Relevant international standards in usability and user-centred design

Usability and user-centred design standards can be divided up into three main categories:

  1. The product development process
  2. The use of a product (how well users perform when using it and how satisfied they are when using it)
  3. The design of the user interface and interaction

1. The main standard affecting the product development process is ISO 13407: Human-centred design processes for interactive systems. This standard provides guidance on human-centred design activities throughout the life cycle of interactive computer-based systems. It is a tool for those managing design processes and provides guidance on the human-centred approach.

The standard outlines four essential user-centred design activities:

  • understand and specify the context of use
  • specify the user and organisational requirements
  • produce designs and prototypes
  • carry out user-based assessment

The activities are carried out in an iterative fashion, with the cycle being repeated until the particular usability objectives have been attained. The recommended process is shown below:

UCD process
Figure 1: The interdependence of user centred design activities

UsabilityNet recommends the usability methods that should be used during this process.

2. The main standard dealing with product usage characteristics is ISO 9241: Ergonomic requirements for office work with visual display terminals, and part 11, which provides guidance on usability and the definition of usability:

Usability: the extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of use.

ISO 9241-11 explains how to identify the information that is necessary to take into account when specifying or evaluating usability in terms of measures of user performance and satisfaction. It includes an explanation of how the usability of a product can be specified and evaluated as part of a quality system, for example, one that conforms to ISO 9001. 3.

3. The main standard for design of the user interface and interaction is ISO 9241. Parts 12-17 provide detailed guidance on the design of user interfaces.

The tools and methods section has a complete list of standards related to usability.

Where to get international standards

ISO standards have to be purchased. They can be obtained direct from ISO, or from a national standards body (including BSI: British Standards Institute and ANSI: American National Standards Institute). NSSN: A National Resource for Global Standards also has a comprehensive list of standards, some of which can be purchased as pdf files.

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