Summer of 2013 he and his family went to their vacation and their daughter Rebecca became ill and was flown to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. (details excluded for respect of privacy)
He pulled out his iPhone on his way to the hospital trying to figure out where exactly his daughter should be in the hospital to try to get to her the quickest way possible once he arrived, so he went to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s website. Did not help.
He saw a BROCHURE that was fuzzy on his iPhone. He couldn’t figure out what to do.
During all the time he spent pinching and zooming around the website, not once did he see the phone number on each page, because it looked like an ad and his brain dismissed it. It never occurred to him that they (there were 4 people in the car with smart phones) could CALL the hospital, even though they were WAITING FOR THE HOSPITAL TO CALL THEM.
Karen McGrane says “You don’t get to decide what your users will want to do on mobile. They do.” This is true. And it wasn’t even a conscious decision on the part of him and the rest of his family.
Add a user type to your list – A USER IN CRISIS. Someone who can just barely focus on your awesome design and soothing copy. And designing in this way will not just help the person in crisis, it will help and make the site simple for everyone.

The guy who just found out his automatic mortgage payments failed for the last 3 months and he’s freaked out his house will get taken away and even if it doesn’t how
Jennifer who’s stalker just emailed her and upped the stakes and she needs to shut down her online accounts NOW.
———-
Empathy for our purposes means –
You need to fully image being a person who doesn’t how how this shit works. 
———-
Some tips for designing for crisis:
Stop segregating. Get a summary of the most important information on one page.
As you design for personas, create contexts in which you place your personas. 
Example: Midweek Lunch Hour, After Bedtime, Waiting Room Mobile Device.
This may lead you to realize that design decisions in one context may not even apply in another context.
Example: At the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia there is this adorable playful addition to their elevator system where children’s voices tell you ‘doors closing!’ and ‘third floor!’… They arrived at midnight and there were literally NO OTHER PEOPLE at the hospital. They get in the elevator and as the doors close this children’s voice said “doors closing!” and the first thing they thought was ‘OH MY GOD I’M IN THE SHINING!’ It was completely unwelcome. All someone had to do was program those voices to not play during hospital quiet hours. That way you would get the fuzzy feeling during the day when it’s appropriate, and when things are less welcoming/appropriate, you get the familiar elevator dings.
Think about this – in certain contexts, some personas are not even present! At midnight, the ONLY persona in the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is the guy in crisis. That makes the decision of turning off the children’s voices an easy yes in that context.
———
When redesigning the An Event Apart website they realized there were at least 2 personas that would use the website:
Personas: Attendee, and Administrative Assistant. The attendee will get the quippy web jokes, but the Administrative Assistant just wants to get someone registered and get moving on to her next task.
Contexts: In leisure context, and registering in haste (early bird ends tomorrow example)
Now they are realizing they did not design for a user in crisis, which for them would be “Oh my gosh I swear I registered but nobody has any record of it and the conference is next week and I already have my plane ticket bought WHAT DO I DO?”
———
The airline industry
A user in crisis is a common appearance in this industry.
How great would it be if the airports redesigned some of their systems for the user in crisis, like the guy that just barely has enough time to sprint across the airport to make his connecting flight, or the woman who got to the airport ‘in time’ but 80% of the security lanes are now closed and she has to wait an hour and a half to get through to the terminal now.
How about adding a map of the airport to the airline’s app with clear directions on how to get from one point to another? You could also have a way the app could generate a card that would allow you to
Booking a Ticket
A lot of airline tickets are booked well in advance and there’s a bit of flexibility with travel plans, but airline ticketing sites are awful so even the ideal user in that ideal context is going to be frustrated at the end of the process.
So now what about the user in crisis that needs to get a very specific ticket booked as soon as possible?
You don’t care what equipment type / aircraft you’re on, or what meal type.
You need to know 2 things: when will I get there and how much will it cost me?
Unified booking sites are just as bad. He loves hipmunk.com, because they are incredibly simple and easy to use.
————
The GE Adventure Series
A way to make imaging for children from terrifying to terrific.
Doug Deets at GE realized there was a problem (the goal was to decrease the amount of children they had to sedate to perform a CT scan on because there are risks related and it is time consuming and expensive).
At the same time, the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh (UPMC) realized there was the same problem, and they implemented very simple design tactics to make the experience less scary for children (they decorated the room and told the children if they were very still they could pick something from the treasure chest afterwards).
  • Sedation rate went down 99% in 2 year
  • Wait time for elective CT scans went from 17 days to 0 days
  • And they actually were able to do 15% more CT scans
The GE Adventure Series is in Eric’s opinion the single best implementation of design for the user he has ever seen.
——-
USER TESTING
So, if you’re going to do user testing, you can add little bits of CSS that blur the whole page, or make certain aspects of the page shake that make the experience more mirror a crisis situation. You could similarly use a javascript applet to replace every 5th word with dashes. You can also set a very tight time limit on the activity. Prescreen your users so your design testing will not trigger an actual crisis like a seizure. You will also need to pay them more for ‘hazard pay’ but it will be worth it.
—-
Main Takeaways:
  1. Diversify personas
  2. Put them in context
  3. Give them information on what to do in different failure cases (give detailed error messages)
  4. Do user testing where you simulate a crisis situation
We often say that design is a thankless field because when you do a good design nobody notices. I’ve asked you to do things that will never be noticed. If your design helps a user in crisis they will never see what you did, but you will have helped them in the most profound way by not adding to their burdens. So I am thanking you in their place, so when you implement a design that helps a user in crisis, please contact me directly so I can thank you in place of those who need it most.

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