PowerPoint Design Gets Set Back 20 Years

Documents to Go

Image (c) DataViz, Inc.

Last week, the New York Times published an article about creating and editing PowerPoint presentations on mobile devices (such as iPhone, Blackberry, and Android smart phones, and iPads) using an app called Documents to Go. Reading it sent shivers down my spine — not the good kind — because this application sets presentation design back twenty years.

Sure, for the professional-on-the-go this might seem like a good thing. Why not create a presentation on a mobile device? You can add things as inspiration strikes, move bullets around, and add speaker notes. For somebody who travels often, it might seem like a boon not to be tied down to an office computer. But designing presentations on a mobile device isn’t a good idea. Here’s why.

When PowerPoint was first released, the general pattern a slide followed was: Title, Subtitle, Bullet Points 1–5. Although this pattern has, sadly, remained the norm for unenlightened PowerPoint users, those who wish to Cheat Death by PowerPoint understand that the latest trend of incorporating  images, sound, and movement into their decks creates more effective presentations. They’ve moved beyond the bullet point and entered the world of PowerPoint multimedia.

While entering text is easy to do on a mobile device, the audience won’t appreciate reading it. Neither will they enjoy the lack of images, animation, video, and sound. Viewing and editing presentations on miniscule screens removes people from the reality of the large screens upon which their presentations will ultimately be projected.

PowerPoint presentations should blend in with a company’s overall marketing mix. They should be (or appear to be) professionally designed, following specific design guidelines and standards. I can’t imagine that a presentation created on a mobile device would look like one that has been thoughtfully put together.

And while recording train-of-thought ideas is a great use for a mobile device, train-of-thought presentations are not. Presentations need to be well thought out, propoerly designed, and rehearsed before being given.

Sure, it might be handy to be able to make quick fixes to typos on a mobile device. But think twice before giving this whizbang technology a whirl for presentation design. You might be undoing hours of design and forethought while undermining the success of your presentation by creating your presentations on the go.

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