Recommended Books

Recommended Books Clicking the title for a recommended book will display the appropriate page on You also may order these books from the online bookstore by clicking on the title. This service is provided in association with Books.

The Design of Everyday Things

The Design of Everyday Things, by Donald A. Norman.
A classic in its insightful and entertaining depiction of good and bad design of objects we encounter everyday. The book provides excellent examples of the problems that result when these common objects are designed without accounting for the way people actually perceive, think, and act. While most problems people may have when using these poorly designed objects lead to annoyance rather than lawsuits, Dr. Norman provides useful information about human factors principles that underlie good design decisions, and describes human limitations and capabilities that can be used to help understand human error that has occurred in other situations.

Set Phasers on Stun:

Set Phasers on Stun: And Other True Tales of Design, Technology, and Human Error, by Steven Casey.
A collection of true stories about technological disasters that have resulted when machines are designed without accounting for the way people who use them actually perceive, think, and act. The stories describe disastrous interactions with a wide range of technologies that include an airplane cockpit, controls in an industrial plant, medical instrumentation, and a dishwasher. An account of the infamous Union Carbide Bhopal tragedy also is included. While there are no explicit human factors analyses of these incidents, the stories are well written, and provide absorbing accounts of the steps that led to these disasters, as well as the severe consequences that can result when designing machines that are not compatible with the characteristics of the people who will use them.

The Human Factor

The Human Factor: Revolutionizing the Way People Live With Technology, by Kim Vicente.
This engaging and powerful book demonstrates that successful product design involves more than just technical considerations. It emphasizes the importance of making products and systems easier and safer to use by not only taking the capabilities and limitations of people into account, but also by designing for the legal, organizational, political and sociological contexts in which the product is used. As one example, the author cites concerns with poorly designed medical equipment that remains in use, and continues to kill patients, despite discovery of the design defects. The equipment may perform flawlessly, when operated per instructions in the manual, but has a user interface design that is difficult and confusing to learn and use, resulting in mistakes that kill patients. But the author goes further than illustrating engineering and usability design issues. He describes the system issues that compound the errors, which includes fatigue from 80-hour work-weeks and a climate that prevents medical staff from admitting error because of professional and legal consequences. Such product and system design failures result in countless injuries and deaths not only in hospitals, but also in our homes, our vehicles, and our workplaces.

Ergonomics For Beginners:

Ergonomics For Beginners: A Quick Reference Guide, by Jan Dul, Bernard A. Weerdmeester
This book is a popular introduction to ergonomics. While the book focuses on workplace ergonomics, it provides a basic primer on human factors topics that can be applied to other situations. In addition to providing background information on ergonomics as a discipline, it includes topics such as biomechanics, anthropometry, posture, lifting, human information processing, human-machine interaction, work organization, and environmental factors that affect safety and performance, such as noise, vibration, and illumination. The book is clearly written and provides many useful diagrams and illustrations.