Link Analysis

Find best arrangement of elements in a design

Link Analysis (LA) can be used to arrange the location of equipment and individuals in a workplace, and to arrange controls and displays on a console based on how often elements interact, or are used together. 

As a form of network analysis, LA produces a node-and-link graph that shows the connections among items. Links between nodes can represent physical contact, visual observation, spoken messages and more abstract relationships such as time. Nodes can be used to represent specific elements (e.g., people, equipment, displays, controls) or more abstract elements (e.g., cases in a study). Items that interact often, or are used together often, have stronger relationship. Those relationships can be used to design arrangements in a layout of components, such as console designs. Typically, stronger links result in items being located closer to each other. 

Link Analysis relies on good data collection to correctly evaluate the interactions between elements. Whenever possible, use a method such as video recording, or eye tracking, to document interactions.

How to perform Link Analysis:

  1. Prepare by listing all items of equipment and people that need to be arranged. 
  2. Measure how often operators interact with each item of equipment. For a workstation design, for example, measure how often the operator moves a control (button, knob lever), checks the status of a visual display (electronic or hard copy), or uses a radiotelephone.
  3. Measure the importance of each link based on its value to the product’s purpose.
  4. Multiply each link’s frequency by its importance. 
  5. Use the links with the highest value to establish the layout. Add operators and equipment with successively lower link values.
  6. Fit the layout into the plan of available space.
  7. Use the prototype layout, collecting data on variables that matter (such as the time it takes the operator to perform a task) in order to evaluate the layout.

For more on Link Analysis, see:

Nemeth. C. (2004). Human Factors Methods for Design. Boca Raton, FL: Taylor and Francis/CRC Press.

Sanders, M. & McCormick, E. (1993). Human Factors in Engineering and Design. 7th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill. 

Stanton, N., Salmon, P., Walker, G., Baber, C. & Jenkins, D. (2005). Human Factors Methods. Farnham, UK: Ashgate Publishing.