Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘acceptability

Article #8, April 5, 2005

“What do you design again?”

Human Factors are primarily oriented to designing interfaces between systems and end users/operators.  Of the many interfaces two interfaces are common to people and can be grouped into two main categories: displays and controls. 

Designing the arrangements of displays and controls on consoles for utility companies, aircraft, trains, and automobiles according to applicable guidelines are examples.

Operators and end users need to receive information on the status of a complex system and be able to respond to this information through a control device. Thus, once a designer knows what needs to be controlled in a system and how, then the required types of displays follow.

Displays and controls can become complex devices if not designed to targeted users.

The design of the cockpit interface in airplanes is different from cars, trains or ships.

The design or the interface in cellular phones is different from computer games or computer screens, keyboards and mouse.

A good knowledge of the physical and mental abilities and requirements of the target end users are paramount in the design of any interface if efficiency, affordability, acceptability, maintainability, safety and health are the prerequisite to wide spread demands and marketability.

How the functions and tasks of any subsystems should be allocated, to human or to an automated machine? 

What are the consequences in emergency situations for any allocation strategy? 

What are the consequences of an allocation when a system is exported to Third World countries? 

What are the consequences of function allocation to employment, safety risks, health risks and long term viability of any system?

Who usually are in charge of designing interfaces that require multidisciplinary knowledge?

Given that any of these designs require inputs from marketing experts, psychologists, sociologists, economists, engineers, statisticians and legal experts on the liabilities of these designed objects for safe and healthy usage then who should be responsible for designing interfaces?

Teams of professionals should necessarily be involved in interface designs but because time being of the essence in business competition and cost to a lesser extent many of these interfaces are relegated to engineers applying published standards or relying on personal experience and previous models from competitors.

Human Factors data on the physical and mental limitations and capabilities of target users should be part of any standard book for designing interfaces.

Human Factors methodologies need to be disseminated so that viable interfaces could fit the characteristics of the end users.

The Human Factors professionals failed in their first three decades of existence to recognize that their main purpose was to design interfaces, to design practical system and to orient their research toward engineers who could readily use their data in designing systems.

If this trend of targeting engineers in our research papers continues then this profession could make a serious dent in sending the proper message and open up a market for the thousands of Human Factors graduates who should be needed in the design of systems interfaces.

 “Okay, who can afford to hire Human Factors professionals?”

Who in his right mind hires Human Factors professionals?

This is a very interesting question that even the developed countries were wondering about even recently.

I can conjecture, or frankly I am offering an expectation, that in the last five years the Human Factors profession has managed to get the message through that many job descriptions apply to the technical skills and training of the Human Factors graduates.

This article is basically targeting the students in the less developed nations where the Human Factors discipline is unheard of or the knowledge is so minimal that major universities are still reluctant to include even one course in their engineering curriculum.

In Lebanon, only one university offers a single Human Factors course required for the industrial engineers and optional for a few other engineering disciplines.

Actually, it is the only university that offers industrial engineering as a discipline.

In general, there was a perception that the main tasks assigned to Human Factors engineers or formerly known as Industrial Psychologists required experimentation, testing and evaluation of systems.

System used by human subjects are evaluated for performances based on errors committed, safety usage, reaction times, health effects, subjective feeling of acceptability, reliability and usability.

Most of these assignments are geared toward the cognitive aspects of the users, which are basically the domains of psychologist because they are better trained to designing experiments based on human responses, collecting data, setting the proper questionnaires and selecting the right statistical packages for the interpretation of the results.

Many of these assignments are similar to the marketing professionals for generating likes and dislikes of users, the acceptability and tendencies of users for any new products.

This time consuming discipline is not very appreciated by profit minded companies.

So, who hires the thousands of these fresh graduates and why major companies agree to hire a few of these professionals?

Why are governments the main sources of retaining these graduates?

Prior and during major wars powerful countries badly need human factors professionals.

Why? Here is the story.

The main reason is that every able body has to be recruited for the war effort.

Running extensive psychological, physical and mental tests to allocate the right person to the appropriate task, equipment and department are not feasible financially under the time constraint.

The army and the nation need these able bodies to interchangeably fill the losses anywhere and any place.

One excellent option is to design equipments, tasks and procedures so that almost every soldier can perform his duties without extensive training or the need to go about selecting soldiers with the appropriate characteristics.

The other reason is that women had to fill the gap in the industries when the men are out to waging wars.

For production to be efficient, such as error free with minimal accidents, it was good sense to redesign production equipments, machines and workplace to fit women who have different capabilities and limitations physically and cognitively


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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