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I understand that there was some folks at MIX09 who weren’t happy (or maybe ‘were bored’ is the better term here) about the day 2 keynote session with Deborah Adler, a designer from New York who created the ClearRx system for medical prescriptions.  Yes, it was not your typical Microsoft keynote presentation and in fact, followed by IE8 announcements, had nothing to do with releases, Silverlight or anything like it.  Sort of.  Robby said it was the best MIX keynote ever, and if I wasn’t a geek, I’d agree (I mean, c’mon, I’m a ScottGu fanboy too).

Deborah Adler at MIX09 (photo Robby Ingebretsen)I’m guessing that those who weren’t excited about this were developers.  In some regard I can understand, but let me tell you this: if you didn’t ‘get it’ then I think you weren’t paying attention.  You see Deborah told us a story, and a very personal one.  The key thing that came out of this story is a change in her perspective on how to design: think of the user first, nothing else.  While her story applied to product packaging designs, it can easily be translated.

This is often a key principle that we forget/neglect in software design.  All too often organizations make decisions based on product raw costs, availability of existing resources, etc.  Deborah challenged this thought, and set out to prove that above all things, the user is essential.  By implementing a user-centric design approach, she put us first in the process…thinking first about how we use medical prescriptions, and the surrounding issues of safety and confusion. 

More than anything that is the inspiration I got out of this keynote (which was great and you should listen to her story…frankly, this keynote is so much better at telling her story than any of the news specials that are available about ClearRx).  I had a much greater appreciation for how user-centric design approaches can impact what we can do as developers.  It was really a reminder of how important that concept is.  The story was great, the results fantastic.  She helped start a game changing concept in prescription medicine.  She went out to challenge the norm because of the user – and did it.  After hearing this story more personally, I’m so compelled to refill my prescriptions at Target in the future, even if it isn’t as convenient.

Bravo Deborah.

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