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Published on January 23rd, 2018 | by Emergent Enterprise


The UX That Almost Ended the World, Part 2

Could we have lost Hawaii and all of its citizens because of a bad software user interface? Based on the screenshots shared by the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency after the event, the answer is an unequivocal yes. Take a look at the mockup presented by HEMA after the now infamous missile scare was deemed a “false alarm.”

In hindsight it is easy to scoff at this ancient UI and then almost be frightened that such an important user choice was displayed this way. But the truth is many companies have legacy systems, both hardware and software, that present critical choices to the user that can easily be misunderstood and cause calamity.

As I mentioned in Part 1 of this Emergent Insight, there are some lessons that businesses can learn from the Hawaii nuclear missile debacle.

  1. Evaluate the user interfaces of your systems. Are they drop-down menu driven like the example above? How difficult is it for the user to choose between good or bad outcomes? If your interface reminds you of Windows XP or a website from 2005 you are probably in trouble and it is time to redesign the UI.
  2. Are your navigation choices simply text based? Why not use graphical elements like buttons that are shaped and colored differently? Use good standards of proximity and hierarchy to not allow two very different outcomes to be so close together on the screen.
  3. Add in a two-step process that gives the user a chance to rethink the decision. Let the software ask, “Are you sure you want to carry out this highly impactful decision?” It may the most important question ever asked of an overworked, under-caffeinated worker.

The state of Hawaii, the USA and the world is fortunate that the missile scare didn’t have more serious and perhaps fatal results. A lot of time and money is spent in setting up vital enterprise systems. Use due diligence to make sure the running of those systems isn’t one click away from disaster.

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The Emergent Enterprise (EE) website brings together current and important news in enterprise mobility and the latest in innovative technologies in the business world. The articles are hand selected by Emergent Enterprise and not the result of automated electronic aggregating. The site is designed to be a one-stop shop for anyone who has an ongoing interest in how technology is changing how the world does business and how it affects the workforce from the shop floor to the top floor. EE encourages visitor contributions and participation through comments, social media activity and ratings.

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