By Olly Eades
If you partake in sport the likelihood is you are also relying on sports products to enable you to compete. For whatever reason you play sport, to enjoy, compete or train, you are relying on sports products.
The point is that from a product point of view we have to consider the conscious or unconscious reliance people have on sports products to take part. It would be absurd to make a product and not consider how you, the athlete, interacts with that product. Integral to sports product development and design is the athlete.
Human factors come part and parcel with every project in the Sports Technology space. Often it is easy to overlook the human factor side of any project, but delve a little deeper and human interaction with sports products is present wherever anyone looks.
It is so important to remember the use case for the product you are working on. How are people going to interact with your product? This concept spans outside of only sport and it drives how I go about testing an idea, how it looks, how it feels.
How are people going to interact with your product?
We worked with Escape Fitness on developing their step system. In that case we needed to consider what the product features were for that product and how the user was going to interact with it. As a step, people are going to step on it, and step back down. So, it needs to be stable when it is in its least stable condition with the most risers attached.
We also looked at the design of the tread pattern to best allow the user to perform the movements they need to for a fitness regime without having to think hard about what they are doing. The aim was to minimise the potential for slipping whilst giving a clear message on how to use the step.
These are just two examples of uses that the step system will undergo. Another aspect to understand is the parameters with which different interactions occur under. With the same system, how fast will people pop the risers into place? What effect does this have on how fast they wear? How many times can the risers be inserted and removed before they have ‘worn out’? What do we define as ‘worn out’?
Human factors inform the process required to answer these questions. We tested the insertion and removal of the risers to match the use case, we defined the term ‘worn out’ by the level of force required to disengage the system (which we measured throughout the testing) according to what the minimum force required was to hold the top and for the risers to fall out.
All these parameters are defined by human factors. Each design decision (product or test design) is driven by the end user. So it is worth asking the question, for any product that is designed for human use: how is it going to be used and how does this affect my design?