is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Vice President of User Experience at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. You can reach him through one of the services below.+
A good chunk of my day today was spent designing an investor presentation for a client using the supremely inaccurate Microsoft PowerPoint — first on Mac OS X and then on Windows XP — a process which is best likened to assembling a model airplane with oven mitts on. There’s a lot left to be desired in all of the Microsoft Office applications, mostly owing to fact that counter-intuitiveness seems to be the suite’s guiding design principle, but I have a special complaint for PowerPoint. Not only does it do a poor job of crystallizing a thorough thought process, but it’s remarkably unfaithful to user intentions.
The formatting I made to my presentation were sometimes lost by PowerPoint after closing the file, and the next time I would open them my changes had been reverted to some odd default state. I’m not just talking about strange quirks that come and go without fanfare; the erroneous changes I’m referring to were frequent and demonstrable, and I was able to reproduce their effect for my co-workers easily.
In spite of the fact that this strange behavior followed an identifiable pattern, it remained inexplicable — I could find no clear reason why changing a typeface would not be retained the first three times I saved a file, but somehow the selection would stick the fourth time — and why this would happen on not just one, but two separate (but similar) files. A few of these wild errors were potentially disastrous, and had I not double-checked the files before sending them off to the client, they would have caused considerable embarrassment. This has been my experience with PowerPoint for the four or five years I’ve been working with it, and I’m tired of it.+