Surrounded by Bad UI

I went to the doctor's office a few days ago to sign up with a new doctor. I was surprised to see the clinic was all Mac based - the nurse was entering our information into a 15" MacBook Pro and there were iMac's scattered through the clinic.

But then I saw the software they were using. I don't know what it was called, but it was some custom-built application that looked like it was designed for clinics. It was Mac software but it was ugly. It looked like the Mac version had been built using one of those cross-platform GUI toolkits that uses native widgets (you can tell I'm writing more Java code these days because I said Widget and not Control) but never really gives you a great experience on any platform.

Today I was in again for some other tests and this time the test equipment was hooked up to a PC running an old version of Windows which was clearly struggling to run the software, and the software was, again, ugly.

Take a look at the software you see the next time you're making a purchase at a store, arranging finances at a bank, or at your doctor's office. Chances are not much attention was paid to the user experience of the application.

Last time I was at my bank, the rep I was working with to arrange the mortgage for our house turned his monitor so I could see what he was entering and verify the data, and look at options available. Again, of course, ugly software, but this collaborative data entry experience was actually pretty effective.

This is what companies should be designing for. These days, the old model of the person behind the desk with the computer typing while you read information out loud seems a little silly doesn't it? It's error-prone, inefficient, and not very enjoyable, not to mention, open to eavesdroppers.

Why should the clinic care about user experience if the plain UI gets the job done? Because it's part of the patient's overall experience interacting with the clinic. There's just so much room for improvement.