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Tag: UX

We Are All Designers

By KIM BELLARD

Raise your hand if you had to go through the Hunger Games labyrinth to score a COVID-19 vaccine earlier this year – figuring out which phone number(s)/website(s) to try, navigating it, answering all the questions, searching for available appointments within reasonable distances, and, usually, having to try all over again.  Or, raise your hand if you’ve had trouble figuring out how to use an Electronic Health Record (EHR) or an associated Patient Portal. 

Maybe you thought it was you.  Maybe you thought you weren’t tech-savvy enough.  But, a trio of usability experts reassure us, it’s not: it’s just bad design.  And we should speak up.

“Everyone everywhere: A distributed and embedded paradigm for usability,” by Professors Michael B. Twidale, David M. Nichols, and Christopher P. Lueg, was published in Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology (JASIST) in March, but I didn’t see it until the University of Illinois School of Information Sciences (where Dr. Twidale is on faculty) put out a press release a few days ago. 

The authors believe that bad design has costs — to users and to society — yet: “The total costs of bad usability over the life of a product are rarely computed. It is almost like we as a society do not want to know how much money has been wasted and how much irritation and misery caused.”

Whatever the numbers are, they’re too high.

As Dr. Twidale said:

Making a computer system easier to use is a tiny fraction of the cost of making the computer system work at all. So why aren’t things fixed? Because people put up with bad interfaces and blame themselves. We want to say, ‘No, it’s not your fault! It is bad design.'”

He specifically referenced the vaccine example: “When hard to use software means a vulnerable elderly person cannot book a vaccination, that’s a social justice issue.  If you can’t get things to work, it can further exclude you from the benefits that technology is bringing to everyone else.” 

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