The Web has changed the way we interact, understand, and think about the world and our place within it. Beyond the limited scope of the interface and the personal interactions of the user and the Web, we find that the Web has permeated most aspects of human existence. The Web evolves ‘in a manner that is not immediately controllable or understandable. Its evolution being determined by human interactions forming emergent patterns in the Web at a macroscopic scale.’ These human interactions are, in turn, governed by social conventions, psychology, and human behaviour.
Derived from the Greek ‘Ergonomics’ is a systems-oriented discipline which extends across many aspects of human activity, and is the scientific discipline ‘concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design in order to optimise human well-being and overall system performance’.
In this case, I see Web Ergonomics is a specialism of Web Science, hinted at by others but, not defined in either its extent or composition. At its most simple, I see Web Ergonomics as human factors when applied to the Web, particularly the Web interface. In this case, there are similarities between Web Ergonomics and the specialist domains of cognitive ergonomics and organisational ergonomics, however Web Ergonomics is more than this, with a number of additional interdisciplinary domains included such as accessibility and usability, and some hard limitations on the extent of ergonomic investigation within the Web Science domain. In general, I believe Web ergonomics is different, to the standard ergonomics concept, because the application of the Web aspect to the ergonomics domain forces an interdisciplinary union: of micro-sociology (or social psychology), cognitive psychology and neuroscience, developmental and educational psychology, and human factors. This interdisciplinary union is all bounded within the Web interaction domain to form a scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of the interactivity between humans and the Web, or between humans facilitated by the Web.
Extreme User Interaction
Web accessibility is really just an ‘über–use–case’ because in the end we will all be disabled by the technology or the environment. Work on Web accessibility is helping us address many other domains including those centred around user mobility and digital inclusion. For instance, by applying the same technology used to counter a physically disabled users tremors and jerky movements to the mobile Web, the operational problems of mobile interaction in moving environments are being addressed. Similarly, mobile Web access suffers from the interoperability and usability problems that make the Web as difficult to interact with for main–stream users as it is for visually impaired users. Again, solutions proposed 3–4 years ago in the Web accessibility community are now being applied to main–stream mobile devices.
So, I’m interested in how disabled users interact with the Web and how the Web, through its design and technology, enables users to interact with it. I believe that by understanding disabled-user’s interaction we enhance our understanding of all users operating in extreme modalities. It is for this reason that I see fundamental research into users with disabilities as a natural preface to wider human factors research. By understanding Web interaction in the context of accessibility, usability, and disability we are better placed to understand, and solve the associated problems of, everyones interactive behaviour.