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Design a PowerPoint Navigation System

Learn to create a presentation that is viewed rather than being made...

Not all your PowerPoint presentations will be made to an audience. Many are destined to be watched by a person sitting at their computer and you won't be there to help them navigate through it.

This has implications for you as the presentation designer – you need to make it easy for a user to find their way around and you need to give them plenty of reasons to click on and work through all the aspects of the presentation that they are most interested in viewing or that you need them to see.

This month I’ll show you how you can leverage what we know about web design to create a presentation that is easy to navigate.

Design like the web
PowerPoint presentations that are viewed by a person alone and which don't logically need to be viewed one slide at a time, can behave more like websites than a typical PowerPoint presentation.

Make sure there are plenty of ways to move around the presentation and that the metaphors that you use for presenting navigation options are those that your audience will understand.

This is not a time to be esoteric or cutting edge – don't bury navigation options where they can't be seen. Use underlined text only for links and make sure items that are clickable look like they are clickable. On the flip side, make sure elements that aren't clickable don't pretend to be so.

Don't assume your viewers are PowerPoint experts – they may not be, and they may not even realise that the presentation is a PowerPoint one. Give them tools they need to navigate to the areas of the presentation they want to view and some way to get back to where they have come from.

Borrowing the essence of a web design navigation system for your presentation you will need a home page or 'mission central' that contains links to all other parts of the presentation and which contains brief detail describing the presentation and the various areas. Each slide should contain clear links to the next slide in the sequence (if this is appropriate) and to the home page and other key sections of the presentation.

Harnessing the power of the Slide Master
Using the slide master, you can place this navigation system on each slide so a user can click to move to any area of the slideshow. To do this, begin by mapping out the hierarchy of the slides in your presentation with the home page at the top and the major sections that will be part of the navigation system below this.

Once you have done this, create the barebones of your presentation by creating slides for the main areas of your presentation. You can add other slides that are on a lower hierarchical level later on.

Step 1
Select the slide master by choosing View > Master > Slide Master. Move the text placeholders on the slide out to make room for the navigation area. Add a textbox and type the navigation links inside this.

Step 2
Select each text link and choose Slide Show > Action Settings > Mouse Click tab. Select Hyperlink to > Slide…  and select the slide to hyperlink to. If you’re using images or buttons for your links, the same options are available.

Step 3
Close master view and continue to develop the presentation. Take care not to place anything on top of the navigation area on individual slides – the slide master elements sit below everything else on the slide and won't function if things are placed on top.


(c) 2018, Helen Bradley, All Rights Reserved.