Enter the maze

Human error and the design of technology

Toddler pressing button

Good design can prevent mistakes

People make mistakes. They do it predictably enough that magicians can control whole audiences and ensure they make the same mistake at the same time - looking in the wrong place, believing the wrong thing. Magic shows rely on it. Magicians must have a natural understanding of the psychology of perception and attention. They use that understanding to control the audience. A computer scientist needs to understand the same issues but with a different purpose. The computer scientist aims to create technology that people can use without making mistakes. When the technology is a medical device, an airliner or a nuclear power plant then it is vital they get it right.

Magicians design systems so everyone makes a mistake. Computer Scientists need to use the same ideas to design systems where no one does.

Here we explore the science and engineering of human error of why people make mistakes, how designers can help prevent them and why it is important not to look for scapegoats when things do go wrong.


Fix, don't blame

Referee Whistle The Hand of Henry

The media and blame

Headline Screaming Headline Kills!!!

Mickey mouse, mistakes, animation and aeroplanes

Plane flying through threatening cloud Grabbing attention, saving lives

More sporting blame

Welsh rugby ball The Welsh red card