Sway: The Good, the Bad and the Potential
March 9, 2016 | Elliott Carter | 4 Minute Read
I have always found with Microsoft products they are mostly self-explanatory to use. Nearly all of them use the same layouts, so when opening Sway for the first time and being presented with an entirely new layout, although a little shocked, it felt fresh and exciting and something that was completely different to any other Office program.
Getting started is incredibly simple. I find creating all your content for example text in Word, then copy and pasting into Sway, works better than typing in Sway purely as its feels more as a designing tool as oppose to a content creation tool.
Once you have your content ready it’s easy to build your Sway. By clicking the “Plus” icons you are then presented a range of options such as; Add another Heading, Add Text, Images (Upload/Camera), Video, Embed, Tweet, Charts the list goes on…
It’s a rather wide selection for something that is so easy to use and its ability to pull content from a range of resources (such as YouTube, OneDrive, Bing, Flickr etc) also makes it great for just sitting down and getting on with it. I found myself not having to leave Sway very often at all as I can get everything I need all within the application.
One of the foundations Sway was built on was its ability to take the hassle out of formatting your content by putting all of it into pre-built templates. From text, images, tweets, videos or graphics you add, Sway will automatically format it for you. As you add more of your content, Sway will continue to arrange the content based on the template you have chosen. You can adjust and customise the format Sway has created. For example, if you want a particular picture to stand out you can click the image and then the star icon to emphasize it. There is no need to worry about pixel heights and or widths whether you have the design chops to keep things looking swish. Want to rearrange your content? Just drag and drop it where you want and Sway will instantly react. Sway rather cleverly uses your input to update the look accordingly and rather fantastically will adapt it to displays appropriately across multiple devices. In turn, meaning your Sway looks great on any device – even if you’re building it on a mobile device and others are viewing it on a PC/ Mac.
Although as great as it all sounds I do find there are down sides to these pre-built templates. They are very restrictive and often lead to white space which inevitably looks ugly. And it’s not like you can just drag and drop pictures in there or a tweet or two as due to templates you are stuck with what you’re given. The Remix button does help sometimes as it’s almost like it will choose the best layout for your content eliminating this issue, but even still Remix is a hit and miss. One moment it will give you a nice wool looking type background with a soft colour scheme to all of a sudden bright pink. Not that I have a problem with pink I just find it well, to say the least, a bit too “vibrant” of a colour and boy did it look ugly.
Presentations? I think not. Sway has been branded alongside other things a great way to create interactive presentations but it’s just not advanced enough to deal with professional / business type presentations. With the help of Designer and Morph you can create some rather stunning presentations that are certain to amaze. Yes, it’s a great and fun for your kid to create their presentation on how their holiday was at Center Parcs for a school project but for charts and professionalism, I’m sticking to PowerPoint.
“So what would Sway be good for?” I hear you ask. Interactive digital booklets spring to mind. Imagine a brochure filled with Photo Stacks, an introduction of video/ how-tos, and tweets with customer reviews if it’s a product your branding. it’s just a completely new way to engage your customers with content and one I can see catching on and becoming popular. Give it a couple years and that IKEA furniture you bought will come attached with an interactive booklet with how to videos – you heard it here first.
Overall, I think Sway is great and it has only been out a short time. But with its restrictive templates and its inability to move content around freely on the page it’s just not the tool I would use to create my documents. Sway has a load of potential and if further down the line you can freely move content about to eliminate that awful white space it will be fantastic. Future down the line if you could grab content from other social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, iCloud, Dropbox, Vine, Vimeo etc. that would make it even better. Sway that’s the good, the bad and the potential. Oh, its Potential!