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Some Health Care Web Sites Crippled by Bad User Interfaces

IBM DeveloperWorks published an article by Peter Seebach which says that a number of important healthcare-related web sites contain content that is inaccessible to many users because they require plug-ins, contain browser specific code, or require JavaScript to be turned on. This is troubling because more potential users of healthcare web sites are accessing them through devices that are not PCs. Also, some more technical users have legitimate (security) reasons to have JavaScript turned off in their web browsers by default.

It is not surprising that consumer-oriented web sites such as these make stupid presumptions. Many IT departments with customer-facing web sites limit their usability testing to platforms that they think people have in their homes (i.e. AOL or IE, Windows 9x or ME, etc.). Of course, many customers attempt to access these sites from work, where they use exotic operating systems like Windows NT 4.0 and browsers like Netscape Communicator 4.x.

The article is well-written because it returns again and again to the added support cost of poor user interface design. Added costs are the only metric to which some poorly managed insurance and healthcare companies respond. We agree that these problems are endemic in that industry, and more attention needs to be directed at these problems before they will be solved.

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