Design guidelines to improve user experience (UX) in an emergency

Kremer, Klaus and van Manen, Saskia M. (2024). Design guidelines to improve user experience (UX) in an emergency. In: van Manen, Saskia M.; Jaenichen, Claudine; Lin, Tingyi S.; Kremer, Klaus and Ramírez, Rodrigo eds. Design for Emergency Management. Design Research for Change. Routledge, pp. 49–68.



A successful emergency product or instructional design acknowledges potential unpredictable user behavior and considers the instinctive hard-wired response of a user in distress, who may exhibit different responses than expected and even practiced and learned ‘right’ behavior can become counter-productive. However, in product development, the focus is too often on the performance of the product before an emergency occurs with the activation of the device as its culmination. In response, this chapter presents seven design guidelines for emergency products based on human responses during an emergency. In addition, it emphasizes three key design tactics often overlooked in design for emergencies: affordances, signifiers and feedback. The guidelines are subsequently applied to assess the current generation of marine distress flares, showing that despite their improved technical specifications, current designs are prone to incorrect use and potential injury. However, minimal changes to the original design offer the opportunity to positively alter the perception of the products’ intent and usability. The evaluation reinforces the value of the guidelines established as a framework for thinking about design for emergencies and grounding the design process in empathy with a user in distress and the physiological and cognitive limitations they are likely to experience during an emergency.

Viewing alternatives


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions
No digital document available to download for this item

Item Actions