Monday, June 13, 2016

#econfPSU Keynote 2: Eric Meyer - Designing for Crisis

The Background

Family vacation...daughter taken to ER...tested positive for strep.  Never got better, went home, went to another hospital.  Seizure, CT Scan, 2nd seizure...I'm having trouble typing the rest of this.  In just 3 days, his daughter went from "normal" to "brink of death".  CT Scan comes back, brain mass identified, life flighted to CHOP.  Without them.  Not knowing if they'd see her again.

Someone that they just barely knew volunteered to drive them to CHOP...11 at night...barely able to comprehend what was happening.  Thoughts went through his head: How do we get to our daughter?  Not, Is she alright?  Will she be alright?  Just "How do we get there?".  Eric realized he had his iPhone, googled CHOP, and the image was their homepage:  A brochure that was out of focus.  At this point, Eric didn't have the mental capacity to comprehend what he was seeing.  He was past that. 

He finally identified the nav bar, after weeding through so much else he didn't need..."comatose 5 year old" was not a result.  He managed to find a "What to expect during your child's visit" page.  He eliminated Outpatient, Emergency Room, hoped for Inpatient...and tried them in order.  He clicked Inpatient...he clicked Surgical...nothing but massive walls of texts.  Nothing but references to documents you should bring, play activities...he didn't know if she'd play again.  He went through EVERY SINGLE LINK...and not ONE would answer their question: How do I get to my child?

The Phone Number

There was a phone number in the side menu on every page he visited...he was doing his research on an IPHONE...but it never occurred to him to USE IT LIKE A PHONE AND CALL.  Eric was browsing on his phone, with the weaker battery, so that his wife could answer when THE HOSPITAL CALLED.  They were acting on instinct..."You don't decide what your users will want to do on mobile."  We also don't get to decide what users choose to use our product...

Who does the site work for?  Marketing?  Upper Management?  (Personal tragedy aside, this sounds ALL too familiar to my situation.)  The parents bringing kids in for a routine procedure, outpatient visit, etc...sure.  But who else? What about the user/parent in crisis?  The emergent user.  The person who has a stalker who's made a credible threat against them?  The person whose auto draft failed on their mortgage payment for the past 3 months?  The parent trying to get to their dying child?

It takes EMPATHY.

Empathy is a Core Dev Skill

Eric shows a picture of the CHOP homepage with a button in the middle, reading: "Unexpected visit to CHOP?  Here's what you need to know.".  If you're driving in, here's where you's how you pay for's where you's where you go in the AM, in the PM...It takes empathy.  They could have done that and still let the CEO feel good about their "Top 100" banner on their homepage...but you have to think about everyone...potentially those at the worst place they could be.

It's good to design for the 10%, as opposed to the 90%...also referred to as the Edge Case.  But, when you use it, you're willing to define those you don't necessarily actively care about.  Eric believes the term should be replaced with STRESS Case.  When you use this term, you're not defining where your 'limit' is.  Stress Cases are good because they Stress test your work without minimizing users who may need your service.

Combine Persona With Context

Eric shows three "avatars": Happy, stressed, and (for lack of a better term) nuclear/crisis.  He then adds three "contexts": Midweek lunch, After bedtime, and Waiting Room in a hospital.  The level to which the crisis appears characteristically can vary based on the context.

He goes on to share more of the story...arriving at the hospital, most of which is closed down, dark, locked, etc.  They managed to finally find the elevator to get to their daughter's floor, and were greeted with an eerily (see: user hostile) child voice in the elevator greeting them.  But, at midnight, WHO WANTS TO HEAR THAT?  Again, the CEO and other higher ups probably LOVED it, but didn't stop too empathize with the people who would be there at midnight.  There's ONLY ONE KIND OF PERSON THERE THEN...and it's not good.

Auto Insurance Example and Beyond

Eric goes on to relay another story where he was on vacation and a car t-boned his mini van.  Drivable, he was able to get in touch with insurance and work through their web form...through MUCH to do.  But he was on vacation...he was a best case scenario...he had all the mental bandwidth in the world.  What about the one car, paycheck to paycheck, service industry worker driving home from the late shift...same situation, different context/person.  What then?

Whoever made the interface on that site didn't think of THEM.  THEY assumed best case for anyone having to use the site.  HUGE oversight on their part...not being empathetic to the people who would truly need them.  He goes on to relay about "Lowes Depot" and their mission statement...gloriously floral in its verbiage...but was focused at the happy coulple having fun improving their home.  NEVERMIND the ones who had their fridge die, leak water, and start leaking through drywall and floorboards.  Bottom line:  THINK BEYOND BEST CASE.  "Lowes Depot" rethought their approach and revised with the following guidelines:
Prioritize helpful, realistic estimates.
Provide at a glance help.
Use plain language.
Write for the urgent case.
By planning for the worst, they were able to be at their best.

Back to Medical Imaging

Medical imaging rooms, in general, are scary.  Freaky.  Even when they try to make some moves towards "kid-like", it's not.  The room is scary, the potential end result is scary, and parents trying to hide the scared only end up making the kid more scared.  Bad situation, overall, medical imaging.  What's more, the imaging doesn't work if the kids move.

Most kids were FREAKING OUT, so the kids have to be sedated...LOTS of potential bad with Anesthesia: Death, reaction, long term damage, etc.  And the process takes a LONG TIME...they're scheduled for 10, you need to be there at 8...anesth starts at 9, and so on.

Enter GE Corporation, Doug Dietz, and their "Adventure Series" - "Helping children's imaging go from terrifying to terrific."  Right around the time Doug was realizing this issue, folks at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh were identifying this to and working something into their CT Scan process to help put the kids at ease.  They went to a party store, got a bunch of cheap toys and promised it to them if they held still.  Did it work?

In 2005, 354 kids were sedated.  In 2007? 4  The wait time to get in for a CT went to basically -0- because of this reduction, whereas it was 17 days before...17 days they had to sit through wondering...worrying.  All because of a simple trip to a party store...  Pittsburgh and GE/Dietz worked together to create a more inviting suite, and the results continue to improve.  MRIs were next in line to receive the "Adventure Series" treatment...with a 25.2% drop in sedation, and a 55% increase in patients seen (2009-2011). 

It's hard to put a finger on just where this hits me it the anger towards designers staying quagmired in a "best case" mindset?  Is it embarrassment that I've done this very thing?  Is it sadness at Eric's story?  Professionals need to look at users in crisis...not users in a best case scenario.   Lives can be changed for the better.  Lives can be made more comfortable.

Eric charges us with the most thankless task:  People in crisis will not notice your work when you design for them in crisis.  But you will have helped them in the most profound way by simply not adding to their burden.  He thanks us in their place..., Eric - Thank you.

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