I have noticed some disturbing trends lately.
Three in particular.
They have been around for a long time. Probably as long as the internet.
However, they seem to be getting much worse lately.
I’ll address the first trend in this blog post and the others in a later post.
Trend 1: Pointless Products
The first disturbing trend is the constant stream of new products that are either sub-standard or serve no really useful purpose.
As an example, we have two new pieces of video presentation software hitting the streets.
The first, called ‘Video Strike’, was released yesterday…
The second, called ‘PrezHero’, is being released today…
Take Video Strike first
The headline on the sales page proclaims: “New Simple Software Creates Push-Button Video Presentations & Screen Recorded Videos with beautiful graphics, buy buttons and text within seconds!”
I was going to do a detailed review for you…
However, this is one case where the sales page demo tells you everything you need to know…
The irritating jungle drums seem ironically appropriate in indicating the primitive nature of the software.
One of the selling points is the “stunning graphics” that are included.
‘Stunning’ is not quite the word I would use.
As far as I can see, all of the graphics showcased (from around 24 seconds in) are readily available for free from various public domain graphics sites.
And they would generally look more at home on a website from the 1990’s.
You can drag graphics around the workspace but you have to ‘enable resizing’ to resize them.
An unnecessary step when most editors provide resizing handles.
(The attempt to demonstrate resizing around 1 minute 15 seconds in doesn’t actually change the size of the graphic at all!)
Adding text (at around 1 minute 25 seconds in) is a clunky process.
You have to enter the text into a text box and then add it to the workspace.
Another unnecessary step when most editors allow you to select a text tool and type directly onto the workspace.
Even if the graphics and text options were up to par, all this software gives you at the end of the day is a sequence of static slides that are shown one after the other.
Unless I am missing something, there is no way to change the timings or add animation to objects on the slides.
Surely a must-have to produce ‘stunning presentations’ in this day and age?
On top of that, there is no way to add sound to your presentations.
Or a way to preview your presentation short of creating the video.
To offer some balance, there are a couple of good points about Video Strike…
First, there is a screen recording facility.
Second, it is quite cheap; currently less than $20.
But this is a case of getting what you pay for.
Next up is PrezHero
But then it should because it is being launched at $77, rising to $147, for lifetime usage.
This software has a much slicker user interface and comes with graphics that look like they may have been specially commissioned for it.
However, it also has drawbacks.
The first is that it is cloud-based. In other words, you access the software online rather than on your computer.
The authors claim that this is a good thing because you can access it anywhere and from any device.
This is true. However, you can only access it if you have an internet connection.
And (as I have found out), using the software can be frustratingly slow if you have a bad internet connection.
The authors also host all projects on their servers and you have to wonder how that is going to affect usability if a lot of people start using it at once.
A second concern is that, unlike most of its more established competitors, PrezHero is built around the ‘new technology’ (their words) of HTML5.
Now I don’t know about you, but the words ‘new technology’ always send a small shiver down my spine.
Microsoft, amongst others, have made these two dirty little words.
As I say, the interface and graphics are much superior to Video Strike and you can set timings and use animation effects.
Plus, you can import sound, such as music or narration (but not create them in the software).
However, you can currently associate a sound file to one slide.
In other words, if you want narration, you will have to record and upload an individual sound file for each and every slide.
A huge pain in the backside!
What’s the Point?
What’s the point I am trying to make here?
Well, I’m in no shape or form suggesting that the people behind Video Strike or PrezHero are in any way out to ‘scam’ people.
Both products are functional and come from established marketers.
And I can see what they are aiming to achieve…
To create slide presentation videos as quickly and painlessly as possible.
However, like so many recent releases, they are trying to answer a problem that doesn’t exist…
Because far better solutions are already out there.
For at least 5 years now, I have been using the same two pieces of software to create my slide presentation videos…
- OpenOffice Impress to create the slides
- Camtasia Studio to record the presentation and edit and produce the final video
In case you don’t know, OpenOffice is the free open source equivalent of Microsoft Office.
It provides a word processor, a spreadsheet and presentation software (Impress).
Impress does pretty much everything that PowerPoint does and does it very well.
It has been around for years and is being continually updated in response to user needs.
That means it is very robust and, quite frankly, is going to do a much better job of creating a slide presentation than software whipped up in a few weeks with no track record or ‘real world’ testing.
However, it is a serious piece of kit and does just about everything you would want for creating, editing and producing videos.
In my view, the investment is very worthwhile if you regularly produce videos in your business.
I am still using the version I bought back in 2010, so I have already got more than 5 years of benefit out of it.
However, if you are content with something that records your slide presentation without all of the bells and whistles, there are many free or low-cost screen recorders out there that are battle-tested, robust and do a complete job, unlike Video Strike or PrezHero.
I have already mentioned three free ones, but you might want to consider the excellent SnagIt, at around $40.
For video editing, you can use the free Windows Movie Maker for PC or iMovie for the Mac.
In many cases, a new product does genuinely offer the solution to a real problem or a new and innovative way of addressing an old problem.
However, more and more of these launches seem to me to offer no real value and are being rushed out with huge amounts of hype.
A cynic might think that these launches are more about making a quick financial killing than trying to offer real value to the marketplace.
So, a word of advice…
Before you hit that ‘Buy Now’ button for the latest, greatest product to hit the streets, just take a few deep breaths and ask yourself whether (a) it solves a real problem you are having and, if so, (b) is there an existing, proven, better and maybe even free solution out there already?
All of which begs the question, if so many of these products add nothing to the quality of life on this planet, how come they often sell like hot cakes?
Now that is a very interesting question… and one we will leave for next time.