Wednesday, February 11, 2009

New Usability Standard Punches its Weight

International usability standard ...

"A revised version of the human-centred design standard ISO 13407, renamed ISO 9241-210, is now out for public comment. This international standard, which aims to ensure that interactive systems have usability at the heart of their design, is endorsed in the UK by many organisations including Usability Professionals Association, the Office of Government Commerce and the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The biggest change to the standard is that the four key human-centred design activities are no longer just recommendations, but are now requirements. This means that people who wish to claim that they follow the ISO 9241-210 human centred design approach have to ensure that they:

• Understand and specify the context of use (including users, tasks, environments);
• Specify the user requirements in sufficient detail to drive the design;
• Produce design solutions which meet these requirements;
• Conduct user-centred evaluations of these design solutions and modify the design taking account of the results.

The revised standard also clarifies the critical role of iteration in design and emphasises that human-centred methods can be used throughout the design process – not just in testing at the end.

Tom Stewart, project editor and chair of the committee responsible for the standard, commented, “I believe the revised standard is significantly improved and the transition from guidance to a formal standard with requirements is very significant. We have had ten years of the original human-centred design standard and we think the time is right to ‘take the gloves off’ and ‘punch our weight’. We know human-centred design improves systems and products – now we no longer have to hide behind ‘recommendations’. Of course, the new document is only a draft and it is possible that some countries may argue with our new tougher approach but I sense that times have changed and human-centred design is no longer considered a luxury – it is an essential part of making systems usable.”

The draft is out internationally for public comment until April. Tom, who is also Managing Director of the ergonomics and usability consultancy System Concepts, has written a series of articles to help designers use usability and ergonomics standards."    (Continued via Usability News, System Concepts Ltd,)    [Usability Resources]

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