for the content team to review and organize.
  2. Following their review and edits, I used the Word content to build out the Storyline project. When I had a draft build ready, I would publish it to an internal web server for review (I gave each build a unique number for reference). I would also output the Storyline Word document, add my comments to it, use it to generate an "answer key" (by saving a copy and manually removing everything except the quiz answer tables), and place all that content (with a corresponding build number) on a network share for the reviewers to reference and add their own comments.
  3. Once their review was complete, I would take their Word document comments and use that to drive the changes in the next build. Wash, rinse, repeat.

My Challenges

I found it really difficult time to work with Storyline slide masters, especially feedback slides. This surprised me, because they seem to be based on the PowerPoint notion of masters, and I'm pretty familiar with the concept. At times there didn't seem to be a lot rhyme or reason to how masters were applied or how their layout affected the associated slides. I found myself making manual changes on a lot of slides that I felt should have been controlled through the masters.

Another basic element that proved to be quite challenging was fonts. Yeah, fonts. I had outlined Segoe UI as a custom font in all the masters and even in the Design ribbon for the project. Yet Storyline seemed to enjoy reverting to the standard Articulate font whenever it felt like doing so. In fact, I'd say a good 25% of my development time was just devoted to fighting with basic text formatting.

The course featured a lot of lengthy content, particularly in the feedback (not my choice), so we ended up using a lot of scrolling panels. These need a lot of improvements in Storyline 2.0, because it's just super flaky in the current version. I'd scroll halfway down the panel, then click to edit text, and the program would jump back to the beginning of the text box. So I'd scroll back down and try it again, and once again, it'd drop me back at the top of the box.

And there were a million other little things: setting the zoom level to anything other than 100% caused text to reflow awkwardly and prevented graphic assets from being positioned accurately, images larger than 2048px had to be cut and tiled to maintain fidelity (within a scrolling panel, which was super fun - see the previous paragraph), copying content between layers proved way more challenging than it should have been, variables were automatically created that couldn't be deleted even after they were no longer used, unnecessary triggers were automatically created each time I edited quizzes (which I then had to remember to delete), and hyperlinks were lost/corrupted when text was copied and pasted between slides within the project. I love Storyline, but honestly, the UI still feels extremely 1.0 in places.

The Word output was nice (even if it was totally lifted from Engage - seriously, look at the title property of the output document - it says Articulate Engage). But I didn't really like having to generate a new Word output file each time I built the project, because I had to manually carry previous comment history and markup over to each new version (since the comments didn't exist in the Storyline project file itself). I think it'd be preferable if real developer comments could be added directly to the content (a la PowerPoint). I know some of you have experimented with adding custom layers and objects outside the stage, but none of those seem to work very well in my experience. A real commenting system would be preferable.

Team Challenges

All things considered, our team design process worked pretty well. Some of our reviewers had difficulty with the abstract notion of managing changes through a Word document based on the project output instead of just making their changes in a PowerPoint or directly in the course project. Others expressed concerns about all the overhead and multiple document versions being overwritten with each others changes.

Next Time

Next time we do this, I'd really like to involve SharePoint for asset management and issue tracking. I'm wondering if any of you have experience with this model and can offer any tips? How well does Storyline integrate with SharePoint libraries and the check-out/versioning model? I'd love to have a discussion on these topics with any seasoned developers in this great community. Thanks!

5 Replies
Ashley Terwilliger-Pollard

Hi Greg, 

Thanks for sharing your work process here, and a few of the challenges you ran into. I wanted to offer a bit of information that may help you out in the future. 

I've heard other users talk of slide masters being "tricky" especially with how they're named and which one is being accessed by a slide. I'd suggest beginning by reviewing the tutorials here on slide masters and feedback masters.   If there was something specific that you set up on your master, that was then not working on the slides, we'd definitely want to help you by taking a look, and there are some known items that won't work on a slide master.  

The formatting of fonts within Storyline is something we've seen as a feature request, and you're welcome to join in by submitting one here.  As another example, if you're pasting text in from another program, Storyline will handle it as described here.  

The behavior you're describing with the scrolling panel is not something I'm able to replicate on my own Storyline files. I am able to scroll to the bottom or middle of a scrolling panel, click inside and my cursor stays where I clicked instead of jumping back to the top. 

Some other items you may want to check as they'll help Storyline behave as expected, and could be contributing to a few of the issues you've mentioned:

If you come across something that you think is a bug or isn't working properly in your course, please feel free to share the .story file here with us in the forums or send along to our Support team here.  Additionally, if there are features you'd like to see in future versions of Storyline you're welcome to share your thoughts directly with our development team here. 

Phil Mayor

Hi Greg I would agree with you about scroll panels, I have felt that pain so many time.

Setting slide masters. feedback masters and the project design fonts can help, but often I find layers resort to articulate font.

for Review have you looked at Review my Elearning by BuiltClean?  It is a great tool, and manages reviews and allows a number of users to type in comments on each slide.

Katie Venit

Greg, I feel your pain with a lot of those issues. The font one, especially, is infuriating. I've not infrequently experienced formatting all the fonts, and then save and close the file, only to find them different the next time I open it. This seems to happen especially with the notes, which I use as a transcript to print to the side of the player. 

Wanted to say (other than commiserating), you might try repairing or reinstalling Storyline, if you haven't already. Some of my issues went away when I tried that. Not all, but some. 

My process is very similar to yours, except I build much of the course in ppt before importing into Storyline, not Word. This allows me to save the ppt on SharePoint and changes with team members can happen much easier, especially narration revisions, which is the primary thing that my team wants to change (they generally trust me with the on-screen graphics). I've also found that I can more easily build graphic design elements in ppt, which offers more options than Storyline. Once I import into Storyline, I do work from a file on my hard drive, however, as Storyline saved in SharePoint seems like it's asking for trouble. When I do a ppt import, there are always tinkerings that I have to do and I need to reformat the slides, it's not a perfect import. 

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