Friday, January 16, 2009

New standards in usability

Intoducing the new ISO standards ...

"2008 saw the release of several international usability standards, many within the influential ISO 9241 series. Two of these standards focus on accessibility and another provides guidelines for usable web sites. This article explains why usability standards are important and summarises the 13 new parts of ISO 9241.

Why standards matter

With the rapid development of new user interface technologies, like Web 2.0 and mobile devices, it's tempting to claim that there's a lot more to good design than simply applying standards. Although this is certainly the case, international standards in usability still have an important role to play. This is because usability standards:

* Ensure consistency: Standards provide a consistent benchmark to help design teams avoid annoying user interface inconsistencies.
* Define good practice: There are many conflicting viewpoints about good practice in usability. Standards, especially International Standards, provide independent and authoritative guidance.
* Prioritise user interface issues: Standards are serious business and whereas many organisations pay little regard to research findings, few organisations can afford to ignore standards.
* Help organisations fulfil their legal obligations: Disability legislation and Health & Safety legislation puts a legal obligation on service providers and employers to ensure that systems provided for users are fit for purpose and meet minimum ergonomics requirements. These requirements are worded rather vaguely in the legislation and therefore meeting relevant standards is one of the best ways of demonstrating compliance.

ISO 9241: From VDTs to human-system interaction

ISO 9241 is one of the more important standards in usability. Originally titled "Ergonomic requirements for office work with visual display terminals", it was envisaged as a 17-part standard. But the interest in ISO 9241 encouraged the standards sub-committees to broaden its scope, to incorporate other relevant standards and to make it more usable. The title of the revised ISO 9241, "Ergonomics of human-system interaction", reflects these changes. The revised multipart standard is structured as a series of standards numbered in "hundreds" as follows:

* 100 series: Software ergonomics
* 200 series: Human system interaction processes
* 300 series: Displays and display related hardware
* 400 series: Physical input devices - ergonomics principles
* 500 series: Workplace ergonomics
* 600 series: Environment ergonomics
* 700 series: Application domains - Control rooms
* 900 series: Tactile and haptic interactions

Last year, 13 new parts were released. These parts are summarised below."    (Continued via User Focus, Usability News)    [Usability Resources]

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