Udacity Leaves Google Slides for Superior Storytelling and Design Impact

Udacity moves to Beautiful.ai from Google Slides for more content management, branding control, and collaborative features. Switching to Beautiful.ai has helped the team tell a more impactful story with less effort—saving 30% design time.

Udacity is an online skill-based platform that facilitates courses for users to upskill themselves. Their courses consist of curriculums through video, slide decks, and hands-on activities. As you can imagine, the team has a constant need for presentations. But we know all too well that not everyone is a designer, and some of their instructors weren’t hitting the mark for slide creation. In an effort to streamline the presentation process, and make it easier for everyone involved, the Udacity team searched for a new tool. Their search— a platform that would help them create great slides in the shortest amount of time— led them to Beautiful.ai. “We searched 10-15 tools and Beautiful.ai was our final contender, we did a deep dive on the product and it surfaced as our top choice to create professional presentations fast,” Ben Hommerding, Curriculum Manager, added. 

At Udacity, each course offers multiple lessons so instructors are creating between 4-6 decks per course. When they were using Google Slides, instructors had too much design freedom and it was becoming difficult for the Udacity curriculum managers to control and edit the output. That’s where Beautiful.ai comes in. 

The guardrails Udacity had been waiting for

Coming from Google Slides where the instructors were making a mess of their decks, the team at Udacity was looking for branding control and more restraint. "In Google Slides you have the whole world at your disposal,” Ben Hommerding says, “Instructors were able to go off the rails. They wouldn’t use the colors we wanted, would copy and paste where it didn’t make sense, and were messing up the typography.” Despite their pre-selected Google Slide templates, the team at Udacity was having to redo a lot of the work for instructors and it was a time-suck. Udacity has content quality standards in place for a reason and in the case of slides good visual design is of the utmost importance. A presentation perk Udacity found? You don’t need to go to a designer as frequently when using Beautiful.ai to produce and manage content. 

With Beautiful.ai they were able to lock the template and control everything down to the colors and fonts— and it saves the team a significant amount of time without them having to think about it. Ben admits, less is actually more. When you have less tools at your disposal it’s harder to design, but it ultimately comes out better. The content control and guardrails allows you to focus on what’s important, and the end result draws your audience to the right items on the screen. 

Ben adds, "I don’t really want to go back. Everytime we go back to Google Slides I think ‘boy does this look terrible compared to what we created in Beautiful.ai.’" 

"Beautiful.ai allows you to tell a better story with less effort and more impact"

Ben Hommerding, Curriculum Manager, Udacity

View Udacity's presentation here.

Crucial real-time edits with the cloud

The cloud is key. The biggest benefit around Beautiful.ai’s collaborative piece is being able to collaborate live. The Udacity curriculum managers are always building in tandem with instructors, so being able to work on things together in the cloud has been crucial. Plus, the ability to comment and provide feedback in real-time during collaborative sessions helps the team improve efficiency. 

Beyond collaboration, the capability to make real-time edits on the fly is an important part of Udacity’s production process. In Beautiful.ai they are able to make live edits when presenting or producing a course so that the information is always accurate and up to date. If the instructor is still waiting for the last piece of data, or there’s a typo, the curriculum manager can be updating those slides ahead of the presenter to manage the content in a live stream. Ben adds, “You can update the slides in the background without stopping the story you are telling.” If you have to exit out of a presentation it breaks the story and looks unprofessional. 

At Beautiful.ai we love this feature, too. It used to be that you had to have everything updated and perfect before you started, but now we’ve made it possible to continue to edit in the background while a colleague is presenting live. It’s a life saver for last minute data changes, finishing content, or making changes on the fly. This is especially important in the production process for Udacity because they don’t need to leave the presentation to make an edit and then relaunch the deck as you would with other tools. In fact, Ben said that the ability to make updates while an instructor is recording saves them up to two hours without having to reload the slides and start over. 

Udacity saves 30% of time with Beautiful.ai

Time is money, and the proof is in the pudding. Udacity measures their efficiency by their time on each course, and how long they’re spending on each part of the build. Ben said that since making the switch to Beautiful.ai, Udacity has been able to reduce the time spent with the instructor significantly. It’s easier to help instructors by providing them with examples, templates, and the branding control. But it’s also easier on the Udacity curriculum managers, too. “For me personally, I have to spend a lot less time— probably 30%— helping them design their slides than what I would in Google Slides. As we continue to test and get better with it, that percentage will continue to increase,” Ben says. Not having to help them update or redo slides has allowed Ben to focus on other pillars of the job. He adds, "The one feature that is the most helpful are the smart slide templates. The quality of the ready-made templates and the ease of designing something complicated really quickly is a game-changer.”

Our smart slide templates put formatting on autopilot. You add your content and our smart slides will adapt using design best practices so that you can create beautiful slides in minutes, not hours. 

Ben closes us out with, "Beautiful.ai allows you to tell a better story with less effort and more impact"