Sunday, 24 May 2015

Product Ergonomics

Ergonomics is a discipline that deals with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of  a system,this discipline plays an important role in enriching the  end user experience  of a product.  For the success of any product it is very important that the user finds your product easy to use,aesthetically pleasing and safe. when we see anything around us our brain makes a decision about how safe it is how appealing it is depending upon our earlier experiences and number of other factors.
Ergonomics is divided into three categories 1. Physical Ergonomics 2. Cognitive Ergonomics & 3 Organisational Ergonomics.I will focus on the earlier two categories in this post.
Physical Ergonomics deals with the Human body's response to the physical and physiological loads while the cognitive ergonomics makes sure that any system comply with the human cognitive strengths like we can't see too small texts  and should avoid our cognitive weakness whereever it will hinder the good interaction between the system and humans. For example on a mobile phone the size of the keys of dialler should be large enough for comfortable pressing of keys,the colour of font should be such that it is easy to read. sometimes our weakness is used as a benefit like the phenomenon of persistence of vision is used to create a moving picture.
Here i will share about this important aspect of product design process . There are many physical design features that are there on a product, reason for the existence of some of them are very easy to interpret logically while others need a more investigative  and through understanding. Below are some of the examples from our day to day life products to understand the importance.

1. Bucket design
Below is a picture of two buckets that i took long back in my house. The water caring capacity of both of them is same. But the designers of the one on the left have made some extra curves and that has added extra value  to the product by increasing the ease of use of the product. If you would try to lift a bucket full of water  and pour water in another container these curves will assist you to have a better grip and reduce the chances of spilling the water.

2. Laptop Keys
The picture below is of  a laptop keyboard. If you look at the key 'F' and 'J' closely you will find that there is a dash/hyphen embossed on these keys.This is found on every keypad. The reason for this is that when you get pro at typing you don't look at the keys while typing rather you look at the screen this row of keys  is the home row,these protruding/embossed  hyphon helps in giving you an idea about the position of your fingers on the keyboard with actually moving your eys off the screen by just the fel of touch.

3. Colour of  Bag's Interior
The bag shown below is a SLR camera backback. If you see it closely you will find that the fabric used to make the interior of the  bag at the right is a bright orange colour and this colour is used because most of the camera accessories are black in colour so if you drop say a memory card in the bag it would be very easy to find it in the contrasting orange background.. While  the bag on the left is black from inside so if you accidental drop your SDcard it would be hard to find it and a more vigilant  search would be required.

4. Antimicrobial properties of copper

Copper is known to have antimicrobial properties and thus restricts the growth of microbes on its surface ,keeping this property in mind and keeping in mind that copper is a fairly expensive metal it is used at specific locations on products used in hospitals to help stop infections spread. Infact this property of copper is put to use Indian houses  from years. You would easily find people keeping  drinking water  in copper utensils. You can read more here

4 Engine Fins
The engine of a motor bike specially the air-cooled engines have fins on it. Adding these fins would increase the amount of material required in manufacturing the engine but still they are added so that the surface area of engine can be increased and hence better heat dissipation is achieved resulting in better performance of engine

5. Train Wheels
The wheels of trains are a part of cone (technically called frustum) rather than being a cut out part of cylinder because this helps in reducing the hunting oscillations (sidewise oscillation) which would make the train ride uncomfortable.

So these examples perfectly explains that the  physical features of body of a product,the curves,the bends and the material plays a great role in the better interaction of product and humans. 

Creative Commons Licence
Product ergonomics by Deepankar Maithani is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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