by Dan Jenkins
The category of consumer products is incredibly diverse; it ranges from relatively simple products, such as toothbrushes, through to complex electronic devices, such as smartphones. Unlike the domains in which human factors/ergonomics (HF/E) was born (i.e., aviation and industrial settings), there are few standards or regulations that mandate the involvement of HF/E. Accordingly, the place for the HF/E practitioner on the development team is far from guaranteed. To gain this place, the additional upfront costs associated with HF/E involvement must be demonstrably offset by an improvement in the quality of the final design and, in turn, the product’s market potential. This typically involves defining measure of performance and using a range of tools and techniques to demonstrate how product features or attributes can influence these values.
“The term ‘consumer product’ is typically reserved for artefacts that are purchased by individuals or households for use or consumption. Just like any other physical artefact, the design of these products will have a marked impact on their acceptance, the way they are used, and the broader system performance.”
“The case for including HF/E in consumer product design is typically made based on greater ease of use, customer experience and, ultimately, increased sales revenue. However, the association between usability and sales is far from straightforward (it would be a lot easier to sell HF/E services if it were!).”
“To be useable, products must consider the capabilities of its target audience. Focusing on the sensory, physical and cognitive capabilities of users not only increases the target market, but it also greater user experience, which can form a competitive advantage.”
“Having worked in a range of domains (aerospace, automotive, defence, rail, medical, maritime, nuclear), there are two things that stand out as unique about the consumer products domain: (1) the emphasis on justifying the place of the HF/E practitioners place on the team and (2), the pace of work.”
“It is only by focusing on stakeholder values, through a semi-structured iterative and integrated development process that these complex challenges can be met.”
Practitioner reflections (scroll down to add your own reflection)