Slide Dynamic: Interview with Tim James
SlideDynamic was designed to combat boring and irrelevant PowerPoint presentations, by allowing a level of interactivity with audiences. This is done by automatically creating Flash-based menus within PowerPoint that allow the user to skip to different slides within a presentation, without reverting back to the slide sorter screen.
We interviewed Tim, creator of SlideDynamic, to gain his perspective on the thought process behind the SlideDynamic plug-in:
So Tim, tell us a bit about yourself. What’s your background?
I spent the majority of my working life working for Adobe, specifically on flash applications. Flash has been seen historically as a way to create animations; a graphical user interface that delivers nothing more than animation. So my role was to try and develop the market and people’s understanding to realize that flash is a tactile user interface that can be used to perform a wide variety of functions.
And what prompted the creation of SlideDynamic?
When Macromedia was acquired by Adobe, I decided to work from an independent perspective, to leverage Flash on websites for a more tactile experience. I wanted to focus less on user experience, and more on the outcome that results from that experience.
When I was engaging with these organisations, 90% of what I was trying to convey to these representatives was delivered by PowerPoint. And in this, I found a parallel to the way websites are designed. It would be foolish to think that we’d go on a website and go through it in a sequential fashion in order to try and find information. There are various functions on a website that allow us to navigate to acquire the information we need, and it struck me that this is the sort of setup that could be useful in a presentation.
Historically, this would be done by the use of hyperlinks. I tried creating a whole process of hyperlinks – and soon realised that my time could have been far better spent.
What did you want to achieve with the software? What was the ultimate aim?
The main aim was to reduce the time and effort involved in manually creating hyperlinks in PowerPoint. I wanted to enable presenters to produce more personal, more relevant presentations for their audiences, by allowing them to ask questions and respond using PowerPoint as supporting material. And of course, the system wasn’t to replace normal linear presentations, which would not be appropriate in all situations – it was there to support them.
What were the biggest challenges in creating it?
When creating SlideDynamic, I was keenly focused on the outcomes. The biggest challenge was to get a balance between operational efficiency, and delivering something that provides a tangible benefit. I wanted a system that the presenter could operate with only 2 or 3 clicks, but that still delivered enough benefit to create a tangible value proposition.
What are you particularly proud of about the software?
I think ultimately, SlideDynamic’s best feature is its simplicity. It’s very quick to deploy, and is not difficult to understand. New users can get to work on it quite quickly.
My favourite functional benefit is the back navigation. It’s nice to have an elegant way to go back through slides you have presented, regardless of their order – as this is something audiences often ask for. Being able to do that really quickly and easily is something I’m really pleased about.
Is there anything else on the cards?
Yes, there are a few bits and pieces in development. The use of Flash as a user interface for PowerPoint opens up a lot of opportunities for us. We’ve discussed a few additions to SlideDynamic that would improve functionality:
1) An Analytics function. This would enable a form of tracking on the presentation, providing the presenter with certain statistics, such as how long they spent on each slide.
2) A mind map. Rather than a linear menu to select from, the navigational thumbnails can be dragged and dropped around the interface and arranged in whatever shape order the user wants.
3) Movement tracking. Flash interacts really well with a webcam. If the presenter points at a certain area of the screen, Flash can detect this and perform a function for it.
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