Lessons Learned from Hawai’i – User Experience Pt. 1

User Experience Matters- Why?

A slightly longer article this time with a real world example straight from the news. It well illustrates both the importance of user experience and the fact that we generally don’t notice it unless it goes horribly wrong.

User Experience Gone Awry

Bear with me- I’m sure you’ve heard this story recently. This past Saturday morning in Hawai’i, a government employee selected the wrong option from a dropdown menu during what should have been a routine systems check. Instead of testing the state’s missile alert system, an actual missile alert began.

38 minutes of terror and confusion ensued, with panicked residents and tourists doing everything from seeking shelter below manholes to drinking vodka shots and sending goodbye messages to loved ones.

The state corrected the alert but the damage was already done, and the citizens of Hawai’i were reeling in the aftermath. First, there was a numb layer of shock. It had all been a mistake. And then the anger set in.

Eventually the state provided images of the menu the employee was using- a jumbled mess of links for everything from Amber Alerts to High Surf warnings. None of the options appear with explanations or validation options.

The employee responsible was reassigned, and the state committed to reviewing its emergency management systems. Still, for some of those impacted by the events of that Saturday morning, it’s not enough. And many more people are still wondering ‘how could this happen?’

In large part, beyond human error or incompetence, this error can be directly traced to faulty user experience design.

So What is User Experience?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines User Experience (UX for short) as focusing on “having a deep understanding of users, what they need, what they value, their abilities, and also their limitations.  It also takes into account the business goals and objectives of the group managing the project. UX best practices promote improving the quality of the user’s interaction with and perceptions of your product and any related services.” [source, italics ours]

In short, it must be easy to access, navigate and use.

The End?

This isn’t a comprehensive study of User Experience, we’ve barely scratched the surface. Stay tuned or subscribe, in part two we’re going to look at how things could have gone differently on Saturday.

As always, if you’re feeling lost, give me a call at 858-461-9736. You can also use the form below or click here to contact me today for a free consultation.

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