by Cecilia Teal | Nov 3, 2023
In the simplest terms, human factors research is the study of how people’s environments and the tools or equipment they use affect them. More technically, human factors research, also known as ergonomics, combines several disciplines (psychology, sociology, engineering, industrial design, and user experience, among others) to explore the interactions of humans with their environments, equipment they use, and/or work they do. EurekaFacts is an organization with expertise in conducting human factors and usability research and has used creative methodologies to generate understanding of how people are affected by ergonomic factors.
For example, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) planned to add a new payment device on their Metrobuses and wanted to know where bus passengers would prefer to have this device placed. EurekaFacts designed and conducted a study to obtain feedback from Metrobus passengers by having focus groups literally on a Metrobus, so that bus passengers could physically interact with the device and bus environment. Participants, including some with physical limitations, boarded the bus as they normally would while sharing their thoughts about the possible locations for the device and placing sticky notes on their suggested locations. After focus group participants in each group finished examining the bus, the group discussed the pro’s and con’s of the different location options they identified and then came to a consensus about the “best” placement for the device. Participants considered several device placement factors such as accessibility and/or speed of use, proximity to the regular farebox, disability status, handedness, driver’s view/visibility, height/position of passenger, objects getting caught on it, and on/off boarding congestion.
The most frequently suggested placements for the device were on top of the current fare box, attached to and below the current fare box, as well as having the device at the back door and/or attached to several seats. As a side note, WMATA had also requested input by representatives from an advocacy group promoting the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was shared with participants after the discussion. So, what problem did we solve for WMATA? EurekaFacts confirmed WMATA and ADA advocacy group representatives’ assumptions about the best placement for the device, which is attached to and below the current farebox, but participants emphasized the device should be behind the yellow bar for safety considerations.
 Licht, D. M., Polzella, D. J., & Boff, K. (1989). Human Factors, Ergonomics, and Human Factors Engineering: An Analysis of Definitions. CSERIAC-89-01. Wright Patterson AFB, Dayton, OH: CSERIAC