Human Factors in Product Design

Products and services are more likely to be used as intended – safely and effectively – when their design considers the needs, particular limits and capabilities, workflow, and functional conceptualization (“mental model”) of the intended users.  Users of a product or service often vary along many dimensions, including vision, hearing, manual dexterity, strength, and reach, etc. Cognitive functions, such as attention, memory, information processing, appreciation and understanding of hazards, and problem solving also vary widely; and developmental changes that occur throughout the lifespan can further influence the safety, effectiveness, and ease of product use.  The environment in which a product or service is used may also have an impact on people’s ability to interact with products and equipment, or to follow procedures.

Exponent scientists and engineers have studied human abilities and limitations.  We have gained an understanding of the impact of environmental conditions on human behavior.  Exponent human factors scientists routinely test the usability of products with human subjects to better understand user/product interactions, including for submission within an FDA regulatory context (510k, PMA).  We examine records of injury events associated with the use of products to determine whether their designs contribute to any unique accident pattern or pose a risk of injury. We also use eye tracking technology to determine where users look while they interact with products.

These types of methodologies have been applied to many design questions that involve products and services for the home use, the workplace, recreation, health care, and transportation.  Exponent human factors scientists have applied human factors analyses to the consideration of whether products should be recalled, and whether a design change is appropriate to address issues of safety or customer complaints.


Our services include:

  • Usability testing of products 
  • Task analysis of product use 
  • Workflow analyses
  • Design specification development based on target user population’s perceptual, cognitive, and physical capabilities and limitations  
  • Risk/hazard analysis  
  • Application of data on human perception (e.g., visual, auditory, tactile) to product displays and signals  
  • Comparison of product-associated injury events with background rates for the population  
  • Training on the application of human factors to product and process design  
  • Analysis of user errors during product use