Ergonomics is all about design and evaluation; about ensuring that the Man-made world meets our requirements in terms of being designed for us. When stated in this way, it seems so blindingly obvious that one is tempted to question whether we need to have ergonomics/Human Factors at all. The statement ‘informed common sense’ is sometimes used by engineers to describe ergonomics. And yes, it is an appropriate statement—but with one proviso—it can only be said after the event. When a product or system has been designed and is operational, it is at that point that, retrospectively, we are able to say that the design needs obvious modifications—the ‘isn’t that obvious’ syndrome. In general, humans find it difficult to predict the difficulties that will occur when humans actually begin to use and maintain a device. There are likely to be many reasons for this:
He who makes no mistakes never makes anything.
|• The designers are seldom the end-users—they design from the position of focusing on, say, the engineering of the product, and the user-needs and requirements are seen as secondary to this. Fortunately, the days when the industrial designer used to design everything is an archaic model; the contemporary model is to have a team of experts who contribute throughout the design lifecycle.|
|• The goal is often to produce a workable product as quickly and as efficiently as possible, and perhaps the psychologists are not viewed as core to the production process and, thus, are seen as expendable.|
|• To be cynical, perhaps the extra expense of incorporating human factors into the design process is not seen as necessary, especially if they are viewed as an ‘extra’. The aim in business is to sell as many products as possible and once a product (e.g. a software package) has been sold, this goal has been achieved.|