presentation Usability (with Ramone the Testing Otter)

Hi everyone it’s Ramone the Testing Otter here and I want to talk to you about usability.

Usability is basically how easily people can achieve their goals using your thing (software, slides, shiny rock for juggling, etc…). We can say that something is usable when it is:

  • Effective, it lets me to do the thing I want to do accurately.
  • Efficient, it lets me do the things I want to do quickly.
  • Engaging, it feels good to use / has charisma.
  • Educating, it teaches me how to do what I want to do.
  • Error tolerant, it prevents me doing the wrong things.

Sounds pretty simple right? But we see basic usability fails all the time, one example of that is presentation slides…

Fig 1. Ramone the Testing Otter talks about Usability on Slides.

Too much on the slide

People love to add lots of content to their slides and content is good right? Well, not always…

A picture of a slide that has a title, three paragraphs, six bullet points and two charts on it.
Fig 2. A very cluttered presentation slide.

Remember the “5 e’s” we mentioned earlier? Let’s think about those when it comes to a presentation.

  • Effective, the presentation should allow me to convey information and support people listening to me presenting.
  • Efficient, the presentation should give people a quick and clear heads up / flavour of what I’m about to say.
  • Engaging, the presentation should help add confidence that they’re in good hands with me as a presenter.
  • Educating, the presentation should support getting into a flow of the presentation.
  • Error tolerant, the presentation shouldn’t highlight if the speaker says the wrong thing or misses something.

When we turn our slides into an essay we make them effective for conveying as written material but not as presenting material. If the user’s goal is to learn something by listening to your presentation then we need slides that support that (rather than them getting side tracked by reading).

If we want to increase effectiveness and efficiency of presentation slides then we need to remember the user’s goal; to be informed by you and see the highlights of what you’re going to say. User’s don’t want to read a whole wall of text, they want a little something to support what you’re going to say.

So keep slides simple! Stick to having a maximum of a few talking points that you’re going to cover that someone can scan quickly.

A picture of a slide that has only three short bullet points on it.
Fig 3. A simple slide with three points.

A slide with less information on it effectively communicates the highlights of what you’re going to say to the audience efficiently.

Visual clutter

Slides are our chance to get all creative and show our aesthetic right? Well yes, having a clear design is good but watch out for over designing things.

A picture of a slide that has a title and long paragraph over the top os a picture.
Fig 4. An overdesigned slide.

Look at this slide, it has a picture of me on it so it’s pretty, that’s engaging right? Engaging doesn’t just mean pretty, it means that it feels good to use because it gets you to your goal easily.

On this slide there’s a lot going on: picture, title, copy, two fonts, boxes around things. There’s a lot for the user to take in visually before they even get to the content of the slide. Ask yourself, did you start reading the paragraph first or did your eyes wander around the picture and design first?

A picture of a slide that only includes a title and text. There is no background image or extra design elements.
Fig 5. A slide with less design.

By removing design elements (in this case the picture) and adding white space to your slides we focus the user’s eye on the content. This means they can effectively and efficiently get to content, which makes the presentation more engaging. We can take this in the other direction and remove the text from slides and just have pictures to help build engagement.

A picture of a slide that shows a picture of two otters and a title in a band of white at the bottom of it.
Fig 6. This is a picture of me hugging Tractor the Usability Otter.

Picture slides like this are more engaging because they allow the listener to focus on you. Plus they stop you just reading out what’s on the screen, making you a more engaging and dynamic presenter!

There’s nothing worse than a presenter who’s obviously reading out what’s already on the screen. If there’s only minimal text or an image that supports what we’re saying we stop reading and start presenting (which is more engaging).

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