Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘displays and controls

Article #9, April 6, 2005

”Besides displays and controls, what other Interfaces do you design?”

Human Factors professionals are hopefully directing their efforts into designing interfaces between systems and end users and focusing their research into collecting useful data that can be directly applied by engineers and designers.

As mentioned in the previous articles, the two main interfaces that common people might guess are the displays that inform a user of the status of the system and the control devices which allow the end-user to modify the status of the system to a normal functioning behavior.

Since end users are the target and they do determine the success of any systems, consequently, for any system to be accepted, purchased and retained the end-user has to be able to operate the product easily, efficiently, without undue training, be relatively affordable and safe for use by the intended users.

Let us consider the various stages that the designs of a system go through in order to effectively deliver on its purposes and objectives:

First:  To define the objectives and specifications we have to determine the user’s needs and characteristics, organizational structure, work flow, and human performance measurement procedures and parameters. An expert ergonomics is trained to study and analyze all these requirements.

Second:  Next, we have to define the functional and operational requirements.  An expert ergonomics can and should participate in this stage.

Third:  The basic design stage of function allocations to operators or machines, work procedures and performance feedbacks are intrinsic knowledge to ergonomics.

Fourth:  Designing interfaces and work areas are the primary training of ergonomics engineers.

Fifth:  Designing facilitator material such as developing staffing, instructions, performance aids and training are the expertise of ergonomics.

Sixth:  Evaluating and testing specifications and performance are within the training of human factors/ergonomics professionals.

All interfaces that help a user operate a product or subsystem according to the above criteria are part and parcel of the responsibilities of Human Factors professionals.

Consequently, the interfaces within the Human Factors professionals’ capabilities and training are mainly, workstation design, instruction manual, job aids design, training programs and evaluation of systems.

Many other job descriptions during the first stages of system design and operation are within the knowledge and training of Human Factors as well: mainly, task analysis, operation-sequence diagrams and allocation of functions and task to either human operators or machine, or automated sections in systems.

Obviously designing an interface for a mandated trained user like an airplane pilot or a nuclear power plant engineer is easier, complexity of the system being comparable, than designing for common people of all gender differences, stature, age, race and cultural variety.

Designing operation and maintenance manuals attached to any product is an important job description that could promote the acceptance and usage of a specific product.

Usually, the instruction manuals contains safety signs, messages and pictorial for the main steps in the operation and thus enhancing safety and avoiding unnecessary litigations down the road.

Designing training programs for the operation, maintenance and repair of products for targeted personnel are within the job description of Human factors graduates.

Evaluating systems’ performance for essential criteria, including training time, safety built-in design, understandability of the manuals and acceptability are within the training proficiency of Human Factors graduates.

One of the widely promoted job descriptions is designing workstations.

Workstations design is not about just chairs, tables, keyboards, computer screens and the dozen other gizmos related to a fully functional workstation from communication to printing to audio-visual facilities.

A functional workstation has to account for the tasks involved, the positions of the operators, the arrangement, the lighting environment, and the entrance and egress facilities that could harm the operator.

A Human Factors should evaluate a workstation on the health and safety criteria of a designed workstation as well as its operability.

For example, we have already talked about repetitive trauma disorders, pains in various parts of the body and permanent health problems.

Note:  A student version found that designers of menu interface had difficulty with 91% of the guidelines. Analyses of the cause of the users’ errors were studied for recommendations.

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.

Article #9, April 6, 2005

”Besides displays and controls, what other Interfaces do you design?”

Human Factors professionals are hopefully directing their efforts into designing interfaces between systems and end users; they are focusing their research into collecting useful data that can be directly applied by engineers and designers.

As mentioned in the previous articles, the two main interfaces that common people might guess are the displays that inform a user of the status of the system and the control devices which allow the end user to modify the status of the system to a normal functioning behavior.

Since end users are the target and they do determine the success of any systems, consequently, for any system to be accepted, purchased, and retained then, the end user has to be able to operate the product easily, efficiently, without undue training, be relatively affordable and safe for use by the intended users.

Let us consider the various stages that the designs of a system go through in order to effectively deliver on its purposes and objectives:

First:  To define the objectives and specifications we have to determine the user’s needs and characteristics, organizational structure, work flow, and human performance measurement procedures and parameters. An expert ergonomics is trained to study and analyze all these requirements.

Second:  Next, we have to define the functional and operational requirements.  An expert ergonomics can and should participate in this stage.

Third:  The basic design stage of function allocations to operators or machines, work procedures and performance feedback are intrinsic knowledge to ergonomics.

Fourth:  Designing interfaces and work areas are the primary training of ergonomics.

Fifth:  Designing facilitators such as developing staffing, instructions, performance aids and training are the expertise of ergonomics.

Sixth:  Evaluating and testing specifications and performance are within the training of human factors/ergonomics professionals.

All interfaces that help a user operate a product or subsystem according to the above criteria are part and parcel of the responsibilities of Human Factors professionals.

Consequently, the interfaces within the Human Factors professionals’ capabilities and training are mainly, workstation design, instruction manual, job aids design, training programs and evaluation of systems.

Many other job descriptions during the first stages of system design and operation are within the knowledge and training of Human Factors as well: mainly, task analysis, operation-sequence diagrams and allocation of functions and task to either human operators or machine, or automated sections in systems.

Obviously designing an interface for a mandated trained user, such as an airplane pilot or a nuclear power plant engineer, is easier than designing for common people of all gender differences, stature, age, race and cultural variety, complexity of the system being comparable.

Designing operation and maintenance manuals attached to any product is an important job description that could promote the acceptance and usage of a specific product.

Usually, the instruction manuals contains safety signs, messages and pictorials for the main steps in the operation and thus enhancing safety and avoiding unnecessary litigation down the road.

Designing training programs for the operation, maintenance and repair of products for targeted personnel are within the job description of Human factors graduates.

Evaluating systems’ performance for essential criteria, including training time, safety built in design, understandability of the manuals and acceptability are within the training proficiency of Human Factors graduates.

One of the widely promoted job descriptions is designing workstations.

Workstations design is not about just chairs, tables, keyboards, computer screens and the dozen other gizmos related to a fully functional workstation from communication to printing to audio visual facilities.

A functional workstation has to account for the tasks involved, the positions of the operators, the arrangement, the lighting environment, and the entrance and egress facilities that could harm the operator.

A Human Factors should evaluate a workstation on the health and safety criteria of a designed workstation as well as its operation criteria.

For example, we have already talked about repetitive trauma disorders, pains in various parts of the body and permanent health problems.

Note:  A student version found that designers of menu interface had difficulty with 91% of the guidelines. Analysis of the cause of the users’ errors were studied for recommendations.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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