Ergonomics / UX / Human factors / Interaction design / Usability specialists : I get confused

20 May 2010 - 8:27am
4 years ago
6 replies
2792 reads
yannlossouarn
2010

 

Hello,

I'm french and I work as what we call an "ergonome". I'm a bit confused about all the terms that are used to speak about "UX/usability/interaction" related jobs in the english speaking world : I read things about "Interaction designers", "Human factor specialists", "User experience specialist", "Usability specialists", "Information architects", and I'm... lost.

In France, we have "ergonomes" who are usually in charge of defining the zoning, wireframes, storyboards and thus the way data is organized on screen. Ergonomes can also perform usability testing campaigns, notably by organizing user tests. Except in some particular cases (e.g. people who have multiple skills), they do not make the graphical design, neither the development. Ergonomes are likely to work in different areas, like automotive, IT, web design, aeronautics, nuclear plants, mass-market products...As long as there's an HMI somewhere, they may work on it.

Would someone be able to explain what is the meaning of the "Interaction designers", "Human factor specialists", "User experience specialist", "Usability specialists", "Information architects" terms ? What do these (different ?) people do (or not)  in a project, and in which domain they may work ?

Bye,

Yann, the lost french Ergonome in a UX world. :)

Comments

20 May 2010 - 12:47pm
Dave Malouf
2005

Hi Yann,

I don't think you are as lost as you think you are. When it comes to "titles" of jobs in the user experience design community, there are very few standards regardless of language spoken. Actually, it sounds like France has a lot more standard than much of the rest of the world.

It sounds like your use of Ergonome in the software design community would be most analogous to "User  Experience Designer". Your confusion may just derive from roots. It seems to me that Ergonome comes from the latin-based English word ergonomics which in the US usually translates to physical human factors. The virtual side of human factors has been called human computer interaction (or HCI) for quite some time. Many still think that HCI and Human Factors are just 2 sides of the same sword. Others disagree.

When it comes to Information Architect and Interaction Designer and Usability Engineer/Professional these are titles that can either be used as specific roles, or generalists like your UX Designer. It all depends on the organization. I personally frown against using any of them to be equal to UX just for the reason you are describing here--confusion.

In the end, don't fret too much about the differences, but understand the particulars.

happy designing for humans

-- dave

20 May 2010 - 1:05pm
Carol J. Smith
2007

Hello Yann,

You are not alone in your confusion unfortunately. These terms are used interchangeably to mean different things in different situations. I'm going to take a first pass and look forward to seeing other's comments. There are some older threads on this list that may define these more eloquently.

Here is how I would define them, though as I said often one term is used to define many or all of these types of work:

Interaction Designer Basic Skillset: Create prototypes (paper and pencil, wireframes, clickable prototype, etc.). They may also be experienced in visual design, usability, or have programming skills, but usually that work is done by another person.

Human Factors Specialist Basic Skillset: Focus on understanding the ways that physical products can be made to complement the human form. Usually work with an Industrial Designer who does the design work, selects materials, etc. In my experience a Human Factors Specialist may also be referred to as an ergonomist.

Usability Specialist Basic Skillset: focus on understanding the user's needs and supporting designers and developers in making products that fit those needs. May do ethnographic research to understand users, conduct expert reviews of products, and/or plan and facilitate usability tests. Usually do not do interactive or visual design.

Information Architect Basic Skillset: organizing information and understanding how best to put content together in a way that users will find it. Often this person has a library sciences background and may also have some interaction design skills.

User Experience Specialists can span any of these. I think of User Experience ____ titles as being more broad than these others. But some people think of User Experience Specialists as primarily doing the Interaction Design work.

An ergonome by your definition sounds like a combination of the Interaction Designer and the Usability Specialist skillsets.

I hope that helps!

Carol (headed to Munich for UPA 2010) Smith

On Thu, May 20, 2010 at 9:59 AM, yannlossouarn wrote: > > > Hello, > > I'm french and I work as what we call an "ergonome". I'm a bit confused > about all the terms that are used to speak about "UX/usability/interaction" > related jobs in the english speaking world : I read things about > "Interaction designers", "Human factor specialists", "User experience > specialist", "Usability specialists", "Information architects", and I'm... > lost. > > In France, we have "ergonomes" who are usually in charge of defining the > zoning, wireframes, storyboards and thus the way data is organized on > screen. Ergonomes can also perform usability testing campaigns, notably by > organizing user tests. Except in some particular cases (e.g. people who have > multiple skills), they do not make the graphical design, neither the > development. Ergonomes are likely to work in different areas, like > automotive, IT, web design, aeronautics, nuclear plants, mass-market > products...As long as there's an HMI somewhere, they may work on it. > > Would someone be able to explain what is the meaning of the "Interaction > designers", "Human factor specialists", "User experience > specialist", "Usability specialists", "Information architects" terms ? What > do these (different ?) people do (or not)  in a project, and in which domain > they may work ? > > Bye, > > Yann, the lost french Ergonome in a UX world. :) > > (

20 May 2010 - 3:05pm
bkillam
2010

As a human factors engineer myself, I'll try to restrict my comments to my own field. For years, Human Factors Engineering was the US term for what the rest of the world called Ergonomics. Today in the US, the term ergonomics was and is still reserved by many to indicate physical rather cognitive issues but the terms have long been considered synonyms by most in the industry. BCPE, the professional certification agency for Human Factors Engineering allows people to designate themselves either as certified human factors professionals or certified ergonomist depending on their personal preference. And they are recognized by the International Ergonomics Association and the US Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.

In the US, Human Factors Engineering was started by psychologists and they were first called applied psychologists. Many the US degree programs are still awarded by psychology departments though some are awarded by industrial engineering departments or operations research department, but all still have a strong psychology component. Many of these people are in research but many of us work in the field of product design and testing doing all of the work you refer to.

All the other titles (information architect, interaction design, usability specialists, user experience designer, etc., etc., etc. ad nauseum) are a mixture of people creating their own titles and newer degree programs like Information Science and interaction Design. To date, many of these other titles have been debating where the boundaries exist between them or if they are part of the same discipline.

Bill

Bill Killam, MA CHFP President, User-Centered Design, Inc. 20548 Deerwatch Place Ashburn, VA 20147 703-729-0998 (Office) 703-626-6318 (Mobile) http://www.user-centereddesign.com

On May 20, 2010, at 1:14 PM, yannlossouarn wrote:

>
> > Hello, > > I'm french and I work as what we call an "ergonome". I'm a bit confused about all the terms that are used to speak about "UX/usability/interaction" related jobs in the english speaking world : I read things about "Interaction designers", "Human factor specialists", "User experience specialist", "Usability specialists", "Information architects", and I'm... lost. > > In France, we have "ergonomes" who are usually in charge of defining the zoning, wireframes, storyboards and thus the way data is organized on screen. Ergonomes can also perform usability testing campaigns, notably by organizing user tests. Except in some particular cases (e.g. people who have multiple skills), they do not make the graphical design, neither the development. Ergonomes are likely to work in different areas, like automotive, IT, web design, aeronautics, nuclear plants, mass-market products...As long as there's an HMI somewhere, they may work on it. > > Would someone be able to explain what is the meaning of the "Interaction designers", "Human factor specialists", "User experience > specialist", "Usability specialists", "Information architects" terms ? What do these (different ?) people do (or not) in a project, and in which domain they may work ? > > Bye, > > Yann, the lost french Ergonome in a UX world. :) > >

20 May 2010 - 7:05pm
jayeffvee
2007

This is awesome. I never know what to say I do for a living when I'm
speaking to people in French. Now I do.

:-)

On May 20, 2010, at 3:09 PM, yannlossouarn wrote:

> > > Hello, > > I'm french and I work as what we call an "ergonome". I'm a bit
> confused about all the terms that are used to speak about "UX/ > usability/interaction" related jobs in the english speaking world :
> I read things about "Interaction designers", "Human factor
> specialists", "User experience specialist", "Usability specialists",
> "Information architects", and I'm... lost. > > In France, we have "ergonomes" who are usually in charge of defining
> the zoning, wireframes, storyboards and thus the way data is
> organized on screen. Ergonomes can also perform usability testing
> campaigns, notably by organizing user tests. Except in some
> particular cases (e.g. people who have multiple skills), they do not
> make the graphical design, neither the development. Ergonomes are
> likely to work in different areas, like automotive, IT, web design,
> aeronautics, nuclear plants, mass-market products...As long as
> there's an HMI somewhere, they may work on it. > > Would someone be able to explain what is the meaning of the
> "Interaction designers", "Human factor specialists", "User experience > specialist", "Usability specialists", "Information architects"
> terms ? What do these (different ?) people do (or not) in a
> project, and in which domain they may work ? > > Bye, > > Yann, the lost french Ergonome in a UX world. :) > >

21 May 2010 - 4:05am
pierre abel 2
2010

Hi,

Just a tought about "ergonome" since I'm french too. I was confused to use "ergonome" 8 years ago because I was always thinking about organizing a place to make it better for living or designing an object to make it usable- in other word because "ergonome" is an old word that is rooted in working with the real world - at least for me.

So reading most of my information in english, I've adopted the new titles that were developped by the english speaking people : information architect, interaction designer then user experience designer. I felt (and still feel) that these terms were more describing the design of "virtual" objects such as software user interface.

Nowadays,more and more user experience designers claims to design everything not just "virtual" interface (yes I know it was perhaps like this since the beginning, but most people were/are talking about software interface). I'm not a specialist of the field but it seems that there were a lot of advances in the fied of interface design methodology in the last 10 years by people designed software interface, and thus it's now logical that these advances/techniques/methodology are also applied not only to software (even if I imagine that our discipline has still lot to learn from established discipline such has industrial design)

To conclude french word "ergonome" is generalist and is close to "user experience designer" for me.

Another thread on "titles"...let's keep on designing but titles are important for marketing our job!

Pierre

Twenty years ago ,When talking about "ergonome" and as you described "ergonome" is very broard term.

On Fri, May 21, 2010 at 4:34 AM, Joan Vermette wrote: > This is awesome. I never know what to say I do for a living when I'm > speaking to people in French. Now I do. > > :-) > > On May 20, 2010, at 3:09 PM, yannlossouarn wrote: > >> >> >> Hello, >> >> I'm french and I work as what we call an "ergonome". I'm a bit >> confused about all the terms that are used to speak about "UX/ >> usability/interaction" related jobs in the english speaking world : >> I read things about "Interaction designers", "Human factor >> specialists", "User experience specialist", "Usability specialists", >> "Information architects", and I'm... lost. >> >> In France, we have "ergonomes" who are usually in charge of defining >> the zoning, wireframes, storyboards and thus the way data is >> organized on screen. Ergonomes can also perform usability testing >> campaigns, notably by organizing user tests. Except in some >> particular cases (e.g. people who have multiple skills), they do not >> make the graphical design, neither the development. Ergonomes are >> likely to work in different areas, like automotive, IT, web design, >> aeronautics, nuclear plants, mass-market products...As long as >> there's an HMI somewhere, they may work on it. >> >> Would someone be able to explain what is the meaning of the >> "Interaction designers", "Human factor specialists", "User experience >> specialist", "Usability specialists", "Information architects" >> terms ? What do these (different ?) people do (or not) in a >> project, and in which domain they may work ? >> >> Bye, >> >> Yann, the lost french Ergonome in a UX world. :) >> >> > >

24 May 2010 - 10:05am
Sean Pook
2008

Hi,

I think Carol has a very good definition of what 'most' organisations that already work in 'UX' use for each role type. Speaking as an experienced UX recruiter in the UK, Carol's explanations fit very well with the scene here.

I find when companies stick to the job titles, Usability researcher, Information Architect, Interaction Designer, etc, both the employer, the recruiter (me) and the employee generally know where we stand.

The term UX designer often holds a surprise for me in terms of what the company actually means. I often find a UX Designer from a company that knows UX will be a mixture of user research, IA, and Interaction Design (IxD). However, 'UX Designer' from a company that isn't already working in UX tends to have some form of development and production quality visual design thrown in, whether it be Flash or something else. Very few people out there are excellent at user research, IA, IxD, VD, AND development, which is why I think the industry is now settling on individual titles to a) instil some idea of what work is involved b) to recognise that people specialise and rarely become master of all trades.

If ever in doubt and it's related to a vacancy - the job description 'should' reveal all.

Fascinating about job titles in France though. This goes along way to explain my perceived lack of 'Interaction designers' there :-)

Cheers

Sean Pook

-----Original Message----- From: ixdaor@host.ixda.org [mailto:ixdaor@host.ixda.org] On Behalf Of yannlossouarn Sent: 20 May 2010 14:39 To: Sean Pook Subject: [IxDA] Ergonomics / UX / Human factors / Interaction design / Usability specialists : I get confused

 

Hello,

I'm french and I work as what we call an "ergonome". I'm a bit confused about
all the terms that are used to speak about "UX/usability/interaction" related
jobs in the english speaking world : I read things about "Interaction
designers", "Human factor specialists", "User experience specialist",
"Usability specialists", "Information architects", and I'm... lost.

In France, we have "ergonomes" who are usually in charge of defining the
zoning, wireframes, storyboards and thus the way data is organized on screen.
Ergonomes can also perform usability testing campaigns, notably by organizing
user tests. Except in some particular cases (e.g. people who have multiple
skills), they do not make the graphical design, neither the development.
Ergonomes are likely to work in different areas, like automotive, IT, web
design, aeronautics, nuclear plants, mass-market products...As long as
there's an HMI somewhere, they may work on it.

Would someone be able to explain what is the meaning of the "Interaction
designers", "Human factor specialists", "User experience specialist", "Usability specialists", "Information architects" terms ? What
do these (different ?) people do (or not)  in a project, and in which domain
they may work ?

Bye,

Yann, the lost french Ergonome in a UX world. :)

((

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