Re: Design & RSI exposure (was When Interaction Design goes wrong)

14 Dec 2004 - 5:00pm
9 years ago
5 replies
715 reads
Doug Anderson
2004

Hi Andrei, Lilly, et al.,

Couldn't let this post (below) go by without pointing to the "pilot error" analogy. When a design is just good enough that it is *possible* for the pilot to have taken the correct action (however unlikely in the actual context of use), when the design fails the pilot, the official cause of the failure is "pilot error."

Yes, if users were better-informed, more self-motivated to avoid RSI, altered their behavior accordingly, had wider carpal tunnels, bought the most ergonomically advantageous input devices, they would succumb to fewer RSI's. Does that mean the UX/UI designer has no power to further reduce the user's RSI exposure? Does that mean the UX/UI designer has no reason to consider the actual (human) nature of the user and the user's most probable contexts of use, relative to RSI exposure?

I don't expect Andrei's post was intended to answer those questions in the affirmative. However, taken literally, it comes frighteningly close to doing so.

I have had the painful experience of developing software for many hours a day and months on end via an IDE that was gratuitously pointer intensive. It looked cool and I'm sure it demo'd well in pre-sales contexts. Despite applying carefully my substantial knowledge of RSI-avoidance techniques, installing better pointing devices, and having previously recovered from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome by doing so, the UI was overwhelmingly injurious.

Sure, we're *only* talking about hovering the pointer here, not eating wrists for breakfast. However, the "R" in RSI comes from "repetitive." The problem being that every little insult to the physiology is additive. To pooh-pooh concerns about that is to deny that designs are for and about the users thereof. If you intended to pooh-pooh the concern Lilly expressed, Andrei, I'm sorry to misrepresent your intent. I've submitted this post because I wouldn't want anyone to mistakenly think you were callously disregarding the well-being of your prospective users. Yes, RSI is far from the only design consideration, but it is always a valid one.

Real designs are for real users, not for the users we wish we could find somewhere. Hmm, kinda reminiscent of Rumsfeld's statement to the effect that you go to war with the army you have, not the one you would like to have. But then, aren't the people who decide to go to war responsible to factor into that decision their knowledge of what army they have?

Sorry, now where was I? Oh, yeah, signing off!

Peace,
Doug Anderson

Opinions expressed are necessarily mine, not necessarily those of the Mayo Foundation.

Original message:
Date: Mon, 13 Dec 2004 20:32:33 -0800
From: Andrei Herasimchuk <andrei at designbyfire.com>
Subject: Re: [ID Discuss] Google Groups - When Interaction Design goes
wrong.
To: "IxD Discussion''"
<discuss-interactiondesigners.com at lists.interactiondesigners.com>
Message-ID: <2CA63E0F-4D89-11D9-8538-000A95D574D4 at designbyfire.com>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=US-ASCII; format=flowed

<snip>

I never claimed there are issues with RSI injuries. I myself am now
suffering from a bit of carpal. The issue for me is that RSI and carpal
have far more to do with poor hardware design (my Apple keyboard in
particular is pretty bad), office furniture and general lack of poor
behavior on the part of people when using computers for long periods of
time. (Not enough stretching, or getting up, etc.) Things like hovering
over a link to reveal more info have little to do with the real issue
of RSI from my experience.

> Having to move my arm to dig deeper into information
> I'm not even sure I want *will* affect my level of exploration. I
> point this out because perhaps there is another way to present the
> additional information.

Having worked on high-profile products, I understand the need to not
cross the boundaries your company lawyers would throw the book at you.
At the same time, if you are going to speak up in public forum -- and I
encourage you to do so -- please know I'm not interested in feedback
which in the grand scheme of things is very minor. Changing ad color,
moving a phrase like "sponsored links" or feeling a hover might induce
RSI tension just doesn't cut it for me in terms of design critique.

<snip>

Comments

14 Dec 2004 - 5:23pm
Listera
2004

Anderson, Douglas W.:

> Hmm, kinda reminiscent of Rumsfeld's statement to the effect that you go to
> war with the army you have, not the one you would like to have.

Two observations:

1) Apparently, 1,000 dead and several thousand injured are acceptable
military casualty figures.

2) Rummy still has a job.

He also said things like looting happens, democracy is messy, etc. So, it
does sound like the efforts there have been *requirements-compliant.*

> But then, aren't the people who decide to go to war responsible to factor into
> that decision their knowledge of what army they have?

See above.

We could go further: can we look in the eye of any app we design and boldly
declare that a small X% of users will have issues so that 100-X% will have a
better UX?

Ziya
Nullius in Verba

14 Dec 2004 - 5:44pm
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Dec 14, 2004, at 2:00 PM, Anderson, Douglas W. wrote:

> The problem being that every little insult to the physiology is
> additive. To pooh-pooh concerns about that is to deny that designs
> are for and about the users thereof. If you intended to pooh-pooh the
> concern Lilly expressed, Andrei, I'm sorry to misrepresent your
> intent. I've submitted this post because I wouldn't want anyone to
> mistakenly think you were callously disregarding the well-being of
> your prospective users. Yes, RSI is far from the only design
> consideration, but it is always a valid one.

My point was that there are far more major factors that contribute to
RSI than certain aspects of interface design, most of them having to do
with poor hardware design, poor office space design, and yes, people
who refuse to get up every 30 mins or so and actually move around and
stop doing all those repetitive things all day long. (I myself am to
blame for spending 8 hours a day sitting behind a computer enthralled
with my work and refusing to get up and move around. No one made me act
like that, and now I'm suffering that fate. But I'm breaking those
habits and getting out of it.)

While you can easily point to poor software that requires too many
repetitive tasks in terms of amplifying the issue, in general, those
kind of problems tend to be poorly designed in general because its poor
workflow design, not because they contribute to RSI to whatever degree.
IOW, if someone felt the hover forced users to spend too much time
finding information over and over and over, then the design is flawed
on that level. The design's flaws in terms of contributing to RSI are
last on that list of critique, imho.

As long as interface designers focus on good design, much of the
concerns around RSI tend to fall back RSI, while very real, is a much
larger problem that has to be solved with better hardware design,
forcing employers to spend the money they should on quality office
furniture that is better designed for the human body, and people taking
some responsibility for themselves and paying attention to how much
they are harming themselves with repetitive actions and stopping it.
(With a work culture that allows for this, obviously.)

And as Kevin stated, RSI is far more likely to occur from repetitive
pressing of the keyboard or mouse button than it is tracking for a
hover, so in this particular case, I think the point may be moot with
regard to the specific concern.

Andrei

14 Dec 2004 - 6:37pm
Peyush_Agarwal ...
2004

All,
I think this thread has stretched a bit too long. I think the point was
that the mouse-over to read additional information in that particular
design is a repetitive task that will contribute to RSI issues. No doubt
that's not the only contributor, but almost all other contributors
(hardware, work policies, user's intelligence, ergonomics etc.) are outside
the scope of this discussion. At this point, what you control is whether to
have a design with that much mouse-over for information or not. Besides,
good design is optimal response to problem/s that exist in a given
environment - even one that contains many contributors to RSI.

<<And as Kevin stated, RSI is far more likely to occur from repetitive
pressing of the keyboard or mouse button than it is tracking for a
hover, so in this particular case, I think the point may be moot with
regard to the specific concern.>>

Andrei, unless there's irrefutable scientific evidence, I think its a
generalization to state that RSI is more likely to occur by keyboard usage
vs. mouse usage. It depends... on all the factors you've listed in your
arguements and more.

To me, the mouse-over simply presents a different problem, that of latency
in viewing information. Assuming the standard tooltip provided by the
browser, the latency would be less acceptable than relative clutter of the
same information available on the page for a quick scan. Its easier to
quickly compare when that info is visible, rather than available one at a
time on a tooltip.

Regards

Peyush Agarwal
Interaction Designer
PeopleSoft Inc.
303-334-0603 Phone
303-334-1815 Fax
peyush_agarwal at peoplesoft.com

|---------+----------------------------------------------------------------------->
| | "Andrei Herasimchuk" <andrei at designbyfire.com> |
| | Sent by: |
| | discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactionde|
| | signers.com |
| | |
| | |
| | 12/14/2004 03:44 PM |
|---------+----------------------------------------------------------------------->
>----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|
| |
| To: "'discuss-interactiondesigners.com at lists.interactiondesigners.com'" |
| <discuss-interactiondesigners.com at lists.interactiondesigners.com> |
| cc: (bcc: Peyush Agarwal/PeopleSoft) |
| Subject: Re: [ID Discuss] Re: Design & RSI exposure (was When Interaction Design goes wrong) |
>----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------|

[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]

On Dec 14, 2004, at 2:00 PM, Anderson, Douglas W. wrote:

> The problem being that every little insult to the physiology is
> additive. To pooh-pooh concerns about that is to deny that designs
> are for and about the users thereof. If you intended to pooh-pooh the
> concern Lilly expressed, Andrei, I'm sorry to misrepresent your
> intent. I've submitted this post because I wouldn't want anyone to
> mistakenly think you were callously disregarding the well-being of
> your prospective users. Yes, RSI is far from the only design
> consideration, but it is always a valid one.

My point was that there are far more major factors that contribute to
RSI than certain aspects of interface design, most of them having to do
with poor hardware design, poor office space design, and yes, people
who refuse to get up every 30 mins or so and actually move around and
stop doing all those repetitive things all day long. (I myself am to
blame for spending 8 hours a day sitting behind a computer enthralled
with my work and refusing to get up and move around. No one made me act
like that, and now I'm suffering that fate. But I'm breaking those
habits and getting out of it.)

While you can easily point to poor software that requires too many
repetitive tasks in terms of amplifying the issue, in general, those
kind of problems tend to be poorly designed in general because its poor
workflow design, not because they contribute to RSI to whatever degree.
IOW, if someone felt the hover forced users to spend too much time
finding information over and over and over, then the design is flawed
on that level. The design's flaws in terms of contributing to RSI are
last on that list of critique, imho.

As long as interface designers focus on good design, much of the
concerns around RSI tend to fall back RSI, while very real, is a much
larger problem that has to be solved with better hardware design,
forcing employers to spend the money they should on quality office
furniture that is better designed for the human body, and people taking
some responsibility for themselves and paying attention to how much
they are harming themselves with repetitive actions and stopping it.
(With a work culture that allows for this, obviously.)

And as Kevin stated, RSI is far more likely to occur from repetitive
pressing of the keyboard or mouse button than it is tracking for a
hover, so in this particular case, I think the point may be moot with
regard to the specific concern.

Andrei

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14 Dec 2004 - 6:55pm
Listera
2004

Peyush_Agarwal at peoplesoft.com:

> Assuming the standard tooltip provided by the browser, the latency would be
> less acceptable than relative clutter of the same information available on the
> page for a quick scan.

Yes, but that would be assuming what's hidden by the rollover is of the same
importance as what surrounds it. Info hiding is just as relevant to design
as showing it. I don't think you'd argue with that. So, like all things
design related, this too depends on the context. There are, for instance,
design approaches to signaling the relevance of hidden information without
revealing its actual content or cluttering up the container/higher level
design.

Ziya
Nullius in Verba

15 Dec 2004 - 2:04am
Andrei Herasimchuk
2004

On Dec 14, 2004, at 3:37 PM, Peyush_Agarwal at peoplesoft.com wrote:

> <<And as Kevin stated, RSI is far more likely to occur from repetitive
> pressing of the keyboard or mouse button than it is tracking for a
> hover, so in this particular case, I think the point may be moot with
> regard to the specific concern.>>
>
> Andrei, unless there's irrefutable scientific evidence, I think its a
> generalization to state that RSI is more likely to occur by keyboard
> usage
> vs. mouse usage. It depends... on all the factors you've listed in your
> arguements and more.

The comparison is hovering over a title, which requires arm motion,
versus clicking through pagination widgets, which requires pressing the
mouse button. We can look for studies if you like, but my research into
RSI type injuries as far more to do with the extent of damage done
mouse pressing keys on a keyboard and the mouse button far than those
from moving your arm to manipulate the mouse.

For the record, I never stated keyboard vs. mouse, I was stating
keyboard or mouse vs. arm motion.

Andrei

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