On the radio today, I heard an interview with a guy who was talking about human factor design, which is the design of technology so it is makes sense and is easily used by human beings. Without proper human factor design, it is just technology for its own sake. Poor design is one of my pet peeves, and great design is something I really love.

The guy gave some really great examples of human factor design, both good and bad. For instance, the original Palm Pilot was not the first PDA on the market, but it was the first successful one. The designer experimented with different sized and shaped pieces of wood to get the right dimensions. Then he printed stickers with pictures of the software, and stuck them on the pieces of wood to show to people. He got their opinions about it and made changes where necessary. By prototyping the product like this, he was able to inexpensively design something that worked intuitively, and that people could feel comfortable with. 🙂

An example of bad design is the cockpit of a certain type of commercial airliner. This type of aircraft repeatedly had accidents in which the pilot would retract the landing gear after landing, causing the plane to skid on the runway on its belly. 😮 The accidents were always described as “pilot error” until someone decided to look at the controls to see what was actually happening. Turns out that the knobs for “raise flaps” and “raise landing gear” were identical, and located right beside each other. Pilots would reach down and accidentally pull the wrong knob when trying to raise the wing flaps on the plane after landing. The solution was to change the knobs on the controls. The landing gear knob was replaced by a little rubber wheel, and the flaps knob was replaced by a metal triangle. The pilot could tell, without looking down, which knob was which. This stuff is so cool. Makes me want to become a designer…

Anyway, for some interesting examples of bad design, visit this page. :nod: