Can you believe it’s Monday again? We hope you enjoyed last weeks blog post on Aligning Content in MS PowerPoint. This week, we continue with some practices in PowerPoint and how to improve them in relation to Slide Design and Custom Templates.

Let’s get started!

How NOT to build a PowerPoint

We see many examples of PowerPoint slides coming through and have seen a lot of practices which could be improved upon. This is in terms of design, user experience and digital accessibility.

Firstly, we’d like to advise that all PowerPoint slides should be a 16:9 (wide screen) ratio (as illustrated below):

PowerPoint example of 4:3 and 16:9 sized slides. Use 16:9
PowerPoint example of 4:3 and 16:9 sized slides. Use 16:9

The example above left (4:3) is more square in proportion and does not fit the scale of today’s screens. This shows that slides can be from an older content iteration and it feels out-of-date. Maximise that screen real-estate!

To change slide size, go to the Design tab, click on Slide Design and choose 16:9 (wide screen). This looks fresher and it gives you more space to place your content!

Secondly, don’t use your slides as blank pages and insert text boxes everywhere. This is not good practice. There’s many issues with ‘building your own’ slides. This includes the sequence of text boxes, alignment of content, aesthetics and digital accessibility, etc.

Example of a blank PowerPoint slide with inserted text boxes (not good practice)
Example of a blank PowerPoint slide with inserted text boxes (not good practice)

Building your own slides from scratch and adding in content takes a lot of time and effort. What if you want to change the colour or size of text? In order to be consistent, you need to select all those text boxes and change the content. It’s not very convenient.

Why not consider using the slide templates which PowerPoint provide? If title fonts, sizes or colours need changed, it can be done in the master slide. This in turn will update all titles throughout the presentation. Much more efficient! More on this further down the blog.

Thirdly. If you want to use coloured background and graphic items to make your slide theme more aesthetic. Do NOT add these graphics to each individual slide!

PowerPoint slide with graphic elements / shapes added in to each slide to create own design (bad practice)
PowerPoint slide with graphic elements / shapes added in to each slide to create own design (bad practice)

Whilst the whole presentation may look good, these individual shapes do play havoc with digital accessibility and the information sequence on the slide. If graphics are to appear on all slides as part of the design theme, they should be ‘baked in’ to the master slide theme (behind the scenessee the section on custom design below).

Do consider. Why build your own design layouts and themes when there are many time-saving design options available in PowerPoint? Let’s take a look at some of these features.

Using Slide Layouts

By slide layout, we typically refer to the title and content holders on slides. Remember the slide example above with a number of inserted text boxes? Why insert text boxes when slides with content holders are already available?

Slide layout templates saves time and it keeps the size, colour and look of text consistent. Each content holder is also in the correct running sequence for digital accessibility purposes.

Win. Win! Winnnnn!

So how do you access these slide layouts? Simply click the Home tab, then the dropdown beside Layout:

PowerPoint with slide layout options
PowerPoint with slide layout options

Here, you will see options for titles, slide content, section headers, two content, etc. These options should satisfy most information layouts. Then is just thinking about alignment of text: left, centred or right.

Quick Tip: Don’t be tempted to cram your slide with loads of text. It’s better to split text over several slides and use bullet points. If the text is everything you want to talk about, don’t put it all on the slide at all. Place it in the notes section and read it from there during your presentation!

If slides have lots of text, you’ve lost your audiences’ attention! They’re reading, not listening!

OK, so the below example might appear boring as it’s black text on a white background. However, using the content holders means the look of the text can be changed throughout the presentation quickly and easily if need be (see custom slide design).

Using slide layouts
Using slide layouts
Amending Slide Themes

Let’s add in background themes. There are a number of these available.

To do this, go to the Design tab and Design Themes. This allows the look and feel of slides to be changed without changing the actual content:

PowerPoint - Design Themes
PowerPoint – Design Themes

We know, you’re going to find a theme but hate the colour palette. Change it!

Amending Slide Design Colours

Go to Design tab and Variants. From here, simply choose another colour theme or create your own:

PowerPoint - Design Variants
PowerPoint – Design Variants

If you’re really picky and don’t like any of the options MS PowerPoint has available, you can either:

  • look for design themes online, or
  • build your own
Creating a Custom Template
Adding graphics to a Master Slide

In PowerPoint, go to the View tab and Slide Master. Navigate to the top slide on the left hand side (the master). Simply create shapes on the slide, colour these and arrange them to suit your needs.

These shapes/colours will replicate to the sub-slides in the Master view as can be seen below:

PowerPoint Slide Master view showing the shapes as background graphics (good practice)
PowerPoint Slide Master view showing the shapes as background graphics (good practice)

Sometimes we see presentations with the company logo added to each slide of the presentation (bad practice). It’s more efficient to put the logo into the Master Slide and have it consistently appear at the same size and position on every slide. Granted, some slides may have the logo obscured, simply hide that slides’ background graphics.

What about font attributes?

Change the text size, colour and font type on the Master Slide (Review tab and Master Slide). Click the relevant content holder to amend and choose a font family from the Slide Master tab. Fonts should be sans serif (easy to read).

From here, you can change the look of text bullets, alignment, line spacing, etc. Always apply it to the Master Slide and it will update on the sub-slides underneath. It’s quick and easy to change the look of a font and it updates throughout your presentation whether it’s 2 slides or 200 (heaven forbid!).

By making your own custom template, the design can be re-used again and again. Just save the template on your machine. Why not share it? Create a blank a presentation and apply your template, then share it with colleagues. Start a trend!

Remember Accessibility Checkers

No matter what you create, be that text or graphics. Think about where the text or graphics should appear, i.e., on the slide or in a template / theme. Before you share your presentation, run it through the Accessibility Checker (Review tab and Check Accessibility).

Here’s a few handy guides we published previously:


Next time

Thanks for taking the time to stop by and read our blog. We appreciate it.

Next week, we’ll be looking at using PowerPoint to create student posters.

Remember, the DigiKnow blog posts are released at noon on a Monday.

Please do join us then to learn more and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter: @MDBSelearn.


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