can you recommend resources on good UI/UX design for applications in emergency and/or stressful scenarios? Something similar to this but a little bit more in-depth and with more general recommendations/patterns?



A few years ago I heard a talk by Cory Lebson, who has written about UX in disaster scenarios. Two of his articles are here:

The Critical Importance of Web Usability in Disasters

Lessons from Disaster Research


Human Error - James Reason

Detailed description on how people 'process information' - and how this causes them to make mistakes.

This is the book to read.

I was going to mention Yerkes Dodson - but I see its in the paper you reference. "State Dependent Memory" is also worth looking up.

And any number of articles on the interface design in nuclear power stations. Harrisburg (which nearly blew up) was much reported at the time.

Normal Accidents - Living with high risk technologies - Charles Perrow

A lot of the book is accident case studies. But one of the fundamental insights is that the more you automate systems the less actual experience the operators get to operate the system manually.

So in extreme situations when the computerised control goes out, the operators don't have the experience to take control because they have incomplete 'mental models' of how the entire technical 'ecosystem' actually works in extreme situations.

You can argue that the crash of Air France 447 demonstrated this as the pilots failed to take the right actions when fly-by-wire failed. There's some comment on the Wiki article about UI problems.


I worked on a project for a fire services internal website, and it was interesting because their brand colours were red, and wanted to use it for their primary action. I wondered whether this was a good idea because it creates the impression of urgency and diverts attention unnecessarily.

However, thinking about it further, I guess you could look at such a website as one which people using it needs to always be on alert. I was taking the view that this might create more stress than you need to for the people using the system, plus it takes away the ability to introduce highlights or alerts since it is already the primary colour.

But I would be interested in hearing other people's thoughts around this topic, especially websites or applications used by hospitals, ambulances, law enforcement and other emergency services.

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