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Why Powerpoint should be more curated, and my suggested (radically fantastic) changes

May 6, 2010

I must admit that I have a soft spot for the guys at 37 Signals. I like their software, it is lovely and simple, I also love their philosophy on work (such as in their book “ReWork”) and their views on the importance of simplicity in design.

If you don’t know who I am talking about “37 Signals” are web developers with a strong quest for simplicity. They insist that those who are designing a piece of software (or any product for that matter) are essentially the curators of the product. And like the curator of a museum exhibit it is up to that person to make the hard but crucial decisions about what goes into the offering and what gets thrown in the trash, what will enhance the offering and what will detract from the core offering/function etc.

If we take a look at PowerPoint, and, really the entire Microsoft office range, it is fairly obvious within a minute or two that any attempt to sort the wheat from the chaff just hasn’t happened at all. There are far too many features in MS PowerPoint, and what is made worse is that they all seem to be given equal importance in terms of placement.

One quick example is that the “paste” function (which surely anyone below the age of 90 knows can be achieved with a right-click or ctrl+v) has a huge button on the PowerPoint ribbon, whereas the “Distribute” function is hidden away completely and takes two clicks to even find, most people don’t know that this button exists! Yet it would make a great difference if people did. This happens all throughout Powerpoint with dozens of important features hidden, while more basic/ less used ones remain front and centre.

Then to make matters even worse, every new version of PowerPoint brings with it an increasingly nauseating set of effects, animations and transitions. While using the beta of PowerPoint 2010, I am quite sure that I almost vomited when looking through their new slide transitions. They are so over the top it isn’t even funny.

The problem is that there is no attempt at indicating to the user the design do’s and design don’ts of PowerPoint, I have to presume that the designers of truly believe in the wisdom of the masses and just listen to the loud voices calling for more “pizzaz” and “excitement” and “umph”.

If by some odd happening I were to be given control of designing the next PowerPoint I would make the following changes:

  • The default layout for every slide would be BLANK not ‘Header – text pane’.
  • There would be no 3d graphing functions for 2d data, ever, never ever ever, ever.
  • I would have a FULLY customisable ribbon.
  • I would get the guys at 37 signals to design it.
  • The only transitions allowed would be “fade”, “push”, and on special occasions perhaps wipe.
  • There would be a grand total of ZERO pre-designed templates. Well there would be one, “white slide”
  • There would be ZERO clip art, just links to flickr, google images etc.
  • Placing a logo in the corner of every slide would result in the software self destructing and taking your computer with it.

That’s all I can think of right now… any suggestions?

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 6, 2010 1:17 pm

    Great ideas Ed. I like the last one in particular.

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