Today is World Usability Day, so I’m going to talk about some famous usability disasters. As web developers we’re lucky - our usability shortcomings almost never kill anyone.
Some famous examples of fatal usability problems include:
- The Airbus 320 crash in Jan 1992 was partly caused by a mode switch in the wrong position. The mode switch changed the meaning of descent rate numbers entered into the autopilot and was toggled by a small switch in a large bank of other switches.
- The London Ambulance Service dispatch system that scrolled incoming calls off the the screen before they’d been dealt with (and there was no scroll bar to get them back).
- The Therac-25 radiotherapy machine which killed a number of patients due to unclear error messages. A message like MALFUNCTION 1 or MALFUNCTION 64 was displayed when the machine detected conditions which placed patients at risk, but the meaning of the errors wasn’t described in the operators manual.
Tags: Broken Link Check
First posted Nov 2010