May 27, 2020

How Do Ergonomics and UX Design Relate?

Simply put, ergonomics is about designing for people. User experience design is about creating the ideal encounter for the customer while using a product or service. Sounds like ergonomics and UX design are closely related, huh? In fact, user experience design is under the larger umbrella of ergonomics (also referred to as human factors).

Ergonomics is the application of psychological and physiological principles to the design of products, processes, and systems. The goal of ergonomics 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, whether that's a computer desk, stamping machine, or mobile phone. The field is a combination of numerous disciplines, such as psychology, engineering, biomechanics, industrial design, physiology, interaction design, visual design, user experience, and user interface design.

There are several types of ergonomics:

  • Physical ergonomics - Designing interaction with equipment and workplaces (and playspaces) to fit the user.
  • Cognitive ergonomics - Designing products and services while keeping mental processes, such as memory, reasoning, and decision making in mind.
  • Organizational ergonomics - Design and optimization of business systems, including their organizational structures, policies, and processes.

The Thumb Zone: Designing For Mobile Users

The image above (from The Thumb Zone: Designing For Mobile Users) demonstrates the need to consider ergonomics when UX designers are creating mobile apps. The majority of mobile phone users use their phones with a single hand (usually the right). Certain areas of the screen are easier to reach with the thumb than others.

When designing a mobile app it would be good ergonomics to place the navigation bar at the bottom of the screen rather than the top since it's easier to reach with the thumb. The areas that are harder to reach with the thumb are excellent areas to display text or pictures and other non-interactive objects.

Can you think of any other examples of good ergonomics in products or services that you use every day? Share in the comments below!

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