Chapter Three Ergonomic

Ergonomics, also called human factors, is the study of how devices can be designed so they match both our physical and psychological abilities. For the most part, people first meet the term when discussing workplace ergonomics—office chair adjustment, desk height, the position of a computer screen, and so on. But the principles of ergonomics apply as much to what happens on a screen as to things going on around it.

Online design meets offline ergonomics: When I print electronic boarding passes, I fold them and put them in my jacket pocket. The British Airways version features a bar code along the top edge, which is easy to scan both at security and at the gate. The SAS version features a wide top margin and a bar code running down the side. I have to unfold it to have it scanned, and often the part of the code in the crease has worn off. Some airlines actually put the code at the bottom of the page, which is completely idiotic.


The magnet on this refrigerator timer is not strong enough to keep the unit upright. A functional problem or an ergonomic problem? I’d say both (being forced to read stuff upside down is clearly related to ergonomics, right?). The magnet was such a simple, obvious feature that the designers clearly forgot to test it on a metal surface.

Henry Dreyfuss: Introducing ergonomics to industrial design

Although the American industrial ...

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