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The benefits of partnering human factors and industrial design from the outset

As a company of engineers, scientists, designers and human factors engineers, it would be all too easy for us to compartmentalise our skillsets, but in practice we work best by bringing our knowledge together. On a current medical diagnostics device development project, we’ve had great success doing this from the outset. By combining our experiences in industrial design (ID) and human factors engineering (HFE), we’ve been able to blend creative and analytical approaches to solve complex technical challenges with a focus on enhancing the user experience.

HFE can sometimes be viewed as an isolated part of design and development, with its primary focus of making a medical device safe and effective for users. In many cases, this allows our group to support clients, acting independently to conduct analytical and empirical user research which feeds back into development programmes. Whilst this is appropriate for many projects, we find that close working partnerships between ID and HF can bring additional benefits and enhance the overall product offering.

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Left: ‘HFE Ben’ collecting research in the clinic | Right: ‘ID Ben’ thinking about user experience design

Working together, we frequently use contextual research techniques to glean insights into our intended users, their interactions and use environments. Our research reveals key un-met user needs and gives us the opportunity to quickly evaluate ideas. Exposure of this kind can give crucial insight that enables us to inform and challenge key decisions by both our development team and clients.

Our empathy for users and understanding of each other’s strengths in the face of technical challenges is key.

Fundamentally, our empathy for users and understanding of each other’s strengths in the face of technical challenges are key. Together, armed with first-hand experience from user research, we can design and assess new solutions in a holistic manner.

The most recent positive example of this in practice has been in the development of a graphical user interface. Multiple iterations of design and user testing have formed the basis of an elegant design which meets robust usability and ergonomic requirements. While our combination of skills has proven invaluable in the creation of technical specifications and transfer of the design to software development.

We think that the benefits of an integrated approach between ID and HFE may seem fairly obvious. There are many advantages to bringing a user-centered design approach throughout the design lifecycle. Ultimately though, it’s Team’s culture of mutual respect which makes this way of working possible and crucially we continue to see this positive impact become most apparent in interactions between our designs and end users.

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