Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Creating a Universal Usability Agenda

Requirements for usability, accessibility, and UX standards all at one time ...

"How do you keep usability, accessibility, and user experience requirements on track while developing standards? It is part of the very nature of standards to focus on details—and in the process, to sometimes lose sight of the real goals. This is especially true when a standards-making process goes on for a long time, a situation is highly political, or most people are focused on technology issues. For over two years, I’ve worked in just such a situation as part of the Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC) creating federal standards for voting systems in the United States.

The Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) mandated the TGDC and its members—who include election officials, members of the US Access Board, and other experts, working with scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The TGDC is an advisory committee, so we don’t actually create regulations or standards, but offer our advice to the Elections Assistance Commission (EAC).

For most people, the mention of voting systems conjures up one of two thoughts: either the hanging chads of a terrible usability disaster during the 2000 presidential election or the need for paper audit trails and the importance of security in voting systems. With everything that people have written and said about security, transparency, trust, and the necessity of our being able to accurately recount ballots, it’s easy for something like usability to seem like a trivial “nice to have.”

But it does matter, and HAVA called for improved standards for voting systems and required that they allow individuals with disabilities to vote “in a manner that provides the same opportunity for access and participation (including privacy and independence) as for other voters.” (HAVA 301(a)(3)). The subcommittee on Human Factors and Privacy is responsible for drafting guidelines for usability and accessibility, according to the provisions of this law.

This article looks at how we created an agenda to guide our work, including decisions about how to create the new requirements. Our approach is also applicable in other situations, such as creating usability guidelines for a product or focusing corporate attention on user experience."    (Continued via UXmatters)    [Usability Resources]

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