Alive and kicking, in spite of bad UX


I am upset…and sad, and UX is to blame.

Let me explain.

I recently read a blog post How bad UX killed Jenny that described the tale of ‘Jenny’, a young cancer patient undergoing a very toxic type chemotherapy treatment. The treatment was so toxic that she needed to be pre and post hydrated to ensure the the chemicals left her body after each treatment session was done. If this is not the case, certain internal organs will shut down from toxicity.

I read this post intensely, and as I read each line I got a strange feeling deep in my stomach. It was way too familiar. This is partially since Jenny’s story is my story. Over ten years ago I was diagnosed with bone cancer in my left leg together with lung metastasis. After a lung operation to remove the metastasis I was given and extremely strong treatment of chemotherapy. It was much like ‘Jenny’s’ treatment described in the post.

Reading this brought back a flood of memories. The over 25 intravenous units I received over three days of treatments, the careful measurement of liquids into my body and the chemotherapy drugs. The drugs were so toxic that the nurses that administered them wore protective smocks so as not to damage themselves. All liquids were measured as they went into my body and when they came out. Balance had to be maintained.

I had great nurses and I remember that three nurses needed to verify the dosage of drugs before they could be administered.


Why ? I never even reflected why it was three at the time. Standard I guess. I realise now, this was partially to ensure they were administering the drugs and interpreting the dosage machines correctly.

I am sad not because the healthcare system failed, or the doctors or nurses did not do their jobs(who were super), or the machines themselves that broke: but where the machines interacted with the people they were designed to benefit.

The interface: that point of connection between the system and the user that seems so simple to create, but in reality is likely the hardest part to do well.

That is what failed. It destroyed the entire process for Jenny.

We need to stop this failure. There is a lot to do, hospitals and other institutions that care for people are using systems that have poor usability and lead to errors and human stress.

Jonathan has some good practical advice for UX designers to make a difference, but I appeal to the industry as a whole.

The next time you read a tech blog post that highlights a groovy new app or cool service we need to ask ourselves.

Is this the best use of your UX superpowers ?

Lets be honest we probably wont miss all the ‘likes’, or tinder dates, or even checkin points, that these services provide very long, but we just might miss our own lives or those that we care about.

Alive and kicking, fighting the UX fight.

PS: And thanks to all the nurses that checked my dosage machine.