Human factors / ergonomics

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man”, George Bernard Shaw

Human factors and engineering psychology - human performance and information processing diagram.

In the current highly competitive market, it is more important than ever before to deliver a perfect user-centred, highly integrated product experience. Throughout the entire cycle of product development the user is taken on board, design thinking is key with human factors providing the tools for research and evaluation.

Human factors (or ergonomics) is the scientific multi-discipline concerned with the understanding of the interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and applies theoretical principles, data and methods to design in order to optimise human well-being and overall system performance. It is essential knowledge for structured design and development. After all, as designers we try to ensure that technology and (artificial) objects in our environment adapt to us rather than the other way around.

As example, user interface design illustrates the importance of human factors perfectly: a user interface forms a thin layer of interaction with a very limited bandwidth between human and machine. One must be fully aware of the existing conventions, how tasks affect attention allocation and intensity, what search patterns are followed, how data is processed by the user, whether or not auditive or cross-modal attention may be of use, etc.

From scenario based product design with its design improvisation, endowed props, role-playing or tangible interaction to ethnography with its observation, CUTA or probing techniques (to just name a few): there is a wide array of human factors related tools available to address any possible scenario.


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