Lessons from Disaster Research

By Cory Lebson Published: March 10, 2014 “Proper disaster preparedness, and disaster response and the subsequent recovery all depended on people having a good user experience with Web and mobile information resources.” When the life-threatening catastrophe Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeastern United States, proper disaster preparedness and disaster response and the subsequent recovery all depended on people having a good user experience with Web and mobile information resources. These resources provided information that helped people to prepare for the disaster and, subsequently, let them apply for recovery assistance during the aftermath of the disaster. In disastrous situations like this, the right information needs to be immediately available to people because there may not be time for a second chance to obtain it. Over a number of years, I have had the opportunity to do user experience research and evaluation work relating to natural disasters. In that time, the poignancy of what I have seen and heard regarding the impacts of negative and positive Web or mobile experiences on disaster recovery has made these experiences some of the most meaningful of my UX career. While user experience is important for any Web site or application, my seeing how user experience directly affected survivors’ ability to get through a disaster and get help when they needed it showed me the value of a quality user experience and the importance of user research.

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