Don’t Hit the Wrong Button…Why the User Interface Matters

As I’m sure you have heard by now, an emergency alert notification sent out over the weekend claiming a “ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii” was a false alarm. Pushing the “wrong button” was the explanation provided in an official timeline for that false warning.

In truth, it’s a bit more complicated than simply pushing the wrong button. Instead, during a routine test of the state’s emergency and wireless-emergency alert systems, a state employee selected “missile alert” instead of “test missile alert” from a drop-down menu in the agency’s alert-system software, then confirmed his incorrect selection with another click.

That makes more sense, I think we are all more comfortable knowing there isn’t a big red button that an employee might accidentally lean on and send an entire state into panic. However, that’s not to say the system has a user-friendly interface at all. On Monday, state officials released an image of the dropdown menu in question. Here it is:

Holy smokes. After seeing that menu, I’m very surprised that a false alert of this magnitude hasn’t happened before, and that false alarms don’t happen more often. The menu, which triggers alerts, contains a jumble of options, ranging from AMBER Alerts to tsunami warnings to road closures. Some are in plain English, some are in acronyms.

The lesson here: The user interface matters. Granted, government technology has a reputation for being decades behind what users are used to outside of work. But, software that is clunky, hard to work with, or just plain ugly will hinder employees in doing their jobs.

The truth is, a bad interface can affect the user experience drastically. I can picture the employee in Hawaii, who sadly has reportedly been reassigned, getting used to a seamless and personal experience on his iPhone and tablet. He’s always connected and has the world at his fingertips. Then, he reports to work and has to step back in time.

Too often, the user’s experience in enterprise software has been ignored. But it is something that should be an integral part of the design process, from early concepts to the final product. To that end, SugarCRM has made continuous investments in the Sugar UX. We are pleased to report we are working on a visual restyling of our CRM offering. More details will be coming soon.