Tom Stewart, joint Managing Director of System Concepts Ltd (, one of the largest independent usability and ergonomics consultancies in Europe, has recently been appointed as President of the Ergonomics Society(

A well known international expert on standards in usability and ergonomics, Tom has been enthusiastically promoting the importance of a user centred approach to the design of technology for over 30 years.

“In my role as President, I want us to work closely with other professional groups interested in how people use computer technology to encourage an ergonomics approach to usability. In this way we can try and make sure that technology improves our lives and reduces stress rather than contributing to it” explains Tom.

“Although taking usability seriously has become more widely recognised as essential to our successful use of technology, many people confuse it with simply trying to make websites easier to use. A usable product or system is one which is effective, efficient and satisfying for its users.”

Tom argues that an ergonomist’s approach to usability has three distinct features:

1. We are interested both in computer software and hardware and in the interaction between these and the user.

The Apple iPhone is a good example where the usability of its navigation comes from the way the physical properties of the touch screen interact with the interface software to provide a compelling user experience.

2. We recognise and value the importance of individual differences in task performance and preferences.

Understanding and recognising that everybody is different, means that to make a system usable we must design for the whole range of potential user capabilities, not the average, the easiest, or the ‘one just like me’. In this way accessibility for all users is integral to our approach to design, not just an afterthought or something that can be add on later.

3. We are task focussed.

Interfaces designed by marketers and graphic designers can look fantastic and make a great first impression, but unless they also allow you do what you want to do efficiently and effectively, this effort is largely wasted. An ergonomics approach makes sure you first understand what people really want to do and that they can do it which, in combination with great design, will produce a satisfying experience for the user.

Tom brings a wealth of experience to the Ergonomics Society. He started his ergonomics career as a founder member of Brian Shackel's Human Sciences and Advanced Technology Research group at Loughborough University in 1970. After several research and consultancy positions he joined System Concepts Ltd in 1983 and became MD in 1986.

Chairing the British Standards Applied Ergonomics Committee (PH9) and the sub-committee (TC159/SC4) of the International Standards Organisation which is responsible for the ergonomics of human-system interaction (including ISO 9241 and ISO 13407), he is also Convenor of the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN TC122 WG5) working group on VDU ergonomics.

An entertaining and informative speaker, Tom is a regular author and sought after public speaker in Europe, the US and Japan and was founder editor of the journal 'Behaviour and Information Technology'.

In his spare time, Tom is Chairman of the Jubilee Sailing Trust (JST) – a charity which aims to integrate able and disabled people through the challenge of tall ship sailing ( The JST operates two ships – the Lord Nelson and Tenacious – which were purpose designed and built to be fully accessible allowing everyone on board to work together on an equal footing.

Society Chief Executive Dave O’Neill said; ”We are delighted to have Tom on board as this is an exciting time for ergonomics/human factors and the Society. We are due to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Society next year and Tom’s ability to communicate complex issues in ways that appeal to a wide audience will be invaluable.”

Tom’s views on a wide variety of subjects can be found on the System Concepts website ( and on his expert bloggers spot on the e-consultancy website (

Further information on the Ergonomics Society is available from

For more information about System Concepts and the services they can offer, please email or phone 020 7240 3388.

Published on: 12:00AM on 29th April 2008