It would have sucked to be in Hawaii on January 13th, between 8.07am and 8:45am. Hawaii’s Emergency Alert System issued what was intended to be a drill, but mistakenly sent “the real thing”, sparking mass panic, evacuation and general chaos for 38 minutes.
The cause, ostensibly, was that the wrong button was pushed. But really, the real problem here was a bad user interface.
Above is a picture of the screen in question. The handler should have clicked: “Drill – PACOM (CDW) – State Only”. The handler actually clicked: “PACOM (CDW) – State Only”.
Not much in it, right?
Okay, there are other factors at play here – since the incident, two people are required to approve emergency alerts – but an intuitive, clear UI would have prevented this from happening in the first place.
We know that, for the most part, a user interface isn’t life-or-death, but it can mean the difference between success and failure. No matter how good your product / service, or the messaging around it, a bad UI can result in disaster of another kind entirely – sending your users and customers into the arms of your competitors.
PS: Hawaii's Governor also could have done with a password management system like Last Pass to avoid the delay in sending the counter-message, seeing as he forgot his Twitter password <facepalm>.
Not sure if your UI is cutting the mustard? Worried someone might push the wrong button with dire consequences? Contact us. We know the difference between a drill and the real thing.