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John Paul Cook

Genetic Considerations in User Interface Design

There are several different genetic factors that are highly relevant to good user interface design. Color blindness is probably the best known. But did you know about motion sickness and epilepsy? We’ve been discussing how genetic factors should be considered in user interface design in one of my classes at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing.

According to the National Library of Medicine, approximately 8% of males and 0.5% of females have red-green color discrimination problems with the most common genetic cause called deuteranomaly. I have had to redo reports for bosses who had trouble distinguishing the colors on charts and graphs. There are several free tools available for simulating how things appear to a color blind individual. I haven’t found what I consider the ideal simulator, but when working on a Windows platform, I do like Fujitsu’s free program ColorDoctor. Color Oracle is a good multiplatform tool.

Research has shown that Asians have an increased susceptibility to motion sickness. This is not a problem just for people playing video games. Some programs used for educational purposes have rapidly moving scenes. Although still relatively rare, there are 2-D and 3-D videos being used in corporate environments where the viewer “flies” through and above 3-D representations of data. The user experience can be similar to that of a flight simulator program. If an employee or student becomes ill or even just quite uncomfortable from using a program, it could be a protected disability under the Americans with Disability Act.

Of greatest concern is the genetic predisposition to an epileptic seizure induced by a flashing light. There is a free, downloadable tool for assessing web content and computer programs for the risk of inducing a seizure. It is call PEAT – Photosensitive Epilepsy Analysis Tool. By the way, as a nurse I should inform you that if you ever do encounter a person having a tonic-clonic seizure (proper name for what used to be called a grand mal seizure), absolutely do NOT put anything into the person’s mouth. Call for medical help. Do not restrain the person but do protect the person from injury from the uncontrolled movements. It will help the medical people if you can tell them how long the seizure lasted.

I do realize that in software development, considerations of genetic factors probably aren’t going to be a part of your project’s requirements. This post was made for informational purposes only so that you will have some awareness of the issues should they ever come up.

References in approximate APA format:

Klosterhalfen, S., Kellermann, S., Pan, F., Stockhorst, U., Hall, G., & Enck, P. (2005). Effects of ethnicity and gender on motion sickness susceptibility. Retrieved from

Stern, R., Hu, S., Uijtdehaage, S., Muth, E., Xu, L., & Koch, K. (1996). Asian hypersusceptibility to motion sickness. Retrieved from

National Library of Medicine. (19 November 2012). Color vision deficiency. Retrieved from

Lamaspina, P., Biondi, G., & Santillo, C. (1989). Colour blindness (cb) distribution in the male population of albanian and croatian communities of molise, italy (with a review of the published caucasoid cb gene frequencies).. Retrieved from

Panayiotopoulos, C. (2005). Chapter 13 reflex seizures and reflex epilepsies. Retrieved from

Seizure first aid. Retrieved from  


Published Wednesday, November 21, 2012 11:50 AM by John Paul Cook

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About John Paul Cook

John Paul Cook is a database and Azure specialist in Houston. He previously worked as a Data Platform Solution Architect in Microsoft's Houston office. Prior to joining Microsoft, he was a SQL Server MVP. He is experienced in SQL Server and Oracle database application design, development, and implementation. He has spoken at many conferences including Microsoft TechEd and the SQL PASS Summit. He has worked in oil and gas, financial, manufacturing, and healthcare industries. John is also a Registered Nurse currently studying to be a psychiatric nurse practitioner. Contributing author to SQL Server MVP Deep Dives and SQL Server MVP Deep Dives Volume 2. Connect on LinkedIn

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