Death by Haiku Deck?

If you ever sat through a tedious text-heavy PowerPoint presentation, you probably appreciate all-too-well what the phrase ‘Death by PowerPoint’ means. But is it fair? After all, PowerPoint doesn’t create slides without user input, and it certainly doesn’t stand at the front of the room reading aloud slowly as you quickly scan what’s been written on the slides.

Death by PowerPoint isn’t inevitable. BrightCarbon offers super-fancy visual PowerPoint design that often uses absolutely no text. PowerPoint is a good tool for animation, and visual storytelling – if used right.

Yet, I do think that the design and layout of PowerPoint encourages novice users to make the wrong decisions. ‘Click to add title’. ‘Click to add text’. Default of a bulleted list. Not exactly the way to nudge users to make the right slide design choices.

PowerPoint doesn’t cause extreme boredom without people doing silly things with it – but neither does it make it hard for users to mess up. (Better default settings are one reason why some people think that Apple wins the Keynote vs. PowerPoint battle.)

Haiku Deck has been so well received in the presentation community – and elsewhere – at least in part because it makes it easy to create pretty nice slides, and hard to create really bad slides. It’s not a tool we use – because we can achieve more with PowerPoint – but for people needing to make slides without skill or training, it’s a great place to start. By default, the slides look nice, and they don’t undermine the presenter with too much text. Sure, you still need to think about how to make the images relevant and not just pretty – but at least you can’t cause ‘Death by Haiku Deck’. Until now.

The clever folk at Haiku Deck just added a bunch of new features. Some – most – are great additions. Who wouldn’t want to be able to create beautiful graphs? Who would say “no” to repositioning and cropping photos? These things enhance the product – and are in line with the central promise – of making it easy to create attractive slides. But lists? I’m not so sure.

When people complain about ‘Death by PowerPoint’ they are complaining about endless slides of lists. Make the list a bit shorter. Make it look a bit nicer. It’s still a list.

Here’s my list of times I think a slide used in a presentation (not as a short document) should need a bulleted list:

  • When showing a list that appears elsewhere
  • That’s it (I may well have missed something, but not much…)

Why would you want to use a list in a visual set of slides? How are you supposed to present a list to an audience without boring them?

I understand that this feature has been introduced because users asked for it. But what about giving users what they need, not what they ask for? Simplicity – which Haiku Deck has achieved admirably – is as much about what you don’t allow as what you do. And what about those who liked Haiku Deck precisely because it didn’t allow lists? Nobody was going to request not adding lists, were they? That’s not how feedback works.

I’m asking now. For audiences everywhere – lose the list functionality.

If people want lists, let them create them in PowerPoint, export as images, and import into Haiku Deck. Make it hard. If you want a list, you better really want it before trying to present it.

Average users can’t be trusted with slide design. We can already see that. Don’t lose Haiku Deck’s biggest strength just because people want to keep doing what they used to do in PowerPoint or Keynote.

May we at least have a vote on it?

Latest comments

Joby Blume on 13th March 2013 at 12:55 pm said

Should Haiku Deck allow users to create lists?

I vote “no”

Vincent on 14th March 2013 at 9:12 am said

Its a NO from me, the only thing I can think of worse than being shown a list in a presentation environment with large audience is up close and personal on an iPad, here I would need to act like I’m paying attention rather than have a nap.

Karl Parry on 18th March 2013 at 5:12 pm said

I agree lists and bullet points are a snooze-fest in presentations. However a list or agenda could be good if you could use it to navigate through a presentation/visual conversation – show a few options and let the audience tap/swipe the option they’d like to view.

Haiku deck isn’t allowing this at the moment, but maybe food for thought for future development?

Jakob Jochmann on 22nd March 2013 at 3:19 pm said

Usability is more important than features. Oftentimes adding features accomplishes little benefit. That’s because the usefulness of a tool is decided by how users use it. The point is that you can educate users about proper application or create a culture in which they are drawn to choices that serve them best. If they don’t know better, they often make harmful choices instead.

I say: Look at Powerpoint. It’s not the tool, it’s the cancerous culture that the default templates and bad experiences have created which we still battle with today. So if Haiku can think of a useful application for lists, by all means make it obvious and educate users about it. If they don’t know what purpose lists will serve? Kill the feature! Kill it with fire, before it lays hatchlings!

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