Wanted By The Police: A Good Interface
The San Jose Police Department has equipped all of its patrol cars with touch-screen computers that serve as part of a new mobile dispatch system. The Windows-based computers are supposed to make it easier for police in the field to send messages, receive orders, write reports, view city maps, and perform other functions.
However, San Jose police officers say the new system is so difficult to use that their safety and ability to perform their jobs properly are being compromised. Officers complain that the system’s user interface is unwieldy and complicated, particularly the “call for assistance” function.
The off-the-shelf system, produced by software firm Intergraph, cost the department $4.7 million, but the system crashed immediately after being installed and was down for several days.
The police union got Aaron Marcus & Associates, a user-interface design consulting firm, to examine the system. The consulting firm discovered several bugs and problems with the system, including inaccurate maps; unnecessary information on cluttered screens; difficult-to-read on-screen type; and difficulty with the license-plate-check function.
Aaron Marcus and consulting firm Nielsen Norman Group agree that the San Jose police officers should have been consulted before the user interface was designed.
Abstracted by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center(NLECTC) from the New York Times (11/11/04) P. 1; Hafner, Katie .