“Ergonomics (or human factors) is the application of scientific information concerning objects, systems and environment for human use…Ergonomics is commonly thought of as how companies design tasks and work areas to maximize the efficiency and quality of their employees’ work. However, ergonomics comes into everything which involves people. Work systems, sports and leisure, health and safety should all embody ergonomics principles if well designed. The goal of ergonomics and human factors is to make the interaction of humans with machines as smooth as possible, enhancing performance, reducing error, and increasing user satisfaction through comfort and aesthetics. It is the applied science of equipment design intended to maximize productivity by reducing operator fatigue and discomfort. The field is also called biotechnology, human engineering, and human factors engineering.”
“In the 19th century, Frederick Winslow Taylor pioneered the "Scientific Management" method, which proposed a way to find the optimum method for carrying out a given task… The dawn of the Information Age has resulted in the new ergonomics field of human-computer interaction (HCI). Likewise, the growing demand for and competition among consumer goods and electronics has resulted in more companies including human factors in product design. (Wikipedia)
Despite all the talk of ergonomics, we’ve all had the experience of getting a new IT gadget or using a new IT application that necessitated that we go through reams of instructions, user-guides, manuals (some 3-4 inches thick), and online tutorials, and still often we end up with having to call in to some IT support center (often in India these days) for walking through the “technical difficulties”.
Not a very user-centric architecture.
Well finally companies are waking up and factoring in (and designing in) ergonomics and a more user-centric approach.
The Wall Street Journal, 22 April 2008, reports “Business Software’s Easy Feeling: Programs are Made Simpler to Learn, Navigate.”
“Many vendors have ‘consumerized’ their corporate software and online services making them easier to learn and navigate by borrowing heavily from sites such as Facebook or Amazon.com. They have also tried to make their products more intuitive by shying from extraneous features—a lesson learned from simple consumer products such as Apple Inc.’s iPod.”
Other vendors are developing products using “user experience teams” in order to build products that are user-friendly and require minimal to “no formal training to use.”
David Whorton, one of the backers of SuccessFactors, an online software company, stated: “We’ve moved into an environment where no one will tolerate manuals or training.”
Similarly, Donna Van Gundy, the human resources director for Belkin, a maker of electronic equipment said: “Employees just don’t want to be bothered with training courses.”
The bar has been raised and consumers expect a an intuitive, user-friendly experience and a simple user interface.