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Usability standards and recommendations

16 March 2011 | admin | Theory

There are several universally accepted usability and accessibility standards, which are implemented in interface design. Some of them are advisory, while others are compulsory. Type of the requirements can be defined by the country the product is created for or by the type of the system. For instance, a company, designing a corporate system, is more demanding than a web-studio, designing an online store. Companies, designing software and web sites for public use must conform to the standards described in this article.

ISO — Internation Standartization Organization

With its seat in Geneva, International Standardization Organization is a nongovernmental chain of national standardization institutes, which includes representatives of 146 countries. Standards issued by this organization comprise a specific technological glossary, used by product manufacturers to communicate with each other. In fact, these standards are compulsory for both product manufacturing and business. Often for product manufacturing we need a number of extra details, which must be compatible with each other. It’s impossible to find these parts, order or manufacture them without universally accepted standards.
There are several ISO standards applicable to usability-sphere and HCI:

ISO 9241 - contains Ergonomic requirements for office work with visual display terminals. The main emphasis of ISO 9241 is on office equipment requirements, which should be fulfilled by all manufacturers, for instance, display, keyboard requirements, reflection, color, elements layout requirements, dialogues and error notification requirements. This standard is not applied to mobile device interface design. Section 11 is the largest and the most general. It contains the definition of usability – “efficiency, productiveness and customer satisfaction”, as well as various metrics, helping create convenient user interfaces.

ISO 13407 —defines the process of Human-centered design for interactive systems. This standard contains recommendations on organizing the process of interface design and organic integration of this process into general process of software design. The standard describes usability methods needed to define the context of product usage, identify user and client requirements to the system, prototyping and usability testing of the product.

ISO 18529 “Human-centered lifecycle process descriptions”, a standard developed by the International Standards Organization that defines a “Usability Maturity Model”, a set of practices in the design lifecycle to be human-centered and involve appropriate evaluation.

ISO 14915 gives recommendations for, and guidance on, the design, selection and combination of interactive user interfaces that integrate and synchronize different media. It addresses user interfaces for applications that incorporate, integrate and synchronize different media. This includes static media such as text, graphics, images; and dynamic media such as audio, animation, video or media related to other sensory modalities. Detailed design issues within a single medium (e.g. the graphical design of an animation sequence) are only addressed as far as they imply ergonomic consequences for the user.

ISO 16071 provides guidance on the design of accessible (work, home, education) software. It covers issues associated with designing accessible software for people with the widest range of visual, hearing, motor and cognitive abilities, including those who are elderly and temporarily disabled.

ISO 16982 provides information on human-centred usability methods which can be used for design and evaluation. It details the advantages, disadvantages and other factors relevant to using each usability method.

ISO 20282 provides requirements and recommendations for the design of easy-to-operate everyday products, where ease of operation addresses a subset of the concept of usability concerned with the user interface by taking account of the relevant user characteristics and the context of use.

EU Design for everybody

«eEuropean initiative» Society was founded by EU in 1999 to “bring advantages of modern technologies to all European citizens ”. This society is involved in informing organizations, working in e-commerce and content about new laws, passed in EU concerning usability and accessibility.

Article 58

US Government law, requiring sites of US federal offices to be accessible to everybody, including people with disabilities. It’s successfully carried out and some see it as a draft law for EU.

Great Britain Government recommendations

The British Cabinet has issued recommendations for government sites. They are mostly based on WAI check-lists.

Disability Discrimination Act

This government measure was gradually incorporated into British legislation. It covers any organization, supplying goods, services or equipment for money or free of charge. In October 1999 it started to embrace Internet information services. This law means that anybody feeling discriminated because the contractor hasn’t assumed necessary measures to facilitate people with disabilities can sue the contractor. The Act does not cover web sites directly, but there’s common understanding that sites fall within purview of this law. DDA has no recommendations. The main supporter of this law RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People) issues recommendations, based on WAI check-lists, which can be purchased.

WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative)

W3C — Worldwide Web Consortium – includes 450 organizations. The aim of it is to use all Internet potential with maximum efficiency. The main activity of this organization is development of standards. WAI is a universally accepted standard of the consortium, which declares public accessibility of web sites regardless of the platform or disabilities.
This standard contains recommendations on accessibility in three spheres: web-content, creation tools and user agents (browsers and the alike software). The first sphere is covered by Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (WCAG), which were first published in 1999. The recommendations include a table of control checks, divided into three groups, depending on influence on accessibility. According to the number of rules implemented, the web site is rated a degree of accessibility A, AA or AAA (“A” means that the site meets only basic criteria and has low degree of accessibility, “AAA” means 100% accessibility of the site).
Following these recommendations is voluntary. It increases accessibility of the site and consequently increases its audience.

Other standards and recommendations

Apple Human Interface Guidelines

Apple Accessibility Overview

Windows Vista User Experience Guidelines

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