Humanware, the Missing Link between Hardware & Software!

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The real problem is not whether
machines think but whether men do.
B.F. Skinner


This paper’s title may look somehow unusual, yet it is a reality we, the humans, face this unusual status regularly since the creation of the first tools that drove mankind into our days.

I estimate the problem residing at the design and concept teams who since the beginning thought of solutions in favour of a certain productivity rather than seeking what and how people would feel using the components. Of course I do concede that the 20th century’s inventions such as machinery, homeware, were meant to ease the life of workers and people (essentially women at that time) for an easier life reducing time and effort. It remains though these inventions were “invented” between 4 walls under the supervision of specialists and skilled designers who did not necessarily used these components. Therefore unwillingly creating “things” people needed to adapt to instead of the opposite.

So saying that People, being part of the equation as Humanware are missing most of the time from the process. Missing alas from the needs analysis till the delivery, leaving to market studies and its experts the task to develop such markets motivating clients to be willing to buy these products.

We do not need to have rocket science expertise to find in our daily activities how many useful products were meant for people yet people had to adapt to using these.

A simple example, I went through myself when I went to the pharmacy to pick up my prescription. The pharmacist was all smiles announcing their national banner decided to change the model and the way to open the vial. Looking at the little container I found it somehow intriguing trying to guess how I could open it in a snap as the pharmacist was saying. After trying a couple of times, she smiles at me and offered to show me how. Two attempts later I managed to open the vial, phew! That was something! Looking et my smiling young pharmacist, I thought about the people who cannot afford using easily their fingers as it should to open the bottle and wondered how would they do. Would they give up and put their health in jeopardy or would they need to ask for help all the time?

On my way back home, I felt enough puzzled to wonder how the people who designed this type of vial did think their idea, the ergonomics and usability of the bottle, was it designed just for those who could easily use their hands, being enough skilled to synchronize the two steps in one to open the bottle.

With all due respect to the good intentions of the designers, I think they missed a certain point: bring in their team the user experience element, that Humanware that obviously was missing here.

How we were forced, unlike our natural abilities, to change these in order to be able to use these objects that lacked such fine touch in their design.

I am part of the people who are left handed, those who are had no choice but to adapt, luckily the further we moved into our timeline some of these objects we conceived a bit more accommodating, maybe among the designers was a left-handed person that certainly helped! Not to say about the scissors, the spout of a saucepan manufactured only for right handers, etc.

I know there are compromises to be done from both sides, yet when it is related to the comfort of a person, I think regardless of any other consideration, people matter before processes and schemes.

The concept if Humanware is not of my creation, it became part of my professional culture, my social presence among peers and people, Humanware was to me a stunning discovery when I started developing teaching and educational programs. A fortunate encounter, 10 years ago with the author Ulf L. Andersson and his book: “Humanware practical usability engineering” made me understand how important people are in every solution.

Not only about manufacturing or engineering utilities and goods, but also in education, social life, politics, and more. People first, people at the core of every solution, people matter, these slogans say what should be seen in practical life. There is a long way to go before these altruistic slogans and mottos become reality.

Our digital reality has brought a new challenging layer on the real importance of people in today’s history of humankind. When virtual reality tends to keep us alone though connected to the planet, we need more than ever to remind ourselves, we, the humans, count first not the other way!

Until our next chat,

Michel – August 10, 2015


Picture: A courtesy from the site: El Mundo Del Humaware

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