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Beginners guide to picking the best authoring tools

Authoring tools of the trade

Authoring tools. They’re a familiar and often essential part of building in-house training. But with so many of them out there, it’s not surprising L&D teams are scratching their heads about where to start.

So, how do you find the right one?

There’s quite a simple solution. You need to choose a tool that your team will be able to use (and use well) and one that’s going to produce the output (i.e. the type of content) you need. 

The THRIVE content team have worked with a fair few of these different authoring tools, so we thought we’d share some pros and cons of each to help you find your perfect authoring tool match.

Storyline 360

Part of the Articulate suite, this tool proclaims itself as the industry’s favourite software for creating interactive courses. There are a few different versions of Storyline (2, 3, 360), which are all desktop applications. They all let you create pretty much any interaction you can think of. For now, we’re looking at Storyline 360.

Best for: Higher-end solutions – interactivity, branching and gamification. 

Pros:

  • Desktop and tablet first, so perfect if mobile isn’t a major requirement.
  • There are some built-in templates but its main attraction is the freedom to create pretty much anything you can imagine.
  • You can plug in HTML and Javascript to add custom functionality.

Cons:

  • It isn’t overly mobile friendly. There have been recent enhancements to mobile player for navigation on tablets and smartphones, but it’s still a case of scaling rather than responsiveness – the screen scales down to the screen size, rather than the layout changing to fit it.
  • You need some design and/or technical skill. Although it markets to all levels of author, the built-in templates can be a little limiting and reduce user experience.
  • Even if you do have the technical skill to build interactions from scratch, it can be pretty time-consuming.

Captivate

Produced by Adobe, Captivate is a desktop application that’s designed for creating quite specific content, like software demos, simulations, scenarios and quizzing. But it’s not for the faint-hearted.

Best for: High-end solutions – system and process training.  

Pros:

  • A built-in screen recorder is perfect for creating demos or “try me” style interactions. It also supports geolocation and gesture control.
  • It meets a lot of accessibility requirements and translation capability is good.
  • A lot of new features have been added recently, including VR and 360 compatibility.

Cons:

  • Customisation is limited since you rely on a few theme options.
  • Like with Storyline, the impressive stuff has to be done from scratch, which requires technical skill and lots of time. A fair learning curve for new users! 
  • Although mobile responsive, the optimisation isn’t the best out there.

Rise 360

Also part of the Articulate 360 suite, Rise caters to those who need a mobile-first solution. It embraces the idea of scrolling and is built to be much more plug-and-play. It uses templated components and pre-designed interactions which you simply add your text or media into. And it’s accessed online, rather than via a desktop app.

Best for: Fast, efficient course building of simpler solutions.

Pros:

  • It’s perfect for novices – no real tech skills required. There’s no back end – editing is done in the front end, which can be previewed at any time. 
  • Due to the plug-and-play nature, it’s easy to achieve a professional finish.
  • Once you get your head around the logic, it can be very quick to build content. Plus the preview lets you interact and test how it will look and feel as you build.
  • It’s online, meaning collaboration is possible. Plus there’s an online review feature (Review 360) for stakeholders to take a look at key points, too.

Cons:

  • It’s templated nature means the custom styling options are limited.
  • You’re also limited to the templates (components) available.
  • You can’t buy this on its own as it’s only available as part of the Articulate 360 suite.

GOMO

The GOMO learning suite is set up to provide a number of tools to create better learning. This tool also aims for web-style content that’s fully responsive. GOMO really does help create content easily through templates and quick-start wizards. 

Best for: Fast, efficient course building of simpler solutions.

Pros:

  • A range of 9 base themes can be tweaked to create good looking content.
  • Content is created using a back-end interface, again with drag-and-drop style blocks. But it does give more flexibility in layouts than similar tools. 
  • It’s got translation down. Export and import functionality makes translation easy, with the added attraction of multiple languages in the same course package.

Cons:

  • The authoring interface isn’t a true preview of the build, so you can’t see what your course will look like as you go.
  • Accessibility is a little unknown, with no official statement.
  • The base 9 themes are a little limited, and custom themes come at a cost.

Adapt

Again focussed on a scrolling vibe, Adapt brings website responsiveness and navigation to your content. A set of pre-set components help you effectively piece together your content using blocks of text and media. This server based tool needs some pre-setup work before you can begin creating content.

Best for: Fast, efficient course building of simpler solutions.

Pros:

  • With some experience and know-how, you can create custom themes which gives it the edge over other similar tools.
  • The templated design can speed up development times.
  • It’s translation capabilities are pretty up there. You can export, translate and import in left-to-right and right-to-left languages.

Cons:

  • The user interface is a bit complex and unintuitive for new users, so you’ll need some training time to get your head around this one. 
  • It’s templated nature and how they’re developed (back-end) means the range of templates is quite limited, and there isn’t anything different to similar tools.
  • Without a live preview, you have to manually launch a preview to check your work.

Lucid

Whilst not strictly on the market, we couldn’t write a blog about authoring tools without referencing our baby! The founders of THRIVE developed Lucid from scratch, to overcome some of the common frustrations they’d had working with tools such as the above. It’s evolved organically alongside our content, and we use it to create our microlearning modules.

Best for: Efficient and content-centric learning without the gimmicks. Quick course build with the flexibility of layouts and theming.

Pros:

  • It’s fully mobile responsive, designed to be as impactful on a PC screen as a smartphone.
  • Intuitive user interface and easy to create your own look and feel from scratch.
  • Flexible layouts using components rather than static templates.
  • Live preview as you build, so you can interact and test how it will look and feel.

Cons:

  • You would need some design skill within your team to benefit most from some components, e.g. interactive video.
  • It’s still in development!

What now?

Now you’ve got our two cents on a handful of the authoring tools out there, you can see why it’s important to know what you want to produce before you purchase. In an ideal world, you’d probably want a couple of tools to meet your training needs.

Some questions to ask yourself when picking a tool: 

  • What skills do you have in your team? 
  • Would any upskilling be needed? 
  • Do you have the time to create training? 
  • Does it need to work on different devices? 
  • Does it need to let you create a load of snazzy gamification or simulate systems training? Or does it just need to deliver content and present it nicely?

But the most important thing – do your research. Know your audience, your team’s capabilities and what you want to create. Only then will you find the right tool for the job.

 

Contact Us

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