Human factors and ergonomics (commonly referred to simply as “human factors”) is the application of psychological and physiological principles to the engineering and design of products, processes, and systems.
The goal of human factors is to reduce human error, increase productivity, and enhance safety and comfort with a specific focus on the interaction between the human and the thing of interest.
The field is a combination of numerous disciplines, such as:
- industrial design,
- interaction design,
- visual design,
- user experience, and
- user interface design.
In research, human factors employs the scientific method to study human behavior so that the resultant data may be applied to those four primary goals. Read more about the methods used in human factors and ergonomics testing.
In essence, human factors and ergonomics is the study of designing equipment, devices and processes that fit the human body and its cognitive abilities. The two terms “human factors” and “ergonomics” are essentially synonymous.
The International Ergonomics Association defines ergonomics or human factors as follows:
Ergonomics (or human factors) is the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design to optimize human well-being and overall system performance.
Human factors is employed to fulfill the goals of occupational health and safety and productivity. It is relevant in the design of such things as safe furniture and easy-to-use interfaces to machines and equipment.
Proper ergonomic design is necessary to prevent repetitive strain injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders, which can develop over time and can lead to long-term disability.
Human factors and ergonomics is concerned with the “fit” between the user, equipment, and environment or “fitting a job to a person”. It accounts for the user’s capabilities and limitations in seeking to ensure that tasks, functions, information, and the environment suit that user.
To assess the fit between a person and the used technology, human factors specialists or ergonomists consider the job (activity) being done and the demands on the user; the equipment used (its size, shape, and how appropriate it is for the task), and the information used (how it is presented, accessed, and changed).