Monday, November 04, 2013

Jakob Nielsen's website offers articles about usability in computer user interfaces. The recommendations are based on studies of people trying to use apps and websites, as well as common sense. There are many articles here worth reading, but I wish to point out a new one about the rather horrendous user interface that people must navigate in order to sign up for insurance. The author is Jen Cardello, and the article's title is:

HealthCare.gov’s Account Setup: 10 Broken Usability Guidelines

The bottom line here is that users who find the interface frustrating will spend much more time on its screens (contributing to overload of the system), and many will give up and overload the support staff with phone calls. The developers of the healthcare website seem to have made many bad decisions (please read the article!), but two are particularly fascinating:

There is an enormous image atop the first screen. Users with low resolution CRTs may not realize that there is anything they can do on this screen, because the instructions are lower down. Many users will have to figure out they must scroll to get started.

Users must supply a unique ID, but they cannot use their email address as their ID. Email addresses are unique (although I must say people's email addresses can change, and that could be a problem). The instructions, and the process, for selecting one's ID and password are unnecessarily complex and confusing. Why? 

Why wasn't there a good user interface specialist to help the developers design this website?
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