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Online contest mocks HI-EMA missile alert screen


    This is the winning design for the “Hawaii Needs yoUI!” contest, submitted by Sarah Danseglio of New York City.


    This design by Renan Moreno, a graphic designer from Brazil, won second place in the “Hawaii Needs youUI!” contest.

Before news that the so-called button pusher thought the missile alert in Hawaii was real, the website Freelancer launched a contest seeking to improve the user interface design for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.

The “Hawaii Needs Better yoUI!” contest, launched by Freelancer on Jan. 19, asked participants to design a user-friendly Emergency Commands page, making each one distinguishable, and to think outside the box.

Within weeks, the Australia-based crowdsourcing platform matching freelancers to projects received more than 300 entries from around the world. Freelancer selected and announced the winners on Tuesday.

Sarah Danseglio of New York City won the grand prize of $150. Danseglio created a simple sign in home page requiring username and password or finger scan, followed by a layout that places test alerts in a separate box from real alerts, above a map of the Hawaiian islands. In addition, there is a drop-down activity monitor to the right that shows what each member of the HI-EMA team is doing.

“This alert system for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency ensures that the user has a clear path and understanding of the alerts being sent out,” Danseglio wrote in her description. “The activity of other users in the system can be viewed in the activity monitor and on the map. When sending a true alert, the impact it will have is reflected in the security of the process. A confirmation message informs the user of their actions and presents an immediate option to retract them.”

Renan Morena from Brazil received the second place prize of $100, while Lyza Villanueva from the Philippines won $75 for third place.

Moreno, a graphic design artist, came up with a color-coded design that separates functions under the categories of “Test,” “Warnings” and “Real Alerts.” He built in a function, with a real-time countdown of the warning in seconds, with an “undo” button right below it.

Villanueva, too, tried to clear out the clutter of various text alert types and used color coded box icons to click on for drills/test and real alerts. A highly visible false alarm button is also available for immediate activation.

He wrote that he was simply going for a design that was “clean and lightweight as possible” with attention to small details.

Originally, Freelancer launched the contest after HI-EMA released examples of the screen image the week after the Jan. 13 false missile alert that the warning officer reportedly saw before clicking on the wrong link. The contest was based on the premise that the root of the false missile alert was bad UI design.

In the week following the Jan. 13 false missile alert, the examples displayed a simple list of menu options without color or category differentiation. At the time, it was reported that the warning officer clicked an a link that said “PACOM (CDW) — STATE ONLY” instead of “DRILL-PACOM (DEMO) STATE ONLY.”

On Jan. 30, the Star-Advertiser reported the results of an internal investigation finding that the warning officer, who has since been fired, had believed the missile alert was real. The design contest ended Feb. 2.

Aside from the wining entries, other designs stood out, according to Freelancer international director Sebastian Siseles, who added that the contest was launched to see what top designers from around the world could bring to the table. The online marketplace has more than 26 million users worldwide.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of second-place winner Renan Moreno.

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