What are good war stories about HCI / web design / UX design?
March 29, 2011 5:16 PM   Subscribe

Google testing 41 shades of blue. AA firing one of their web designers for responding to a designer. Don Norman failing to get Apple to standardize their power switch on the Mac product line. What are other great war stories about HCI / web design / UX design?

My colleagues and I are considering starting out lectures for our summer course in HCI with a discussion of a war story about the challenges of human-centered design in practice. What are the best stories you know of that can help spur discussion about the joys, challenges, and frustrations that they will face in industry?

To help set the context, the students are already reasonably well-versed in a lot of classwork and theory about HCI and user-centered design. We also had a great discussion about the 41 shades of blue, almost everyone in the room had heard of it.
posted by jasonhong to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
posted by flabdablet at 5:34 PM on March 29, 2011

Err..contact me and I will regale you with my institution's nightmare of web design. It seriously could be a case study.
posted by jadepearl at 5:46 PM on March 29, 2011

Amazon's $300 million button
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 6:24 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Folklore.org is a good source for early Mac design stories. I quite like the tale of the ill-fated "Do It" button.
posted by Rhaomi at 6:28 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Therac-25 accidents:
The Therac-25 was a radiation therapy machine produced by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) after the Therac-6 and Therac-20 units (the earlier units had been produced in partnership with CGR of France). It was involved in at least six accidents between 1985 and 1987, in which patients were given massive overdoses of radiation, approximately 100 times the intended dose.[2] These accidents highlighted the dangers of software control of safety-critical systems, and they have become a standard case study in health informatics and software engineering.
Admittedly, most of its failures were software engineering related but there're some frightening UI issues that excerbated the problem.
posted by asymptotic at 5:17 AM on March 30, 2011

Aw, 'cmon jadepearl...We're all friends here. We'd all love to hear your story!
posted by Thorzdad at 5:20 AM on March 30, 2011

How about The Case of the Missing Dot?
posted by spongeboy at 5:39 AM on March 30, 2011

Dude, I am STILL living the case study. All I can say is that one morning the university opened up and had a new website without forewarning to students, faculty and staff. This was done during registration no less, so students were confused on where the course schedule was posted, catalog and course descriptions. Here is a stat: More than 65% of navigation is done by using the google search bar on the site (did I mention that was a later, demanded feature?) because it is too confusing to navigate. Oh yeah, the university president at the time, let Marketing own the university website 'cause the web is about marketing nothing else.
posted by jadepearl at 5:39 PM on March 30, 2011

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