There’s an astounding number of PowerPoint alternatives out there all claiming to be the solution to your most pressing presentation problems. But it can be tricky to see through the pretty branding and weigh up the functionality that lies beneath. Luckily for you, BrightCarbon is here to separate the wheat from the chaff, and the decent presentation programs from the rubbish PowerPoint knock-offs.
Adobe Spark is an online and mobile design app. Spark was developed to help people with no design expertise create social graphics, web pages, and short videos with impact. Spark wants to empower users to communicate and share stories, without sweating over their computer for hours! We decided to review Adobe Spark and see just what it can do.
Using Adobe Spark
Adobe Spark combines three design apps, Spark Page, Spark Post, and Spark Video.
We won’t be talking about Spark Post today, but it lets you create fun social graphics. Spark Page allows you to create image-rich web pages, and Spark Video helps you make professional looking and sounding short videos.
Slideshow is a tool created for storytellers. It’s powered by Spark Video. When you open it up, you’re immediately prompted to consider what type of story you’re telling and can pick from a story template or start your slideshow from scratch.
A slideshow is built from – you guessed it! – slides. Each story template has a slightly different structure to help you focus your message – the one in the screenshot below has Setting > Problem > What could be > Solution etc. There are also prompts describing what each slide should cover. This extra guidance really adds value, stopping you from simply copying and pasting text in and encouraging you to order your content effectively.
You can easily add content such as text, video and images to the slides and you can drag and drop slides to change their order. You can also add icons from the icon bank – this pulls in free icons from around the web. There are a handful of slide layouts which let you arrange content in different ways, for example, a full bleed image, title slide, image with caption etc. I’d like to see a few more slide layout options, including one with multiple icon holders, to give users more flexibility.
It’s easy to add narration, simply click the microphone icon. This is a useful feature as the layout options are suited to simple slides with short text points and large images or videos.
When you add text, you can change the size and, depending on the slide layout, drag and drop it to different positions on the slide. Spark will automatically adjust the placement (if you don’t get the text box bang in the centre of the slide, for example), it’s fool proof!
Uploading video is easy and there is a handy editor so you can select the section you need.
If you want to place text over your video, Spark will automatically adjust the text colour to make it visible.
There’s also a selection of royalty free music you can pick from – or upload your own – to give your video some personality.
Once you’ve got your content sorted, you can change the theme of your video. There are some pre-made themes to choose from, changing the font, colours, and animation style, or you can use your own branding.
Slideshow would be great for creating short-form content for social media platforms and websites, engaging videos for eLearning, and short re-caps of your latest presentation to send out as a reminder to your audience.
Web pages are created using Spark Page – a web page creator that gives you a platform to share text, images, and videos full screen. Rather than using slides, you add content in blocks – a little like Microsoft Sway. The finished result looks and feels like a web page with your text, images, video, and links seamlessly interwoven.
It’s easy to get started thanks to a user-friendly interface and pop-up hints. You begin by simply adding a title and image.
You can pull images from your computer, as well as from Dropbox, Google Drive, and social channels. Spark lets you search the internet for images with a creative commons licence which you can use for free. This format works best with big, beautiful images, so it’s important to use high quality imagery. Any photography you use should be chosen with care, check out this blog post for tips on where to get great images, and this one for how to avoid image clichés.
Images can’t be edited directly in Spark; however, you can set a focal point. This means you can let Spark know which part of the image is most important determining what will be seen when your presentation is viewed on a mobile. There’s even a handy preview, so you know you’ve got it right.
Next – text! When you add text, you have various options to help you create visual hierarchy. By using the headings setting, bold and italic formatting, and bullets and numbering you can ensure your text is easy to digest. You can also modify text alignment and use the theme-specific quote format.
Though we’re usually advocates for super visual, low-text slides, as this format is created to allow your audience to scroll through information in their own time, at their own pace, you don’t need to be afraid of including (clear, concise) text.
Once you’ve added a bit of content, it’s time to play with the themes. If you have your own brand, you can create a custom theme including fonts, colours, logo, background and more.
If you want to try out a few different styles, check out the pre-made themes. Once you’ve decided on your look, continue adding content. One content block I’m a big fan of is buttons. This is what they look like:
You can link to external resources seamlessly. Text hyperlinking is available, but I prefer these buttons. Other content blocks include video from YouTube, Vimeo, or Spark Video, a photo gallery and a Glideshow. “What’s a Glideshow?” I hear you ask. With a Glideshow you can select background images then add content on top of them. As the user scrolls through the content, the images blend into each other with the content hovering on top. The finished product looks super professional and you need no coding or design expertise at all!
Though there’s no in-built graphs and charts capability, you can upload any images you want, giving you a fair amount of flexibility to bring in important visuals. This is a basic graph I made in PowerPoint, saved as a picture, then uploaded.
This format would be great for quickly creating a reference guide, self-led training, onboarding materials or an impressive leave-behind after a presentation etc. particularly as you can add links to outside resources, as well as include videos and text natively. In the future it would be cool to see a few simple interactive elements added – like quiz questions.
Collaboration and publishing
With Adobe Spark it’s easy to invite colleagues to contribute to your projects. You can simply send them an invitation:
Adobe Spark saves all your designs automatically in your Adobe Spark Projects folder, which is synced across the web and iOS apps, meaning you don’t have to juggle different versions of your design with multiple contributors.
With Spark Video, you can download the video as an MP4 or share via a link.
With Spark Page you can publish online then share the page via a link. Alternatively, you can “print” to PDF or Google Drive and send static pages to your audience. I’d recommend using the link instead as it looks better, but it’s good to have the option to create a hard copy.
Something that’s great about Adobe Spark is that it automatically credits the images, icons, sound tracks etc. that you’ve pulled in through the Spark search bar. This means you don’t have to worry that about which images or icons you’ve used or crediting appropriately – it’s all done for you.
Once you’ve published your Web Page or Slideshow you can track how people interact with what you’ve created. You can add a Google Analytics Tracking ID to any Spark Page and collect advanced analytics.
With the Individual and Team plans, you can introduce your own branding into the content you create. This includes your own fonts, logos and colours as well as being able to create custom themes. Once these themes are setup you can quickly create new content without having to start from scratch every time. You can even create multiple brands, perfect if you’re a freelancer working for different clients, and switch between them with a single click.
Though branding is a paid feature, you can check out how your branding would look even if you’re using the Starter plan by heading to the Brand section, uploading your logo, and picking a colour and font.
You can try Adobe Spark out for free with the Starter plan, without entering any card details.
Individual: For £10 a month (on annual plan) you gain collaborative working features, premium templates, branded templates, and themes made just for you. You can also easily add your logo, colours and fonts and quickly switch from one brand to another.
Team: For £20 per month (on annual plan) you get everything from the Individual plan plus extended admin features. You can manage multiple users, reassign licences at any time and get access to 24/7 technical phone support, email, chat, and forums.
Adobe Spark review: Conclusions
That’s the end of our Adobe Spark review! Overall, we can see that designers may find Adobe Spark limiting – thankfully, Adobe has plenty of different programs for them. For most people, the app’s ability to take text and images and create something slick and professional in a matter of minutes will be valuable. As you can try it out for free, there’s no excuse not to take a look. It will be interesting to see how these tools develop to continue supporting creators to communicate effectively online.
You can read more about creating engaging content with Adobe Spark on their website.Leave a comment
Olivia Kippax Jones
Communication consultantView Olivia Kippax Jones's profile
One of the things we recommend PowerPoint users do is create a quick acccess toolbar. It's a easy way to get to some of the hidden functionality in PowerPoint. But when do you find the time to create one? What tools should you add to it? Here at BrightCarbon we've created a PowerPoint toolbar to help.
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