Ergonomic design, what does it mean to you?
Ergonomic design is one of those things that we all make use of every day without even realising it. It is one of those terms that we have all heard of, use and vaguely understand but when you try and define it it is much harder to do. If we look in a dictionary we find ergonomics defined as “ The technology concerned with the design, manufacture, and arrangement of products and environments to be safe, healthy, and comfortable for human beings.” If we search on the internet we find that most prizes for ergonomic design are given for chair design and monitor stands, but really the scope of ergonomic design is much broader than this.
If you use an object, you will instinctively know by the feel if it has succeeded in having a good ergonomic design. You will know that it feels right and comfortable to use. In contrast if an object feels wrong you will know and it will annoy you. Think of the car seat where you are not able to get comfortable and reach the pedals, it will niggle at you the entire journey. When thinking about ergonomics, think comfort of use.
In these days where lots of similar products co-exist ergonomics can make the difference between success and failure. Products may not be technically superior but if they are easy to use they will still outsell the competition. It is all about presentation and ease of use, people will like things that fit.
Lets have a look at some products that can be admired for good ergonomic design.
The clothes peg
This is something that most of us will use at some point in our lives but never really think about it. It fits snugly into the hand, is easy to grip and does the job of holding clothes on the line. The design is really simple, two bits of plastic or wood held together with a spring which allows you to open and close it easily. You don’t think about it, it works well, it is ergonomic.
Without a mouse it would be very difficult to use a computer, they are another item we take for granted in our everyday lives. They fit neatly into the hand and allow you to operate the computer easily. Think how difficult the task would be if these were not ergonomic, you would get a sore wrist after using them for a while, you may find the buttons difficult to press if they were not in the right place which would slow you down and leave you feeling frustrated.
Phone manufacturers today, like Samsung, place great importance on ergonomic design. When you think about it a mobile phone these days is a large part of peoples everyday life and is in continual use throughout the day. Whenever you are out and about you will always see people with a mobile phone in their hand, texting, calling, surfing the internet and many other things.
When you think about a mobile phone there are a lot of areas where a person needs to interface with it. For a start if it has buttons they need to be big enough to press but small enough to be handy. If this is wrong then you will be constantly dialling wrong numbers which will be annoying. If the phone has a touch screen interface then it needs to be responsive and easy to use. There is nothing worse than looking at a screen wondering what you need to press to make it do what you want. Other interfaces on the phone are the microphone, headphones and speaker. If you are not able to use the microphone or speaker you will not be able to make calls so having the phone will be pointless.
Ergonomics is also about comfort. Mobile phones are not very comfortable by definition but it is possible to make them easy to hold and fit into a pocket. If a phone is too large to hold and use comfortably then people will not use it. Finally a mobile phone is about efficiency. These days a mobile phone is so much more than a phone, it can be used to play music, surf the internet and many other things. These things should be easy to access and it should be possible to switch from one task to another easily. There is nothing worse than not being able to answer a phone call because you happen to be playing a game. It is interesting to see how ergonomics plays a part in the design of phones and how increasingly phones are improving due to it
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