This article is reprinted with permission from The Ergonomics Report™ Archives, where it originally appeared on November 17, 2010 — over 3 years ago.
In their introduction, researchers Shin and Hegde (2010) note that computer display height, viewing distance and tilt angle are known to influence users' body discomfort and eye fatigue. They cite previous research that demonstrates user discomfort and neck and upper extremity muscle activities increase as the display is moved from user-preferred positions, noting that the previous studies were conducted using monitors with diagonal viewing dimensions of 19 inches or less. This study was conducted to investigate user positioning preferences for monitors greater than 19 inches, or for landscape dual display arrangements, situations that are increasingly common among user populations.
Although this study has limitations, which are noted below, the results are of interest. The primary findings include:
Shin and Hegde summarize their findings as follows:
Participants placed larger displays farther and lower while maintaining the display top at or near eye height. Preferred position of the dual displays in landscape setting did not differ from that of a single display. It appears that the preferred display position varies with the vertical dimension of the overall viewable area of the display.
The researchers tested four different display conditions:
They used the following methods:
The results of this study may or may not translate well beyond the conditions of this study. For example, older users, users with worse visual acuity, displays with smaller font settings or character contrast or color combinations, different task requirements, different work-rest cycles and task durations could all effect the these findings.
The Bottom Line — How this Applies to Ergonomists
Standards like ANSI/HFES 100-2007 Human Factors Engineering of Computer Workstations are based on data that precedes the onset of contemporary, larger flat screen displays and dual or multi monitor arrangements, which are becoming common. Fortunately, ANSI requires that such standards be re-affirmed or revised every 5 years, and that process is getting under way for ANSI/HFES 100. This study, and hopefully more like it to follow, will undoubtedly play a role in that update process. In the mean time, ergonomists now have evidence based opportunities to improve the set-up for larger displays and dual displays. Remember that this study looked at user preferred and user controlled settings, and proceed with caution in any attempts to use this new research as a "must do" approach to workstation set-up. Instead, it seems its best use is in justifying workstation design and equipment that provides a wide range of user controlled adjustments. With flexible/adjustable workstation design and training, users will be free — and armed with the knowledge — to setup their own work area to best support their own bodies, abilities and tasks.
Shin, Gwanseob; Hegde, Sudeep. User-Preferred Position of Computer Displays: Effects of Display Size. Human Factors, Volume 52, Number 5, October 2010 , pp. 574-585(12). doi: 10.1177/0018720810380405