Redbean - A recent trip for a regular cardiac stress test gave me a real world example of just how important experience design is to our lives. Not only were the usual physician and coronary-care nurse/ecg technician in attendance but on this day they were trialling a new cardiac test machine and so we had a sales representative with us as well.
The first ‘insight’ was during the echo stress test when the sonographer struggled to manipulate both the ultrasound transducer on my chest, with her right hand, as well as the computer mouse with her left hand. “Are you left handed?” I enquired. “No” was her curt reply as she manoeuvred to co-ordinate the recording of my heart via a menu-driven interface. Lying on my left side as required I empathised with her while she worked against a layout that forced her to work back to front with a totally inappropriate interface and means of interacting.
A quick search of the net would have shown that someone has thought about this and you can purchase special beds to alleviate the problems of “left lateral decubitis” (laying on your left side) sonography , which even have arm supports to alleviate sonographer fatigue and (this is a nice touch) solid oak legs. ( Solid Oak Legs - Echocardiography bed )
Then it was on to the new integrated ECG monitor and treadmill. After hooking me up with the mandatory 12 leads coming from the PC to my upper body we started the treadmill. “What do I do with the leads?” I asked. “Oh, can you just hang on to them while you are running?” Well I had to as there was nowhere for them to go. A small oversight? Now when I had prepared for this test by running up and down the hills near my home I hadn’t been carrying a brick in one hand. I should have. The weight and inconvenience of these 12 leads only became worse as the test progressed (for over 13 minutes).
I would have complained but was too absorbed by gasping for air and the interaction between the physician and the sales rep. Everytime the doc pointed out a problem or had a query the sales rep had a well rehearsed comeback. He used all the classic used car sales techniques. Except this device cost more than a new car and was meant to be ’state of the art’. Most of the doctor’s objections were to do with the poor interface (again), lack of a touch screen and so being forced to use a mouse, and the lack of customisation available (all customisations required return to factory to complete). The interface was obviously based on Windows 2000 or so and the rep told us they used it because it was stable. Thus they had inherited all the crude chunky graphics and poor interaction design of that era.
I spoke with the physician afterwards and we both agreed he could do a lot to improve the experience of both staff and patient in what is a naturally high stress (no pun intended) environment. Struggling with poor design, both virtual, spatial and physical, is the last thing you need when carrying out an important medical procedure. Yet some basic observation and design of the whole experience would show the obvious (and often easy to fix) problems. The need for Experience Design is everywhere, if only we want to look.