I find that the problem with product designers making ergonomics claims is the conflict between a) the fact that ergonomics is such a holistic discipline; and b) the reality that many designers are focused on addressing one specific issue. This may result in a design which is brilliant at addressing that one specific issue but ignores the others.
The effective application of ergonomics principles usually involves compromise. The real conundrum for the designer occurs when it becomes necessary to reduce functionality in order to improve usability. As I once said to a chair designer: “it doesn’t matter that this could fit 95% of users if 100% of users don’t understand how to adjust it”!
We see a regular flow of products with a sound concept and good execution but with a fundamental question about how people might use them unsupervised. Might they set it up wrong, fail to set it up at all or, worst of all, set it up in a way that might do them harm?
These experiences have all come to the fore recently in discussions about Smart Working. If personnel are working unsupervised at home or in public places, what can be done to maximise the likelihood of them adopting good postures and using their tools and equipment properly? Obviously, the first answer is good training and the second is finding tools to monitor and remind them (such as CtrlWORK, in the case of Windows computer users).
Alongside this, it is just as important to ensure their equipment is intuitive and as easy to use as possible. Laptop stands that look clever because of their sophisticated folding mechanism are not much good if users never bother to take them out of their smart leatherette slipcase. Equally, providing Bluetooth wireless keyboards or mice is a really good idea if, and only if, the Bluetooth connection is instant and consistently reliable. The same rationale applies to the intuitive use of chairs and monitor arms in hot desking areas.
The pressure on employers to offer BYOD schemes shows that many users are willing to provide their personal smart phones, laptops and tablets for use at work. There’s a simple reason for this – they are easy to use!