Text and More Text

I'm starting a new module that relies on a large of amount of text description from various policies, etc.   The audience is used to reading a great deal of text via Word, etc. on line but this module will attempt to sort of do the Reader's Digest version.   Always get great ideas from the community so looking for ideas on managing the amount of text per slide.   It's always a fine line between creating the module vs. just passing a link to the actual document(s), but for text slides specifically (and aside from bullet points), suggestions on:

  1. No. of words, etc. per slide
  2. Would column approach, like a newspaper, say 2 columns work?
  3. Font size  -  we tend to use Verdana
  4. Stay in full screen vs. toggle mode
  5. Use a document  as a Web object within module and then focus slides on summary or key points

Appreciate thoughts from those that tend to use or deal with text intensive slides.

13 Replies
Neil Stadlman

The content is based around credit understandings/policies (I work for a financial institution) and is initially targeted for new employees who come into the organization with some prior experience similar to our company.   I think it will lead to a scenario-based exercise, but I'm starting out more from the perspective of a reference tool.   The outcome would be a high level understanding on key policies, etc.    I've been down the compliance road where it all seems to be about text and don't care to take that trip again.   Fundamentally, some text suggestion would help on some of my other modules as well.

Saenna B Ahman

Hi Neil,!

What I have found in my company is that text heaviness is usually not as much of a problem if your strictly creating  a job aid or a reference tool, as Jeanette meantioned, AND if you use a readable typeface and organize things in away that makes the resource easy to skim/navigate and make the text easy on the eyes.  I use a lot of the techniques that David mentions in this blog post: http://community.articulate.com/blogs/david/archive/2010/09/06/reducing-bullet-points-and-on-screen-text.aspx

My learners often don't need/want the screens to be necessarily "engaging" stuff or full of bells and whistles if all they need to do is look up some information.

One nice/easy way of 'packaging' information-heavy slides is by using Engage - do you have that product as well as Presenter?

Jeanette Brooks

Saenna has some good points about making your content very pragmatic, if your goal is to create a reference tool. I like the idea of using Engage as a way of packaging your text-based content into something "explorable," too. I've seen lots of folks who are able to condense a whole bunch of texty slides into a single Engage interaction, and that can be really effective, especially if there is supporting media (such as images, movies, or narration) that you want to provide along with the text. Each point, topic, step, or whatever can occupy its own segment of the Engage interaction. Using Engage in this way is also an easy way to put the learner in the drivers seat, so to speak - you can allow them to explore at will, rather than force them to move through a lot of linear content, one slide at a time. Maybe you could adapt some of the Labeled Graphic ideas here?

Kristin Savko

Sometimes my work requires more text than I like to see on the screen. 

It seems to help if you can keep the text moving. Move the text in a little bit at a time to the narration, or "zoom in" on or highlight areas of the text that are being addressed at a specific moment.

It also seems to help to highlight important words in a different color to help pull out key words and phrases.

Love Jeanette's idea about using the Engage interaction too. The Flipbook interaction from the community comes to mind.

Judy Nollet

Consider using an Engage timeline interaction. Think of it as a "contentline," with the "periods" as sections, and each "event" as a chunk of information. Of course, any chunk can also include an image (or images if you compile them into one graphic file). The nice thing is that this type of interaction provides a lot of screen space to work with. It also lets the learners see at a glance how the content is organized.

Tips: keep the section/period titles short, so they fit completetly on screen. To do that, you'll probably also have to limit yourself to just a few sections--but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Good luck!

Jeanette Brooks

Neil, re: font size, this thread contains a few thoughts that you might be interested in. I think this is one question where if you ask 100 people about the ideal font & size you might get 100 different answers One rule of thumb that many designers stick to is to use a font with no (or minimal) seriphs on heading fonts, and use a seriph font for body/paragraph text - but I've even seen that rule broken many times, effectively - where the course is still effective and readable.

There are other attributes that often come in to play too, such as the actual font face (i.e., narrower font styles and more ornate or seriph-y fonts are harder to read at smaller sizes)... also the text color, background, and alignment can be a big factor as well. If text is something that you're concerned about, one thing you could do is ask a handful of users about their thoughts, prior to developing your course... that is, you could ask five or ten "typical" users (if there is such a thing, lol) to view a sample slide or two, in the environment in which you'll display your finished course, and get their impressions on readability and reading speed.

There's a really good book out there called The Non-Designer's Design Book by Robin Williams, and it contains some great before-and-after examples of how you can apply a few simple design rules to your text (and other visual design elements on your slides), and end up with content that is much easier and inviting for readers.

One additional thing to keep in mind is that if you've locked your presentation at optimal size (via Player Templates > Other > Presentation Size) then your users won't have any flexibility to scale the project to a larger size for readability.

Judy Nollet

I've heard that "non-serif for heading/serif for body text" rule before -- but, as I understand it, that was developed for printed materials. Text on screen is different, and using non-serif is generally easier to read there. As Jeanette pointed out, opinions vary widely about fonts. Keep in mind that, unless you can be sure all learners will have your favorite font installed, it's best to stick with a fairly standard one.

Jeanette Brooks

Thanks Judy! Actually a cool thing about publishing your output via any of the Articulate Studio products, is that the output is Flash, which means that learners don't need to have any particular fonts installed in order to view the published output. All they need is a browser and the Flash player, and the content will look great! Here's the official word on system requirements for learners:

Flash Player 6.0.79 or later (Flash Player 7 or later recommended), and one of the following browsers:

  • Windows: Internet Explorer 6 and later, Firefox 1.x and later, Safari 3 and later, Google Chrome, Opera 9.5 and later
  • Macintosh: Safari 3 and later, Firefox 1.x and later, Google Chrome
  • Linux: Firefox 1.x and later
Rebecca Fleisch Cordeiro

Regarding Serif and Sans Serif, Print vs. onscreen, a coupla' things. If you take a look at the Fonts Microsoft provides with the Design Themes, there are many combinations of headings/body content with Sans Serif for the headings and Serif for the body. Conversely, there are many pairs that reverse that. And, there are some where both body and content are the same....not that Microsoft is the be-all and end-all for design!

I personally find it easier to read even onscreen content in a serif typeface, or at the very least, I like when the headings are set up one way and body text the other. As Jeanette said, ask 100 different people...