A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend DevLearn 2019 for the first time with two of my amazing coworkers, Vicky Hale and Julia Shawver. (Want to learn more about DevLearn? Check out Julia’s latest blog!) While attending the session eLearning Prototyping with Adobe XD, a discussion broke out amongst the group about using Microsoft PowerPoint instead of Adobe XD for storyboarding. I was instantly inspired to do a comparison blog from a programmer perspective – it was going to be the showdown of all showdowns. I figured I could provide an outsider’s perspective since I don’t actually develop any of the storyboards we do at GAAP Dynamics (being that I’m not an accountant). However, it was brought to my attention that I should probably include the tool that we use to create storyboards, Microsoft Word. In today’s blog, I’ll be explaining some of the pros and cons to each of these three tools when it comes to storyboarding an eLearning course.
What is a storyboard?
A storyboard is essentially the “blueprint” of a course. It provides the programmer with a detailed description of what each slide should resemble. It contains the text, images, audio transcript, video outlines, programming instructions, and notes. Storyboards are critical in the eLearning development process. Without one, the programmer won’t know what interactions need to be developed. It also is a way for the client to know what is being produced for them – specifically, what content is being taught and how it is being presented to the learner.
Now that you understand what a storyboard is, let’s jump into the comparisons starting with Microsoft Word.
Microsoft Word is probably the easiest to use out of the three options. It allows you to create easy-to-use templates that can be adjusted quickly. For instance, our storyboard template contains screenshots of our standard slides from Articulate Storyline. Below each screenshot is a table that the storyboarder fills out with content to be included, programming instructions, audio, and any other notes. The storyboarder can easily swap out the screenshots and adjust the tables to meet the needs of each module.
- Track Changes is a great tool within Microsoft Word because it allows the storyboarder to see any changes the programmer has made. Also, the programmer can leave comments for the storyboarder, which we find is very useful in our development process. And most importantly, our clients, which are some of the largest accounting firms in the world, can review the storyboards in a tool that is familiar to them and can easily see their comments and our responses.
- Copying text over to the authoring tool, like Articulate Storyline, is simple and easy. For instance, the tables that we use in our storyboards show us exactly where the content is supposed to go on the slide.
- Unlike Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Word gives you a comprehensive view of the storyboard. The programmer is able to follow along regardless of whether the eLearning module is linear or branches to various scenes. Features like the Navigation Pane, which offers an at-a-glance menu of the entire storyboard, make this possible. This can be very helpful, as some of our storyboards exceed 100 pages!
- It’s simple. The programmer has to rely heavily on the instructions from the storyboarder because the screenshots might not reflect exactly what the storyboarder intended the slide to look like.
- Graphics and tables created in Word don’t transfer to authoring tools, like Storyline, easily nor are they scaled to match the size of the slide. This can be a major issue for a programming team because the storyboarders often use up too much slide real estate.
- Often times, other programs, like Microsoft PowerPoint, will have to be used to create mock-ups for custom slides, because the design tools are limited within Microsoft Word.
Microsoft PowerPoint is one of the more popular storyboarding tools within the eLearning community. It allows for the storyboarder to use a variety of shapes, graphics, and icons to develop detailed mock-ups for the programmer to follow.
- As mentioned earlier, Microsoft PowerPoint allows for the programmer to see a detailed mock-up of the slide. While it might not be true to size, it provides the programmer with directions on how the slide should be set up while also giving the storyboarder a visual cue on how much screen real-estate they have available.
- Many eLearning authoring tools allow for you to directly import Microsoft PowerPoint slides into the course. For a programmer, this is huge! They wouldn’t have to worry too much about the design aspect because ideally that part would be done, especially if a graphic designer is part of the development team. This means that their focus can be mainly on functionality.
- The notes section in Microsoft PowerPoint is not efficient for the text component of the slide. While it is great for showing visual mock-ups to the programmer, it lacks the ability to display the on-screen text in a comprehensive way.
- Copying elements such as shapes over to the authoring tool can be a bit of a challenge. Anything that you copy from Microsoft PowerPoint will paste as an image in the authoring tool making it difficult to edit.
- Microsoft PowerPoint doesn’t have track changing capabilities. So, if you have multiple parties involved with review and approval, it can be difficult to see where changes were made and who made the change. Individuals would have to leave comments on where they made changes, what the original content was, and how it was changed.
The final storyboarding tool we are going to discuss is Adobe XD. It is a User Experience Design (UX) solution for designing prototypes for websites, applications and now storyboards. And unlike the other two tools mentioned, it is free to use regardless of whether or not you have a subscription to the Creative Cloud.
- Adobe XD lets you adjust the size of your artboards to match the dimensions of your slides. This functionality will limit the number of times the programmer has to ask the storyboarder to make changes to their mock-ups, because the storyboarder will be able to easily see how much text will fit on the screen or how many images a screen can hold.
- Elements created in Adobe XD can be exported as a vector file. Vector files can be easily scaled while still retaining their quality. The programmer would be able to easily bring over the design elements without degrading the quality of the graphic.
- Adobe XD also has team collaboration capabilities, which means that multiple team members can be working on the same document at the same time.
- There is a learning curve with Adobe XD unlike with the other two programs. The storyboarder and programmer would have to be open to learning how to use it.
- Adobe XD doesn’t have track changes or a similar functionality that allows you to see the changes that others have made. While a programmer can be part of the collaboration team, it would be great for the storyboarder to see any of the changes the programmer makes.
While the storyboarder has complete control over which storyboarding tool they use, it might be nice to ask the programmer if they have a preference; Or ask them if they have any suggestions on how the storyboard should be built, so the programmer can efficiently create the desired content once they receive it.
As you can see, each of the three tools I mentioned have different advantages, as well as disadvantages. For instance, if you have a full development team with a graphic designer, storyboarder, and programmer, then Adobe XD might be the tool for you. However, if you are a one-man show, then maybe Microsoft PowerPoint is the tool that you choose. Lastly, if you are looking for a program that allows you to create easy-to-use, comprehensive templates, then Microsoft Word is the tool for you. Regardless of what you choose, just know that each program has its pros and cons.
So, which storyboarding tool do you prefer, and why? Let’s chat in the comments.
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