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Human technology

Valentin Heun is a designer at MIT’s Media Lab, and he’s worried about the future of technology. While he spends his days designing ‘smart’ devices, he believes our approach to technology is “leading to a dystopian future filled with soulless, virtualized products and users overcome with information overload.” Heun is obsessed with creating tools and applications which give us a far richer experience and encourage the use of all our senses. For him, technology needs to fit around how humans actually behave.

An article in Wired explained this further: “Millions of years of biological development have given humans the ability to process information using all of our senses, but the last 30 years of technological advances have focused everything through our eyes and fingertips”. There’s nothing wrong with this in itself; rather, the issue is that too many technology companies have focused on designing apps and tools which might function on a technical level, but which don’t actually fit around humans – and the way they actually live and work.

Let’s explore this idea by looking at the design of a chair. The basic concept of a chair – one we’re sure many of you are familiar with – is that it should provide the user with something to sit on. At its most basic level, this requires providing a raised, flat surface with a back for support. However, which of the following would you rather sit on?

Plush chairWooden chair

Both of the above solutions fit the bill, but it’s pretty clear which design is more human focused.

Yacov Cohen, our CEO, is passionate about human-focused design too:

“At harmon.ie, we believe that workers are creative and social, not mere users of technology. We need to humanize technology to empower human beings by increasing their ability to work together.

A well designed User Experience (UX) is essential for allowing users to truly get the most out of the tools they use. As UX expert Don Norman has explained, we have a complex relationship with the technology that surrounds us: we have created it, yet it has also began shaping the way we think and behave. It’s high time that technology becomes human focused again.

The risks of poor UX

Jakob Nielsen – another UX design expert – explains that in the past, a huge amount of IT was far from human-friendly. “A lot of the early computer interfaces were terribly bad, like DOS…People had to remember a lot to use them”. Nielsen explains that it’s essential to design for humans, not for some kind of ‘ideal’ user who understands a lot about computer software already.

Why is this so important? In its simplest form; because poor UX leads to low productivity, shortcut taking and rule bending.

Productivity - Numerous surveys have highlighted the amount of time employees lose per week searching for documents: up to five hours (or 20%) per week according to some estimates.

Shortcut taking – If your company’s Intranet is hard to use or confusing, employees won’t visit it or save documents there. This inevitably leads to situations where employees save documents on their desktops and personal drives, meaning no one will be able to find those documents later on.

Rule-breaking – With the threat of leaks and hacking ever present in the modern world, poor UX increases the chances your employees will take risks with data. If it’s hard to store files and documents or access them from mobile, employees will do whatever feels easiest. This might lead to employees saving documents into personal folders, third party file shares, onto their own USBs or by emailing documents to themselves. And this exposes real risk to you.

Why human-centered design is essential

When you invest in software that fits around your users and the way they live and work, you reduce the risks associated with poor UX and boost their productivity. Let’s look at how we’ve used human-focused design in our own tools to highlight these benefits:

Centered on how people live today – The world has gone mobile, and it’s therefore essential that employees be able to access the full power of their organization’s Microsoft collaboration tools from any device. While Microsoft has made their apps available on mobile as separate downloads, harmon.ie Mobile takes this further by letting users access the full power of Office 365 and SharePoint from one intuitive app.

Created for the way real people workharmon.ie Email provides a simple sidebar within Microsoft Outlook, which lets them drag and drop files between SharePoint and the email client. This makes it a lot easier to save and store documents and means employees can be fully productive from one window – instead of scrolling through many different interfaces. 

Come to where your users are – harmon.ie’s tools allow mobile users to access documents wherever they are, even if they don’t have an Internet connection. This means employees can work where and when they want, without being chained to the desk or in a Wi-Fi enabled zone when they want to work.

Learn more about harmon.ie’s human focused approach with our fact sheets on mobile and  knowledge management.

 

 

David Lavenda
Chief Product Officer