A few months ago, I was still the creative director of my own agency, but I decided to quit this comfortable situation to build Ludus, a presentation tool of another kind. Here’s why.

Truth is, everybody hates doing presentations. Everybody believes it’s a waste of time, knows the end result will be crap and is not even sure that it will be used more than once. And it’s even worse for designers: you feel like accepting to do bad design on purpose.

I worked more than 10 years in creative/advertising agencies and I always experienced the same scenario where the designer ends up re-doing 250 slides late at night. OK I might exaggerate a little. But still, the question remains “why so much hate?”

In my humble opinion, the lack of efficiency comes from the tools. I’m so awesomely slow using them. I’m doing basic stuff 10 times slower than in any other design software (no keyboard shortcuts, selecting objects feels like black magic, files are huge for no reason, etc.)

Me fighting with PowerPoint.

The Keynote era

So like many others, I did my presentations with a mix of Keynote, Sketch (or Figma) and Photoshop. This means you need your files to be well organized in order to easily edit your visuals made with Photoshop, or to know where the Sketch file for the slide #244 is located.

The real pain comes when you build a super cool presentation full of funny GIFs or videos and your customer wants to show it to their colleagues internally. Of course, your Keynote file is incompatible with what they have so you end up exporting a huge static PDF file. Consequence: all your cool tricks are gone for good.

Google Slides, the chosen one?

As Apple is not able to provide a decent experience in the cloud (although they have made some progress recently), I switched to Google Slides, hoping for the best. Would it be the ultimate solution?

Hell no!

The good thing is that it’s web-based so collaboration is super smooth and it’s quite complete in terms of features. But… the feeling is just horrible. Google is selling “web” everywhere, but they are miles away from what it’s possible to do with the web in 2018 (check Figma or Vectary to see what we’re talking about). Using Google Slides is like going back 10 years ago. Everything is slow, not rendered in real time, and basic stuff like using drag and drop to upload a video are still not possible (you must upload it to YouTube first).

I know that Keynote, Google Slides or PowerPoint can be more than enough for many users but to me these tools are built for another “breed” of people. With them, as a designer, I always have that same feeling of inefficiency all over again. These tools seem to have been built for project managers or sales people. Or let’s put it like this: people that are considered (wrongly) as non-creative. As they see them that way, we assume it’s OK to give them a fully-featured software with a horrible user interface supported by a disastrous user experience.

Are presentation tools dead?

In the end, ALL these presentation applications use the same UI/UX approach = the one provided by PowerPoint, a program that was first released BEFORE the Internet.

I still think the presentation format is very nice, even if some people say it’s the devil. It is (or should be) easy to build, easy to read and easy to share. It helps expressing ideas precisely, it enables you to gather your thoughts in a comprehensive story. It forces you to keep things simple. However, it didn’t really evolve in 25 years.

It’s my favorite format to sell creative concepts. I’m not a good speaker, but when I’m presenting with my slides, I become a very decent one. And I say “speaker” but I could also say “teacher” as I also used to teach design in several schools across Europe. Presentations are not just made for sales people. Their usage is pretty vast.

Meet Ludus, limitless creativity for your slides

That’s why, with a bunch of crazy people, we started building Ludus. One of our users once said: “it’s like Sketch and Keynote had a baby” and I love that idea! We try to provide a tool that will let you be as efficient as possible by using all the usage patterns you already know from other design tools. It’s not perfect (yet), but honestly, I couldn’t go back to using Keynote or Google Slides.

Ludus has all the keyboard shortcuts you would expect (R for rectangle, C for Circle, L for line, ⌘ + ⇧ + L to lock, ⌘ + ↑ or ↓ to arrange depth order, ⌥ + drag to duplicate, I for eyedropper, etc). It might be seen as a detail, but it helps quickly found your bearings with Ludus.

Obviously you can use drag and drop to upload images or videos. We’ll automatically convert them to the adequate format to provide the best experience for the viewer. And remember, as we are web-based, we are almost universal (at least with decent browsers).

We also have third-party integrations. You can search in Unsplash, GIPHY Icons8, Iconscout and Noun Project directly from inside Ludus. Again, our goal is to make you as efficient as possible.

Search in Unsplash, GIPHY, Icons8, Iconscout directly from inside Ludus

Oh, and by the way, can you crop GIFs in other applications? Because in Ludus, you can 🙂

Also, one of the most irritating thing that I never understood: why can’t we apply blend modes in Keynote or PowerPoint? That’s crazy. So you guessed it, it’s also possible with Ludus.

Blend modes in Ludus

A first step to a new kind of format?

As we are web-based, you can add much more than just text, images, and videos: you can embed interactive blocks. The possibilities are limitless: you can embed a 3D object from Sketchfab, add a Typeform to request feedback or order something directly from a slide, integrate a CodePen to teach code, add a prototype from many different sources (Framer, InVision or Prototypo for example) or you can even add content from Google Street View, a website or anything that can be placed inside an iframe (= almost everything).

And again, everything is pretty fast in Ludus. You just need to copy and paste the URL of what you want and Ludus will automatically display it correctly for you. Of course, it’s an object like any other, so you can combine it with texts, images, blend modes, etc. You have in your hands a whole new set of magic tricks to impress people!

Collaboration is key

But a good presentation requires different skills and they might be scattered throughout the team. So collaboration is a must have in a presentation tool. From my own experience, the real big issue is not to work all together at the same time on the same presentation. It’s more about how to quickly find the right assets and be sure that it is the latest version (font, color, logo, picture, video, analytics or layouts).

Our approach with Ludus is to let people be able to save assets in their team account. It can be anything you want. You can easily organize them by name and tags and they will be shared across your team.

The Smart Menu with all your assets organized by tags
The Smart Menu with all your assets organized by tags

You can also save a font or a set of colors. So, no more excuses for not using the right thing!

We are also working on what we call “Smart Blocks”. It’s inspired by Symbols to be found in Sketch or Component in Figma. It’s an asset where texts are variables that can be overridden. It’s still the beginning of it, but we think it can be a smart alternative to templates. This feature will evolve quite soon and if you are a designer, you’re going to like it.

Ludus is always under construction (and always will be). We need your support and feedback to make it grow faster. We release or improve features every week. Give a try to Ludus and feel free to drop us an email about your feelings/ideas/opinions!

Full disclosure: This article is sponsored by Ludus.