Prof. Walsh: If An Emergency Alert is a False Alarm, It's Probably Bad Interface Design
January 22, 2018
Contact: Office of Government and Public Affairs
In an op-ed in The Baltimore Sun about Hawaii's recent false alarm for an incoming missile, Greg Walsh, assistant professor in the University of Baltimore's Division of Science, Information Arts and Technologies, says that the alarm appears to have been caused by human error and a bad computer interface.
"Computer systems are inherently complex things. For years, the user interface was determined by the limitations of the technology," writes Walsh, the director of UB's M.S. in Interaction Design and Information Architecture program. "Thirty years ago, engineers did their best to make an interface that was both usable and worked within the technological limits. Think about the black screens with green text you may have seen from the '80s. At the time, the programmer was usually responsible for the entirety of the experience because that was really all there was. In the last two decades, a new role in technology, the interaction designer, has developed. Still, too many IT projects don't include this job because it is seen as nice to have—but not a necessity. In traditional software development cycles, making the interface usable is a superfluous act and is saved for the end when time and budget permit. If you've ever worked on any kind of project, you know that time and budget never allow for corrections at the finish line. It's already too late and over budget."
Read the op-ed.
Learn more about Prof. Greg Walsh and the M.S. in Interaction Design and Information Architecture program.