A Bad UX can cause Death by 1000 cuts

The ISO 9241 standard presents the definition of usability as Effective Efficient and Satisfying in a specified context of use.

Almost every App, Website, or bit of software advertises their system as "Easy to use." It is a very common bit of marketing text that is used to help promote, and/or sell the particular software solution. The big question is "easy to use" for whom? Sure the system is easy for the developers and business analyst that helped form the design of the system. It might also be "easy to use" for someone with expert level understanding of the system and experience with the specific application.

It might be difficult to use for someone without such experience or perhaps when using the application in a specific context of use that does not match the design. See EHR Usability Gap - Specific Context of use.

Imagine using a tablet or touchscreen application in an operating room with gloves on. Here, the specific context of use has a huge effect of the overall User Experience

A usable application presents and accepts information in a manner that matches the mental model and workflow of it's users. It uses industry standard and/or end-user nomenclature and presents that information in a consistent manner that makes decisions and actions easier to complete. But it isn't about consistency. See A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

Death by 1000 Cuts

One of the simplest and most effective ways to improve the usability and user experience of a software system is to introduce or improve the text that appears along with the input fields. Another is to examine each user task and create "Smart Defaults?" The idea is simple: Why not use as much information as possible to create a more user friendly interactive experience by making calculated assumptions about your user? Using geo-location algorithms based upon IP address for a travel site, it could default to the closest airport.

What is the default sort order in your app or website? Is the the same for every list that you present to your users? (Probably ascending alpha?). Why not take the time to think about the lists that your application presents and the actions that your user might be taking with that list.

In a recent consultation with developers and product management for a large enterprise government system, a senior member the development team suggested because several drop-down selections contain only 4 or 5 items it is not necessary to sort them. It is so simple. "The user can figure it out on their own," they said.

Steve Krug's tag line "Don't make me think" seems to come to the top of mind. Why not take the extra step to present all information to the end user in a way that makes easier for them to understand and act.

"It is just a simple drop-down list, it isn't necessary to sort." We were told.

Each time a decision is made to not optimize a UI to be Effective Efficient and Satisfying (in a specific context of use)-- no matter how small-- is a "cut." "Death by one thousand cuts," aka LingChi' even has it's own WIKI page.

In HealthIT the lack of usability can kill people. Unfortunately too many people have been killed or hurt by a poorly design User Interface.