The Agilist Network

Tales and Tips from Agile Software Projects

Pardon me, but we are about to crash…

Posted by kenhoward on September 12, 2010

The polite female voice came on the plane’s loudspeaker: “This is an emergency announcement. We may shortly need to make an emergency landing on water.”

Panic ensued on the British Airway’s flight headed from London to Hong Kong two weeks ago. They were, in fact, not descending into the sea. They were headed into turbulence, and the pilot pressed the wrong announcement button. The “We are crashing!!!” button was situated right next to the “Please ensure your seatbelt is fastened; we are entering turbulence.” button. Oops!

User Experience experts must consider a multitude of scenarios when designing a user interface. We take vehicle dashboards, GUI screens, and microwave oven control panels for granted. Many require training and practice. My microwave oven has poorly labeled buttons and the sequence of button presses required to heat my oatmeal for a minute and a half took a lot of disciplined practice to get down pat. Ease of use by me, the consumer, was clearly not a priority for the GE engineer who designed the control panel.

Improving Enterprises has launched an exciting new practice that is making a positive impact on users of the software we develop. Our User Experience (UEX) team has a knack for empathetic design – designing interfaces that optimize the experience of the user of a system. This is a skill often lacking in even the best software engineers. Attention to quality and detail from the inside out is certainly important, but attention to detail from the outside in can amplify an excellent system into one that knocks your socks off.

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One Response to “Pardon me, but we are about to crash…”

  1. Ah, UX. Reminds me of how Microsoft has forever placed the “maximize” button next to the “close” button.

    Of course with them, the crash warning usually isn’t superfluous.

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