Journal of Ergonomics

Journal of Ergonomics
Open Access

ISSN: 2165-7556


k Reasons Why Ergonomics Cannot Make Interactive Devices to Be User-Friendly (k>3)

Bouwhuis DG

Interactive interfaces are encroaching on ever more devices in our daily life activities. They appear on set top boxes, TV sets, hand-held telephones, washing machines, kitchen ovens, home thermostats, the car navigation unit and parking meters, to mention only a few. Despite the fact that practically all of them feature a menu driven interface that has been around since 1995, their usability has not improved and with the continuous increase there is even a tendency to become more inscrutable, rather than less. At the same time human factors engineering and ergonomics have become serious disciplines, widely endorsed and the associated expertise is easily available and accessible. Apparently, all scientific knowledge about human interactive behaviour does not find its way in creating transparent interfaces in many products for private use and public systems. It is argued here that this situation is caused by a number of reasons, that that are almost impossible to eliminate. In this paper five reasons are discussed, some of which are related, such that with another definition fewer reasons might emerge, but three reasons seem to be the minimum. The reasons originate from the software life cycle, cognitive models and on beliefs of the stakeholders. Acknowledging that in the current industrial and economic context the current generation of interactive interfaces will necessarily have a problematic usability, some measures for improvement are mentioned, e.g. regulation or standardization, like the familiar ones existing for electrical, radiation and medical safety.