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WHAT IS HUMAN
FACTORS AS APPLIED TO PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT ?
Expected results are useful,
usable, comfortable, safe, marketable products|
Also called other names such as
Usability Engineering, Ergonomics, User Interface|
Involves designing physical
products, software applications and web sites for use by diverse people|
Brings user input
to development process through various methods including usability testing,
focus groups |
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HOW DO I KNOW IF I
NEED HUMAN FACTORS?
The need for Human Factors can be determined
by checking for a faulty process and/or poor products. In particular, you can:
|Analyze your organizational and commercialization
processes for developing products.
The purpose is to determine if the process fails to incorporate sufficient
consideration of customers and users.|
|Assess usability of existing
products. The purpose is to determine if they fail
to incorporate Human Factors principles and the extent to which the products
result in customer dissatisfaction or additional costs.|
Processes for developing
The following clues indicate that Human Factors can help
you develop more usable products. To uncover these signs, ask questions about
your new product development process in general or focus on a key product and
ask about how the process unfolded for its development. Not all signs have to be
present. Some of the items look like typical market research activities, but
don’t be fooled. Market research typically doesn’t focus on usability. Make sure
responses to your questions deal with the usability of products, not just
general attributes such as customer satisfaction.
Characteristics of intended user population have not been clearly defined
(e.g., novice vs. experienced vs. both, age, frequency of use, etc).
not consciously designed for the range of individual differences between
people who will use them (e.g., physical size, strength,
left-handed/right-handed, visual capabilities, hearing capability,
information processing limitations).
distinguished between what appeals to decision-makers vs. actual user.
You do not
have a program to collect customer feedback about the usability of their
current products in the market place and communicate it back to new product
development teams (e.g., methods such as contextual observation/interviews,
regular reports from field personnel, surveys).
involve customers in the usability design of new products (e.g., through
user testing, focus groups, mall intercepts, etc.).
ideation phase is not user-centered – i.e., you don’t acquire user ideas
during your formulation of alternative concepts for a product.
There is an
excessive reliance on instruction manuals or help files to inform users how
to use products.
developers do not approach usability design from a user task perspective –
i.e., designing product to help users accomplish the tasks for which they
bought the product.
development budget for the user interface of the product is a miniscule part
of the overall development budget
make excuses like the following for ignoring usability
Usability of existing products
You can get clues about Human Factors need from focusing
on a specific product already marketed or about to be launched. The product
needs to be evaluated by itself, but also in comparison to other products such
as those in its own family and those with which it competes in the marketplace.
The following items are high-level clues to a need for Human Factors.
violates good Human Factors design principles such as internal consistency,
cultural consistency, family consistency, accommodation to user capabilities,
accommodation to user preferences, forgiveness, helpfulness, extensibility,
and hazard protection.
an unsatisfactory "out-of-box" experience. In other words, after purchasing
the product, they are unable to smoothly remove it from its box, set it up,
and start using it.
You do not
benchmark competitive products to see how usability of their product compares
with other similar products.
You get an
inordinate number of customer support calls about how to use the product.
training time is needed to help customers through the initial period of
learning how to use the product. Consider both perceived and actual training
time. A perception that learning to use a product will be difficult can
prevent its purchase. A special or lengthy training period after purchase will
be costly to both manufacturer and customer.
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VALUE DO I GET FROM USING HUMAN FACTORS?
Human Factors design can be
achieved at reasonable initial cost. The investment can yield benefits in both
revenue and cost savings.
Enhanced revenue will result because your
|Makes customers want to buy your products|
|Increases customer satisfaction when using
|Helps create brand loyalty and repeat
Cost savings will accrue from
||Avoiding late design
||Fewer instructional materials
||Fewer product support calls
||Less installation time
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CAN I GET THE RIGHT KIND OF HELP FOR A PROJECT OR PROBLEM?
Assuming you have established a
need for Human Factors, getting the right kind of Human
Factors help starts with knowing what you want to achieve, i.e., your goal. Does
it relate to a process or to specific products? Does it call for design or
evaluation activities or both? Does the level of effort require full-time,
on-site help for an extended period, ongoing intermittent assistance, or a
relatively short, one-time focused thrust? Finally, how quickly do you need the
|Perhaps the easiest way to start is to contact a
professional society such as the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society,
the Usability Professionals Association, the Society for Technical
Communication and the Computer-Human Interaction Special Interest Group
of the American Computing Machinery (ACM). They can give you names of
consulting firms of various types.|
Contact a nearby or large
university and ask for the Department of Psychology, Industrial Engineering,
or Computer Science. Human Factors and/or User Interface Design are usually
curriculum options in one of these departments. Professors teaching these
options may be able to refer you to appropriate resources.
If time allows and the need is
fairly extensive, write a Request for Proposal (RFP), or a Request for Quote (RFQ).
Send them to multiple firms to open up the process to competitive approaches
and bids. You may want to engage a firm to write or review your RFP to ensure
it has the necessary information and specifications to get responses that are
"on the mark" and can be readily compared.
Find out whom others use. Contact
other firms, especially those whose products appear to have outstanding
usability, to inquire about their deployment of Human Factors.
When requesting a proposal,
whether from a particular firm or through an RFP, ask for alternative
approaches that represent different cost estimates. This will help you match
the level of effort to your budgetary constraints.
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USABILITY ASSOCIATES HELP ME?
We start by thoroughly understanding your need or problem.
We listen to your perception of the problem and may ask a lot of "why" questions
to help you clearly formulate the need. If a specific study is involved,
we will talk about the actions you will take as a result of the study.
From this information, we prepare a statement of work that reflects our mutual
understanding of the objective and scope of the work.
We then tailor our services to fit the statement of work.
If the scope requires supplemental capabilities, Usability Associates will
partner with one of its affiliate firms to provide the service. In
instances where there is not a fit between Usability Associates' capabilities
and your needs, we will help you find another firm that is a fit.
We are amenable to short jobs during any phase of your
development cycle or comprehensive assignments that span many phases. We
prefer to work collaboratively with you and can even mentor your personnel so
they can more readily recognize usability problems and apply effective
In short, we can help your team.
THINK USABILITY AND IMPLEMENT USABILITY
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