The New York Times has an excellent investigative report into radiation treatment errors. They tell the story of two patients who died due to errors, and report on the frequency of these events. Sadly the errors usually look preventable in hindsight. And predictably, manufacturers of the machines blame the technicians who operate the machines, when in truth a main cause is bad software design without proper attention to safety and usability practices.Link: Radiation Offers New Cures, and Ways to do Harm.
The article is the first in a series called The Radiation Boom. This kind of deep reporting is what makes the NYT and organizations like it so valuable.
David Pogue writes about the annoyances of captcha and other things: Recent stuff that bothers me.
He links to this site where people share captchas that are unreadable by humans: I Hate Word Verifications. (The KK example in the previous post is one where I could read it just fine but for some reason the system wouldn't accept my answer.)
The Onion's latest product review is brilliant. Video embedded below. (Warning: language may offend some!)
The US is once again demonstrating its supremacy when it comes to screwing up elections (with technology). Kim Zetter at Wired's Threat Level blog is tracking problems with electronic voting machines in early voting. That blog is a good jumping-off point for lots of other coverage. Regarding touchscreens in particular I posted more at my other blog.
I'm back from CHI and will be posting notes about it over the coming weeks (I am so not a live-blogger). There were a number of sessions that I think will be of interest to readers of this blog, starting with Bill Buxton's fantastic closing plenary. He threw out the canned talk he had planned to give and instead improvised along the theme of "Being Human in a Digital Age."
I hope video of the talk gets posted, but until then you should check out Nate Bolt's rough transcript. Here are a few points from memory:
I'll be in Florence next week for CHI 2008 (and won't be blogging).
If you happen to be going too and want to meet up, send me e-mail.
I recently started a new blog related to what I work on in my day job: usability aspects of touch interfaces. If you have an interest in touch interface research or usability engineering I invite you to check it out: Touch Usability.
Usability expert Jared Spool has written a couple of articles on how companies can avoid design mistakes on their web sign-in pages. Here is his list of common sign-in problems:
- Having a Sign-in In The First Place
- Requiring Sign-in Too Soon
- Not Stating the Benefits to Registering
- Hiding the Sign-In Button
- Not Making "Create New Account" or "Forgot Your Password" a Button or Link
- Not Providing Sign-in Opportunities at Key Locations
- Asking for Too Much Information When Registering
- Not Telling Users How You'll Use Their Information
- Not Telling Users the Requirements for Username and Password Up Front
- Requiring Stricter Password Requirements Than The NSA
- Using Challenge Questions They Won't Remember In A Year
- Not Returning Users to Their Desired Objective
- Not Explaining If It’s The Username or Password They Got Wrong
- Not Putting A Register Link When The Sign-In Is An Error
- Not Giving the User A Non-email Solution To Recover Their Password
- Requiring More Than One Element When Recovering Password
A few more suggestions (these might be rare but are really annoying!):
I have had the worst web page sign-in experiences with medical sites. I love that I can now access my records and communicate with my doctor online, but it's so difficult to remember how to log in and I do it so infrequently that it's a struggle every time. Part of the reason may be the US HIPAA privacy regulations (which are certainly important, don't get me wrong). My doctor's site has extremely strict requirements for passwords and user IDs, and the only way you can get a reminder is by snail mail (and actually they assign you a new password, so you can't sign in if you happen to remember it before the mail arrives). So what happens to me is I'll get a phone message or email that just says "you have a message -- please log in." I try to log in and fail, so I request a reminder. Two weeks later I receive a new password in the mail but by that point I've already called them so I don't need to log in. The letter with the new password gets buried (or I choose a new password and forget it) and then months later I go through the whole thing again. Granted I'm not the most organized person in the world, but this still seems tougher than it should.
See also this article by Anna Pickard in the Guardian today: Are you suffering from password pressure?