There are plenty of products out there that make it possible to create narrated walk-throughs of content, but most of these tend to be either static PowerPoint-style slide shows or video-based walk-throughs. What if instead of static images and files, you wanted to walk people through live Web pages, or even a mix of live Web pages and static content such as images and media?
That's the purpose of FlowGram's Flowgrams. Available at flowgram.com, Flowgram is a free beta Web service that lets users combine live Web pages and other content and create a shareable narrated walk-through.
Flowgrams are based on Adobe Flash technology, but users don't need any familiarity with Flash. Basically anyone who has created a narrated presentation or photo slide show can create a Flowgram.
To get started, I simply logged into the site and created my first Flowgram. From the Add Content area users can choose to add everything from Web pages to photos to custom text to documents to audio. When I chose to add content, the Flowgram site would process it for use, and while this was happening I could add additional content or leave the Add Content page.
In general, adding content worked well, but not in all cases when it came to Web content. I specifically ran into problems with sites like www.eweek.com that have Prestitial advertisements. In some cases, when I was using the add content area of the Flowgram site, these Web pages were never successfully processed and I couldn't use them. However, if I used the optional Bookmarklets browser add-on that FlowGram provided, I was able to bypass the initial site advertisements.
Once content has been added it can be easily manipulated from the Pages window. Here I could change the order of pages using drag and drop, delete pages or jump into the View window to customize them.
From the View window I could highlight text within Web pages and add sticky notes describing content. If there was content I wanted to point out at the bottom of a window or that required scrolling down in the browser to see, I could highlight this content to move the Flowgram to that point.
I could also record my audio narrations from the View area, and this was pretty simple and straightforward. Just hit record and talk into your microphone. If I didn't like it I could re-record the content.
Publishing the Flowgram is a simple as hitting a share button, and I could then e-mail someone a link to my Flowgram or embed it in my Web pages.
There are some areas where the service could be improved. I would have liked the option to include a volume button within my Flowgrams so that viewers could quickly adjust the audio volume. Offline support for downloading Flowgrams outside of the flowgram.com Web site would be attractive to many business users. And the program still suffers from beta instabilities and feature quirks.
Still, in general I found Flowgram to be pretty interesting, and I could think of many uses for it, whether for showing a new site design to colleagues at work or helping my parents use a new Web service.
To try out Flowgrams for yourself go to www.flowgram.com.