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Understand human factors
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human factors

Understand human factors

Human factors refer to how users interact with systems, machines, platforms, or even tasks. As a discipline.

Human factors design (or human-centred design) focuses on improving areas within a product or design where interaction occurs. Examples include using a smartphone with a touchscreen or performing tasks on a desktop computer.

The goal is to reduce the number of mistakes users make and make interacting with a product more enjoyable. Human factors design is about understanding the capabilities and limitations of humans and then applying that knowledge to product design. It is also a combination of many disciplines, including psychology, sociology, engineering and industrial design.

So when we talk about human factors design, is it the same as UX design? Not necessarily. Human factors design has its roots in ergonomics and focuses primarily on how people interact with technology. It's about making a system usable, especially when it comes to human-computer interaction (HCI).

UX, on the other hand, encompasses everything that users go through when interacting with a product. The goal of UX design is to make a system both useful and enjoyable to use.

When people evaluate a product, they usually judge it on both usability and popularity. The human factors that make a product usable are part of the larger user experience. Therefore, UX designers should have a good understanding of human factors design so that they can develop a great product.

  • #Technology
  • #Tasks
  • #HumanInteraction

Human factor design principles

Good design is easy to spot, but often hard to get to the heart of. What exactly makes a product effective for its users? Is it a matter of simplicity, structure, or functionality? The answer depends on the product in question.

Physical ergonomics

Physical ergonomics refers to the responses of the human body to physical work demands, such as the use of hand muscles when holding a smartphone or touching a screen. Proper ergonomic design is necessary to enable comfortable interaction with a product. To assess whether the product is good for the user, human factors specialists take into account:

Specific operations that the user performs with the product such as entering text into a web form.

Physical characteristics of the product such as size, shape, and weight of a mobile phone.

Context of use such as how users interact with information on that device.

Using this information, human factors specialists can design a product or device to help users perform their tasks efficiently and effectively. For example, when we apply human factors to mobile app development, we adjust the size of touch controls to minimize the risk of user error.

User testing gives you important insights into proper ergonomics. For example, in your user testing, you may ask users to interact with the product and measure the error rate. You might find that your users have trouble hitting certain buttons that are too small, and then you know you need to make them bigger.


This principle states that a system should look and function the same everywhere. Consistency in design plays a key role in creating comfortable interactions. When a product has a consistent design, a user can transfer their learned skills to other parts of the product. It's also important to maintain both internal and external consistency:

Internal Consistency. Apply the same conventions to all user interface elements. For example, if you're designing a graphical user interface (GUI), use the same visual appearance of the elements of UI throughout.

External Consistency. Use the same design across all platforms of the product, e.g. desktop, mobile, etc.


The principle of familiarity states that it's important to use familiar concepts and metaphors when designing human-machine interfaces. The design industry loves innovation, and it's very tempting for designers to create something new and unexpected. But at the same time, users love familiarity. When they spend time using products other than ours, they become familiar with the standard conventions of design and begin to expect them.

Designers who reinvent the wheel and introduce unusual concepts increase the learning curve for their users. If the usage is unfamiliar, users will have to spend extra time learning how to interact with your product. To counteract this, strive for intuitiveness and use patterns that people are already familiar with.

Sense of control

Human-computer design is all about the user's control of the information. The user is the one who should control the interaction with a system, not the other way around. Here are a few things to keep in mind when designing a product:

Appropriate Feedback. Use visual and auditory cues to help users understand the current state of a system.

Control over system operations. Users should have control over system operations, such as pausing or stopping actions.

Personalization. Provide content based on what you know about the user to give the impression that the system is adapting to the user's needs.


Users should be able to complete their tasks in the shortest amount of time possible. As a designer, it's your job to reduce the user's cognitive load, which means interacting with the product shouldn't require too much brain power. Some tips to keep in mind:

Break down complex steps into simple steps This way, you can reduce complexity and simplify decision making.

Reduce the number of operations required to complete the task. Remove any extra actions and make navigation paths as short as possible. Make sure the user can devote all their time (and brain) to the task, not the interface of a product.

Guide the user. Guide the user in using the system by providing all the information up front. Anticipate where users might need additional help.

Summarize related information. For example, if your product uses a UI, you can place the elements of the UI to draw attention to the most important information. Use Gestalt Principles to organize information on screens.

Provide shortcuts. It's important for experienced users to offer keyboard shortcuts that can improve their productivity. An example would be keyboard shortcuts that allow users to perform certain operations without a mouse.

Error management

Error is human. But that doesn't mean your users like it! The way a system handles errors has a huge impact on your users. This includes error prevention, error correction, and supporting your users when an error occurs. Here are a few things to consider when designing error handling:

Prevent errors from occuring whenever possible. Create user journeys and analyze them to identify where users might have problems.

Protect users from fatal errors. Create defensive layers that prevent users from entering fatal error states. For example, modal dialogs that prompt users to confirm their action (e.g., deleting files or their entire account).

Dialogs and actions. Dialogs for ‘Delete Account’ and ‘Delete Account’ actions. Support ‘Undo’ action as well, make it possible to reverse actions.

When an error occurs, issue messages to help the user resolve the issue. Never blame the users. If you practice user-centered design, know that it's not the user's fault, it's your design flaws that cause users to make mistakes.

  • #PhysicalErgonomics
  • #Consistency
  • #Familiarity
  • #SenseOfControl
  • #Efficiency
  • #ErrorManagement


Human factors play an important role in designing successful products.

The discipline of human factors design helps you identify areas where you can improve your system and increase productivity, safety, and overall satisfaction when using a system.

Table of contents
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Understand human factors •

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Competitive Audits

  • Introduction to competitive audits


  • Limits to competitive audits


  • Steps to conduct competitive audits


  • Present a competitive audit


Design Ideation

  • Understand design ideation


  • Business needs during ideation


  • Use insights from competitive audits to ideate


  • Use "How might we" to ideate


  • Use Crazy Eights to ideate


  • Use journey map to ideate


Goal statements

  • Build a Goal statement


User flows

  • Introduction to user flows


  • Storyboarding user flows


  • Types of storyboards



  • Introduction to wireframes


  • Paper wireframes


  • Transition from paper to digital wireframes


  • Information architecture


Ethical and Inclusive Design

  • Identify Deceptive Patterns


  • Role as a UX designer


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