Interactive content is often used as a teaching tool, it’s a key element in how we access information or entertainment (such as mobile apps and Netflix), it’s crucial to other online experiences such as social media, and is further blurring the lines of human experience as things like Virtual and Augmented Reality become more refined and accessible.

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Interactive puts audiences in control, allowing them to interact directly with the content and explore it independently.

Interactive Content

According to SnapApp, interactive content is “content that requires the participants’ active engagement — more than simply reading or watching. In return for that engagement, participants receive real-time, hyper-relevant results they care about.”

Interactive content is the meeting and action point between audience and the content. It’s the ideal way to allow audiences to explore the content at their own pace and leisure, engaging directly with your messaging and creating their own unique experience.

There are numerous benefits to using interactive content, but most critically I create a higher engagement rate amongst audiences. Not only because it the audience literally engage directly with the content, but because the user experience is so seamless and compelling that they free interact with it.

If we learned anything from Facebook and Cambridge Analytica’s blatant theft and sale of users’ personal data – it’s that interactive content will allure people into sharing their opinions and information. Creating interactive content captures audiences’ attention and generates relevant data for the content creators.

Quizzes, polls and other interactive content allows the user to provide you with instant feedback, which means you can not only get their contact information, but you can create more targeted and useful content for them based on their preferences, which naturally leads to brandy loyalty.

Remember, any content provided to audiences must provide value by being either informative and/or entertaining. Interactivity has immense opportunity to do both.

Different Types of Interactive Content

Polls and Surveys

Polls and surveys are aimed at generating audience feedback and collecting new user data to better understand audience demographics, challenges, and expectations.

As always, simplicity is best – so keep your polls and surveys short, unobtrusive, and rewarding for audiences.

Polls and surveys have many common elements, but a poll consists of only one multiple-choice question for audience voting, while a survey contains multiple questions often to understand audience opinions or circumstances.

Interactive Infographic

Infographics simplify, arrange, and visualise data into easily digested formats that often highlights an overarching narrative. Infographics mean going from a data set to a visually striking interpretation of data that makes the information easier to understand.

Interactivity offers the added ability for audiences to explore the data on their own accord, highlighting or reading specific data sets.

Interactive Video

Interactive videos can be an interesting way of providing an interactive-storyteller experience to your audiences. By offering video viewers choices within the presentation, audiences are far more likely to pay attention and engage.

Another common way to add interactivity to a video is the use of hotspots. These tags show additional information when the viewer clicks on them, such as directing them to another section of your video or a website. These are commonly seen on YouTube videos as pop-up cards for liking, subscribing, and opening related videos.


Along with polls, calculators are one of the best ways to collect audience data through interactive content.

By taking users’ input and creating an – often numerical – answer, you can get a decent understanding of our audiences’ demographics and needs. To see an example of this interactive content check out our Online Quote Calculator.


These are often referred to as ‘personality tests’ and were the basis of Facebook and Cambridge Analytica’s great data theft – people were taking online quizzes to see ‘which character from The Office’ they are.

Essentially, audiences want quality feedback for the information they share, so it’s about building assessments that provides insights to the viewer as well as the content creator.

By its very nature, assessments allow creators get plenty of information about the user, and assessments are the most appreciated form of interactive content because it provides important or entertaining information about individual users – from both sides.

Whitepaper / e-Book

Interactive whitepapers and e-books are great resources for its users because information is not only valuable, but easily accessible.

Interactivity transforms rigid document into mini websites that users can explore at their own pace and access information readily.

Interactive E-mail

Emails are an excellent channel for marketing because it’s one-to-one communication, direct and targeted towards audiences who are generally already interested in your product, service, or industry.

Crafting an interactive e-mail takes an understanding email formatting as well as how to add counters, sliders, graphs, GIFs, videos, and integrated forms into your email design.

Interactive Presentation

When building a presentation deck your two narrative choices are linear or non-linear. Linear slides are timeless features of presentations, they belong to more traditional forms of storytelling. Non-linear formats are less common, but they introduce a convenient and multi-layered experience for the speaker and the audience.

A linear presentation has a basic narrative arc of a beginning, middle, and end. If you mapped your presentation in this format, the introduction serves to push you to your conclusion, call to action, or resolution. Everything in the middle supports these two knownpoints in time. These presentations are a great way to explain an idea. Whereas a non-linear presentation is a better way to explore an idea.

A non-linear presentation is like choosing your own adventure. But it has the added benefits of keeping everything you need to say in one deck. For example, you’re a travelling salesperson who has information on multiple countries like Australia, New Zealand, the U.S., and England. Your slide will reference these countries, but you can decide, based on your audience, which topic is more relevant. Instead of creating presentations on each topic, you can have it in one deck. Presenters can cater content to their audience or to the flow of conversation. It makes it an immediately engaging tool that always remains relevant.

Setting is also a big element in the use of non-linear presentation.

Conference: mass audience, difficult to incorporate interactivity on large scale, but can incorporate live polling, audience voting, and social media interaction

One-on-one: intimate, better with a tablet each or to share. Presenter can guide viewer through interactive content and assist with further questions, etc.

 Meeting: often still small and intimate, however, requires either projector or tablets for audience.

Event booth: can vary between intimate or larger audiences, but transient, and also requires either projector or tablets for audience.

It does take longer to create a non-linear presentation. But it’s less time-consuming in the long run because you can still edit and update the presentation as you would for a linear one. While there is still a beginning and end, the course to end to the conclusion can take various forms.

Interactive Learning

‘Gamification’ is a massive element of life these days, both on and offline. The basic idea is to create interfaces that replicate those seen in video games, complete with score keeping, statistic building, and reward systems. It has led to more interactivity across industries and education.

Interactivity is commonly used as a teaching tool. Flight simulators have been used in pilot training for decades; VR is being used to safely train mining students about hazardous environments and scenarios; laptops are commonplace in classrooms; people are using apps to learn languages and instruments.

All of these resources replicate features and aesthetics from video gaming. Since video games engage more sense than traditional teaching methods while encouraging interactivity, they’ve been finding more and more ways to influence education and training.

In 1971 three programmers developed a text-based video game called Oregon Trail as a teaching resource for a high-school history class. By 1975 the game was redeveloped and distributed by the Minnesota Educational Computing Consortium as a means of teaching school children about the realities of 19th century pioneer life.

Set in 1847, players would lead a party of settlers from Independence, Missouri, to Oregon City engaging in decisions (purchase supplies, hunt food) and random encounters (storms, wagon breakdowns, disease). The popularity of this educational computer game led to a graphical redevelopment of the game in 1985 and has since spawned numerous spinoffs and homages throughout gaming history.

Although you may not have the skills or resources to build a video game, you can create eLearning tools and platforms through interactive PDFs and PowerPoint presentations. Teachers have used interactive PowerPoints to quiz students or create more compelling lecture material that they can then explore at their own pace.

To learn more about Interactive Learning check out our comprehensive guide to eLearning.

Interactivity PowerPoint and PDF

PDF (portable document format) became the standard for sharing digital documents and over time designers figured out ways to make these seemingly static documents digital experiences. This included basic transitions such as fade, push, wipe, uncover, and blinds – all similar to PowerPoint.

Using PDFs, designers could also include other features such as forcing the document to open in full screen mode, the inclusion of JavaScript for interactive navigation controls, and hyperlinks to internal or external locations. Interactive PDFs can also be used to gather information through features such as check boxes, radio buttons, and text fields for sending info via email. You can also easily embed video and audio files into a PDF.

However, one key drawback to PDFs as a standard is that there never was a standard for PDF readers. Adobe Acrobat aimed to become the universal reader, but a host of alternatives have since popped up, creating a disconnect when people share, view, and edit these files. Another hindrance to creating interactive PDFs is the necessity for flash support.

With these shortcomings in mind, designers needed to create a standard format for creating interactive documents that could be used for eLearning. Enter PowerPoint.

Aside from the ubiquity of PowerPoint as reader software, it has the ability to easily convert slideshows in HTML. This means sharing, editing, and viewing these files can be consistent across stakeholders with differing software.

Creating eLearning resources on PowerPoint means focusing on key elements such as user experience, accessibility, legibility, and responsiveness. Thankfully, it’s easy to include all navigation tools such as menus and mapping. Furthermore, the use of master slides ensures consistency in design aesthetic.

Aside from interactivity, another important feature of eLearning is the use of media-rich content – all of which is easily integrated/embedded in PowerPoint. By using a variety of multimedia such as audio and video, you can create a holistic approach to teaching that helps reinforce retention. Unlike interactive PDFs, no flash is necessary for supporting animation.

The ease and ability to animate on PowerPoint has been well explored by us. Animation helps explanation by creating a sense of movement. Movement is a language that is far more emotive and engaging compared to static text, which is why it’s so powerful when used in eLearning.

When building an eLearning experience, it’s important to remember your basic design principles and marry these lessons with notions of user experience – since interactivity transforms audiences into participants.

PowerPoint allows you to create interactive training exercises and quizzes complete with feedback, which means those involved can learn at their own pace while engaging directly with the material while those teaching can gauge the effectiveness of each learning module or method.

Interactive Design in PowerPoint


Buttons are the most critical element of interactivity because its purpose is to facilitate user navigation through the content.

The buttons you use/design should complement the overall aesthetic of your interactive presentation. Unless you’d like a minimalist look, this begins in PowerPoint by creating a background shape for your button. An easy way to achieve this is to go to the “Insert” tab and insert any shape you like (1).

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Creating Buttons in PowerPoint

Next, you can adjust the size, colour and texture of your shape by selecting it and clicking the “Format” tab (2).

If you’re looking to make a very specific sort of shape for your button, consider combining shapes. To achieve this, insert the two shapes you wish to combine. Now, shift-click both and go to the “Format” tab as above. This time you should see the “Merge Shapes” option on the far left (3).

By hovering over each option, you can see how your shapes will combine.

Once you have created a background for your button, you can overlay it with symbols and text. To do this, simply insert the text or symbol you wish to use. Resize it over your background, then combine them as above.

With the buttons designed, you need to make it an interactive element. To do this, select your button and go to the “Insert” tab. Click “Action”, which will activate the following option box:

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PowerPoint ‘Insert’ ‘Action’

If you want users to activate your button with a click (or touch), adjust the settings under the “Mouse click” tab. If you want users to activate your button by mousing over it, adjust the settings under the “Mouse over” tab.

As well as navigation, buttons can be used to trigger animations and the appearance of other important elements. Say you want to create a hamburger button that pops out a menu to the rest of your content. First, create the hamburger button and each element in that menu. Now, group each element in the menu and apply a line animation from off-screen. In the animation pane, right-click that group and go to “Timing”.

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PowerPoint ‘Appear’ ‘Timing’

In the ensuing pop-up menu, click Triggers. Tick the box which says “Start effect on click of” and select your hamburger button.

In PowerPoint, buttons are primarily used to navigate content through the “Hyperlink to” option you see above.

Mastering slide masters

The key to creating effective interactive content in PowerPoint is consistency. By keeping your designs similar across your content, you’ll save your users the stress of learning new layouts.

Of course, consistency can be mind-numbingly boring to maintain. This is especially true for interactive content, which can contain hundreds of intricate elements. To save you the hours it would take to adjust them manually, we’re going to show you how to create a slide master.

A slide master allows you to edit multiple slides at once, saving you hours of adjusting content.

Creating a slide master

Creating a slide master is quite simple. All you have to do is click the View tab and select Slide Master. This will insert a slide above all other slides in the slide view sidebar.

Applying universal themes

Your theme affects the colours, fonts, and effects of your slides. This is essential to consider when creating interactive content in PowerPoint. By adjusting the theme of your master slide, you can quickly adjust the look of your interactive content in PowerPoint. By using the Background group on your Slide Master tab, you can do the following:

  • To apply a built-in theme, click Themes. If you aren’t satisfied with the themes you see, don’t worry. You can right-click any theme to see more ways to apply it.
  • To adjust the colour of your theme in your master slide, select Colours.
  • To set a style for the background of your interactive content, click Background Styles.

Changing the font throughout your interactive content can be easy. This little trick will save you hours spent updating every textbox. To change your font, follow these two steps:

  1. Click your slide master at the top of the Slide Master pane.
  2. Go to the Background group and click Fonts to adjust the font across your PowerPoint. Pick a font from the list, or click Customise Fonts to access more options.

Menu design

Menu design is the most fundamental component for creating interactive content in PowerPoint. Without it, your user will struggle to see all of your content. Below are eleven things to keep in mind when making menus in PowerPoint:

1 – Screens

The kind of menu you can make will depend on the size of your screen. When designing for large screens, you should never use small menus or icons. Instead, use all available space to your advantage.

2 – Expectation

Your users will expect to see your menus in certain spots. You should understand these expectations and meet them. Usually your users will expect to see menus on the top and left sides of their screen.

 3 – Appearance

Once you’ve set the size and placement of your menu, you must makes sure that the links look interactive. If your menu doesn’t look clickable, or tappable, it’s useless. Avoid making your menus too flat, and ensure they stand out from the rest of your design.

 4 – Weight

To make your menus stand out, you must give them weight. This means strong borders, pop-out textures, and contrasting colour. Of course, weight is less important when you place your menus in a familiar locations. In fact, weight is almost unnecessary if you keep your design clear.

To utilise the principles of design, see our article on how to make great content using universal design principles.

5 – Contrast

When you use PowerPoint’s hyperlink text feature, you should choose colours that contrast with the background. Otherwise your links will be unrecognisable.

 6 – Orientation

Your users should always understand where they are in your interactive content. If they don’t, they won’t be able to get to the good stuff. To do this, design your menus with cues that indicate your users current location. To do this in PowerPoint, you could apply a different progress bar to each slide.

7 – Understandability

Make sure your users understand what will happen when they interact with any element. This starts by understanding what your users will look for, then creating category labels that feel familiar and relevant.

Never use language and imagery your users might not understand. Instead, use words and images that instantly explain what will happen when they interact with each element.

8 – Scannability

As well as making links easy to understand, you must make them easy to scan. This starts by placing menus in familiar locations. After that, ensure your descriptions are short and straight to the point.

9 – Imagery

Of course, words aren’t the only way we communicate. If you can, include images, graphics, and colours that give an impression of each option in your menu. This will make it easier for users to quickly scan your content, as well as help international users understand each option.

 PROTIP: To access classic menu icons in PowerPoint 2016, go to the Insert tab and click Icons.

10 – Size

Make menu links big enough to be easily tapped or clicked. Links that are too small or too close together are a huge source of frustration for mobile users. They also make large-screen designs unnecessarily difficult to use, so avoid them at all cost.

11 – Hierarchy

Consider the areas your users will want to access the most. Now keep those options closest to the top of your menus.

There are two main kinds of menus:

Drop-down menus

Drop-down menus do what they say on the tin. That is, they drop-down or pop out when your user clicks a button. Drop-down menus can be enhanced with cascading sub-menus. These are additional drop-down menus which activate when users click options in your first menu.

There are several advantages to drop-down menus:

  • They are useful when there is minimal space, especially on mobile.
  • Drop-down menus allow your content to take centre stage
  • These menus require less processing power

Sticky menus

 Sticky menus are menus which stay in one spot while your user explores your interactive content. They can be placed anywhere on your screen, though they are usually found on the top and side.

There are several advantages to sticky menus:

  • They give users a greater sense of control, as they are always found in the same spot.
  • Sticky menus are extremely effective for interactive content that encourages action, such as digital sales catalogues.
  • These menus are easier to create, as they do not require complex animations

Whether you want a drop-down or sticky menu, both are easy to create in PowerPoint. To learn how to do both and much more, check out our Ultimate Guide to Interactive Content in PowerPoint.

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