User Interface Disasters

Save your company from the potential disaster of a poorly designed software solution.

By now you’ve probably heard about the alert that was sent to the inhabitants of Hawaii, erroneously warning them of an imminent ballistic missile attack. What you may not have heard is that this accidental warning that resulted in widespread panic happened because of a poorly developed software interface.
It breaks a little something in our tech-loving hearts every time we hear of a company or organization utilizing old, outdated and poorly designed software, but we haven’t seen anything this bad in quite some time. The screenshot below shows you the interface that the operators in Hawaii use for sending out test alerts and actual warnings. The difference between the drill and the warning: one word.

The link for PACOM (CDW) – STATE ONLY sends out the actual missile threat while just below it is the DRILL – PACOM (CDW) – STATE ONLY link, which runs a test of the emergency alert system. There’s very little separation between the two “buttons”, and this is a massive failure on the part of the User Interface developers.

If we ignore the horrors of using a text-link based interface, which looks like it surfaced from the 1990’s, we have to say that at the very least, the interface should have two separate columns – one holding all of the actual alert options and another for testing the system (additional color coding would be a plus). And the confirmation boxes that appear upon clicking a link should provide clear instructions rather than just asking “Are you sure?”

While we recognize that your business is probably not going to be sending out disaster alerts to an entire state, that doesn’t mean that the usability of your software and its User Interface (UI) isn’t equally important. A poorly designed UI can result in disasters for your company – from wasted time, increased employee turn-over, lost sales or revenues and added stress on executives and employees alike.

If your employees find your software solution difficult to navigate or use, chances are they’ll create their own work-arounds to your system, or, in extreme cases, stop using it all together. This can significantly impact the functionality and profitability of your company.

One example of this is Microsoft’s big UI blunder. In 2012 Microsoft released its Windows 8 operating system to mixed reviews. While there were significant upgrades to security and performance overall, the user interface was confusing and difficult to learn. This resulted in an abnormally low adoption rate for users. Much of the time and effort Microsoft put into developing Windows 8 was wasted as users simply refused to use it – or complained so heavily about being forced to use it that they lost out on other potential sales (an estimated 21% in its first month on the market).

So in 2015 Microsoft released the Windows 10 operating system, which returned to its desktop oriented interface and saw higher adoption rates across the board as its interface was designed the way users expected. More comfortable users meant increased usage.

If you’re using an outdated system (we hope it’s not all text-based like Hawaii’s!) or if your user interface requires a lot of unnecessary or confusing steps to accomplish a simple task, it may be time for you to consider an updated UI. Having a custom-built system not only ensures your UI is easy-to-use for your employees, but it also means your system will work to your business instead of you having to organize your business processes around an out-of-the-box solution.

When you’re considering adopting a new software solution, there are several points to keep in mind regarding its user interface:

  • Is it effortless? Does it require your users to learn multiple, complicated steps to accomplish a single task, or does it flow easily from one step to the next, guiding users through the process with minimal effort on their part? Your software should be a graceful blend between accomplishing your goals and considering your users’ needs when utilizing the software.
  • Does it solve users’ problems? Your software should address and resolve issues that your users may have experienced previously, or simplify complicated tasks to make daily processes easier.
  • Does it respect interface conventions? Users become accustomed to interacting with software in specific ways. If you have a colored box with a single line of text in it, a user expects that to be a button that will perform some operation when clicked. They expect clearly defined, easy to use navigation and simple functionality. Your UI shouldn’t ignore these conventions for the sake of looking “fresh” or “cool.”
  • Does it work on multiple devices? Technology is increasingly moving toward usability on a number of devices, from the standard desktop to tablets and mobile devices. Does your software accommodate the devices your users will likely use to access it? It should.

If you’re ready to retire an old software solution, or you’re looking to develop something entirely new, Spud Software is here to help. Not only will we define your processes and design a solution that is tailored to your company’s unique needs, but we will develop a UI that is user friendly and avoids the common user interface disasters that plague many companies today. For more information, visit our websiteor feel free to give us a call at 810-695-0001.