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Palm Beach Ballot Design Problems Could Have Been Avoided, Say Usability Professionals

Adherence to Simple Usability Assessment Procedures Should be Routine

CHICAGO, IL-- The Usability Professionals' Association (UPA) today stated that simple usability practices could have significantly reduced or possibly eliminated the problems that caused some 19,000 ballots in Palm Beach County, Florida, to be disqualified in the November 7th presidential election. Usability professionals are specialists in designing forms, software, electronic and other products so they are easy for consumers to use.

"Election ballots may be the single most important user interface in a democratic society, and usability problems with voting procedures have become widespread," said Elizabeth Rosenzweig, UPA president and usability manager at Eastman Kodak Company. "In Palm Beach County a procedure known as usability testing could have demonstrated the extent of the problem before the butterfly ballot was finalized and alerted officials to the need for changes to the ballot."

In a usability test, volunteers simulate the actions of voters. Volunteers selected on such factors as age, gender, and educational level fill out ballots in various ways while usability specialists observe through one-way mirrors or video. Problems then can be noted and the ballot redesigned and re-tested.

The UPA believes that appropriate usability procedures should be part of every election and other high-stakes government activities. "In any voting society, usability is a way to insure that everyone has an equal opportunity to vote and for their vote to be counted," said Rosenzweig.

The Usability Professionals' Association is an international, non-profit, professional association with more than 1500 members in the US and 35 other countries. Members are specialists in evaluating and designing products that are easy to learn and use. Many usability professionals hold advanced degrees or training in psychology and related fields. The organization provides its members with a wide variety of professional services. Through outreach the UPA:

  • Communicates and shares information about skills and skill development, methodology used and/or proposed in the profession, tools, technology, and organizational issues.
  • Presents the viewpoints of the profession to the public and other interested parties.
  • Educates the general public about the profession.

For more information, visit the UPA web site at http://www.UPAssoc.org or call the UPA headquarters in Chicago at 312.596.5298.

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