Human factors and ergonomics (HF&E), also known as comfort design, functional design, and user-friendly systems, is the practice of designing products, systems or processes to take proper account of the interaction between them and the people that use them.
It is a multidisciplinary field incorporating contributions from psychology, engineering, biomechanics, industrial design, physiology and anthropometry. In essence it is the study of designing equipment and devices that fit the human body and its cognitive abilities. The two terms “human factors” and “ergonomics” are essentially synonymous.
The International Ergonomics Association defines ergonomics or human factors as follows:
Ergonomics (or human factors) is the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance.
—International Ergonomics Association
HF&E is employed to fulfill the goals of occupational health and safety and productivity. It is relevant in the design of such things as safe furniture and easy-to-use interfaces to machines and equipment. Proper ergonomic design is necessary to prevent repetitive strain injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders, which can develop over time and can lead to long-term disability.
Human factors and ergonomics is concerned with the “fit” between the user, equipment and their environments. It takes account of the user’s capabilities and limitations in seeking to ensure that tasks, functions, information and the environment suit each user.
To assess the fit between a person and the used technology, human factors specialists or ergonomists consider the job (activity) being done and the demands on the user; the equipment used (its size, shape, and how appropriate it is for the task), and the information used (how it is presented, accessed, and changed). Ergonomics draws on many disciplines in its study of humans and their environments, including anthropometry, biomechanics, mechanical engineering, industrial engineering, industrial design, information design, kinesiology, physiology, cognitive psychology and industrial and organizational psychology.