I can’t recall a newsworthy public event that has ever generated so much user experience buzz as the recent Hawaiian missile alert debacle. Within the UX community, the volume of blog reaction has been a biblical flood. Usability and User Experience heavyweights like Jared Spool and Nielsen Norman Group have weighed in, but so have a LOT of others. Search for “Hawaii Alert + design” and you will have a reading list to last for weeks. The event even resulted in words like interface and usability popping up on mainstream news sources like the Baltimore Sun and CBC.
I sure don’t feel like I can add anything new to this torrent, so I won’t. But I’m interested in the enormous reaction. It’s like every UI and UX designer in the world wants to wave their arms and yell “See? THIS is what we’re talking about!”
I wonder if the voluminous response is a reflection of an industry that’s still fighting for recognition and respect. Despite the advances, and the growing recognition that “usable” systems are sort of a good thing, we sometimes still have to fight to influence outcomes. This incident gave every frustrated designer the chance to say: This was predictable. This was preventable. This was not user error. Design for experience matters.
Yes, there are real world consequences from poorly designed systems. No, well designed interfaces are not a luxury. And definitely no, design is not just choosing colours and fonts.
If you’d like to read more about the UX perspective on the Hawaiian missile alert, and you don’t want to scroll through 9,000,000 Google results, here’s a handy list of 34 articles on the topic.