Human machine interfaces (HMI) are becoming increasingly popular, particularly in industrial settings and workplaces. Not to be confused with a conventional user interface, an HMI allows a human operator to control a machine through a single interface. They are fundamental for many industrial processes, as they promote increased efficiency, productivity and safety. Today, we’re going to explore some of the common practices used for designing modern HMIs.
Also known as user-driver development, user-centered design (UCD) is a framework on which many HMIs are designed. It’s characterized by the use of processes with respective usability goals, environments, tasks and workflow at various stages of the design process. The fundamental difference between UCD and other design frameworks is that UCD optimizes the interface around what the user wants and needs, instead of trying to force unnecessary or otherwise unwanted changes upon the user.
Anther common design practice used to make HMIs is an activity-oriented design. As the name suggests, an activity-oriented design focuses specifically on the activity for which the HMI will be used. If an HMI is used in a manufacturing factory to control a robot or machine, for instance, it may use an activity-oriented design to streamline various processes.
A resiliency design is a type of framework that’s characterized by the use of elements and components to help it recover from faults with greater ease. Problems are bound to happen in HMIs – and that’s okay. As long as the HMI recovers from the problem in a timely and efficient manner, it shouldn’t cause any significant harm. A resiliency design specifically focuses on the HMIs ability to recover from such problems.
Other common practices used for designing HMIs include scenario-based designs, principle of least astonishment (POLA), and habit formation. These, however, are less popular than the aforementioned design practices. Nonetheless, it’s still worth noting that some companies use them to design HMIs.
These are just a few of the most common practices used for designing HMIs. Regardless of which design practice is used, it typically involves three stages: interaction specification, interface software specification, and prototyping. Only after these three stages have been completed can a company design an effective and efficient HMIs. Hopefully, this gives you a better understanding of the different.
Nelson-Miller designs, engineers, and manufactures a variety of HMI solutions including membrane switches, keypads, and touch screens.