In the interest of continuing a fair and balanced dialog about what I think is a very serious issue, I feel compelled to write a response to “How Bad UX Killed Jenny.”
TL;DR: Fixing the bad UX that can potentially kill people — and already has — is going to be a very difficult task.
But that doesn’t mean it isn’t time to start.
When I read Jonathan Shariat’s article this morning, I experienced what can only be expressed, in a classic Twitter-in-cheek way, as ALL THE FEELINGS.
I had ALL THE FEELINGS for several reasons:
- I worked at the Oncology Nursing Society for 12 years. I started out there as a copy editor and eventually ran software projects.
- The article directly links oncology nurses struggling with a complicated user interface to the death of a patient.
- ONS offers a Chemotherapy Certificate course that helps ensure oncology nurses who administer chemo are trained, certified, and prepared to handle not only the drugs, but also the emotional side-effects of living with cancer and undergoing cancer treatment. Chemo nurses who work in many hospitals and out-patient clinics are required to take this course.
- I have written about a similar subject matter before, in my October 2013 article, “How Healthcare.gov Can Help Save Software Development.”
- I left my job at ONS in November of 2013, and wrote and published a farewell letter to staff.
- The nurses referenced in the article may be people I know, or have met at a conference over the years. Regardless of the personal connection, I know nurses like them. I have hugged them. And I understand them.
Shariat’s article is deservedly successful for several reasons. For one, it has a great title, and even if I wasn’t passionate about UX and healthcare, I would have read it. In addition, it gets the conversation started. And that’s what we all need.
I see the solutions, however, as more nuanced.
Industries that could use the help of talented designers and developers — and my list of these is growing, from insurance companies to school districts to departments of motor vehicles — need help understanding why our work is so dearly needed. Leaders in these organizations have to understand the need, and place importance on it.
My struggle with the recommendations to do something — and I do appreciate the call to action — is that we need to do more than apply for jobs at these organizations and speak up. We need to find a way to influence and inspire the leaders who run them.
Because without that, and without the support from the top, it’s sadly too easy for talented, passionate people — people who care so deeply about a company’s mission that they will work nights and weekends to make it happen —to get very burned out.
It happened to me and it is happening to others.
Please get those jobs. Please redesign things. Please start it up and speak out.
Go to UX Conferences. But take your boss with you.
Hold a lunch event and watch Jared Spool speak. Invite the CIO.
Design a great site. And then find ways to measure — preferably in dollars — how this new design can positively influence the “bottom line.”
Test that great new site with real users. And ask the CEO to watch the session.
Because our designs can’t do it alone. And neither can we.
We need support and buy-in from everyone in the C-suite, everyone who signs the checks, develops the strategic plan, and sets the priorities.
This will be the hard part, but it’s the most necessary part.
Your great designs will come, and then — and only then — will they be able to make the difference we all need them to.
Thanks for getting the conversation started.
I love you all.