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World Usability Day is November 12, 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009
By Anne Kramer

Every year, on the second Tuesday of November, organizations around the globe celebrate World Usability Day. This year, World Usability Day falls on November 12, 2009, and its theme is “Designing for a Sustainable World.” The aim of this year’s celebration is to raise awareness of ways to improve usability while minimizing environmental impact.

Begun by the Usability Professionals’ Association (UPA), the celebration acknowledges the importance of thoughtful design in every aspect of life. Participants in World Usability Day value the experience of users at all ages and across multiple disciplines. They come from a variety of fields, including ergonomics, engineering, software development, business firms, and even educational institutions.

Ergonomics and Usability

Ergonomics is the application of engineering and biology to fit tools and surroundings to the people who use them. The purpose is to increase productivity and prevent injury through usable design. In the office place, ergonomic principles can shape the overall layout of the office, along with the configuration of individual workstations. Ergonomics uses form to improve function in many ways:

  • Adjusting tools and equipment to individual workers helps to prevent repetitive stress injuries such as chronic back and neck pain and carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Comprehensive ergonomic evaluations of workstations can help workers reconfigure their workstations for maximum productivity, saving time and increasing revenue.
  • Using ergonomics to guide the whole-office layout helps determine logical positions for employees, based on their interactions with one another. It also helps determine the best location for shared equipment and resources.

Applying ergonomics in the office streamlines every aspect of the work day, making ergonomics an indispensable consideration in the creation of user-friendly work places.

Sustainability through Ergonomics

Advancements in ergonomic office equipment have made it easier than ever to find sustainable ergonomic solutions. In addition to new environmentally friendly fabrics and materials, innovative products allow any business to create an ergonomically sound office that is kind to the environment.

  • Replacing traditional bulbs with LEDs in task lighting saves electricity and provides better lighting for reading, writing, and other non-computer based tasks.
  • In work areas where employees almost exclusively work on the computer, install dimmer overhead lighting, which uses less electricity and reduces contrast between the computer screen and the surroundings.
  • Rather than buying brand-new office furniture, existing furniture can often be retrofitted with lumbar cushions, keyboard trays, or footrests.
  • During office redesign, low-VOC paints and carpeting are less harmful to the environment, and they are less likely to make employees ill.
  • Ergonomics companies like Humanscale and izzydesign create products that use sustainable materials and low-impact manufacturing practices.

World Usability Day offers an excellent opportunity to rethink usability and sustainability of the workplace. Ergonomics provides alternatives that protect both employees and the environment.

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