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Usability and Ergonomics Standards: How to Use and Buy Them

ISO 9241 supports a wide variety of usability (HCI) design activities including:

  • Managing the human-centred design process
  • Analysing and defining system requirements
  • Designing user-system dialogues and interface navigation
  • Designing or selecting displays
  • Designing or selecting keyboards and other input devices
  • Designing physical workplaces for users
  • Supporting and training users
  • Designing jobs and tasks

The table below shows which parts of the current ISO9241 apply to these activities.  It also provides a very brief description of what is in the standard and a direct link to allow you to buy it from BSI.  (Note that the UK versions are generally identical to the International version with the addition of a national foreword and a number BS EN ISO 9241-x which shows that the standard is a British, European and International Standard.).

We have restricted this table to published standards.  If you wish to know more about standards under development, please contact Tom Stewart on 020 7240 3388 or email tom@system-concepts.com

 Activity

 Relevant part of ISO 9241

 Brief Description

Managing the human-centred design process

 ISO 9241-210:2010 Human centred design for interactive systems (supersedes ISO 13407 1999)

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Provides guidance on and requirements for the human-centred design process and is aimed at those responsible for managing the design of interactive systems.

Analysing and defining system requirements

ISO 9241-1:1997/Amd 1:2001 General Introduction (supersedes ISO 9241-1: 1993)

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Introduces the multi-part standard ISO 9241 for the ergonomic requirements for the use of visual display terminals for office tasks and explains some of the basic underlying principles. It provides some guidance on how to use the standard and describes how conformance to parts of ISO 9241 should be reported.

 

ISO 9241-11:1998 Guidance on usability 

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Defines usability as “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” and provides guidance on how to address usability in design projects.

 

ISO 9241-20:2009  Accessibility guidelines for information/communication technology (ICT) equipment and services

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A high level overview standard covering both hardware and software. It covers the design and selection of equipment and services for people with a wide range of sensory, physical and cognitive abilities, including those who are temporarily disabled, and the elderly.

Designing user-system dialogues and interface navigation 

ISO/TR 9241-100:2011 Introduction to standards related to software ergonomics

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Provides an introduction to the ‘100 series’ of ISO 9241 software parts.  Published as a Technical Report (TR) which has a shorter development time than a full international standard (IS).  This will allow it to be updated regularly to reflect the current content and structure of ISO 9241

 

ISO 9241 110:2006 Dialogue principles (supersedes ISO 9241 10:1996)

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Sets out seven dialogue principles and gives examples.  The dialogue should be suitable for the task (including the user’s task and skill level); self-descriptive (it should be obvious what to do next); controllable (especially in pace and sequence); conform to user expectations (ie consistent); error tolerant and forgiving; suitable for individualisation and customisable; and should support learning).

 

ISO 9241 129:2010 Guidance on Software Individualisation

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Provides ergonomics guidance on individualisation within interactive systems, including recommendations on where individualisation might be appropriate or inappropriate and how to apply individualisation.  The standard provides general guidance on individualisation rather than specific implementations of individualization mechanisms.  It is intended to be used along with other parts of ISO 9241 – not in isolation.

 

ISO 9241-14:2000 Menu dialogues

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Recommends best practice for designing menus (pop-up, pull-down and text-based menus). Topics include menu structure, navigation, option selection and menu presentation (including placement and use of icons). One of the annexes contains a ten-page checklist for determining compliance with the standard.

 

ISO 9241-15:1998 Command dialogues

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This part provides recommendations for the ergonomic design of command languages used in user-computer dialogues. The recommendations cover command language structure and syntax, command representations, input and output considerations, and feedback and help.  Part 15 is intended to be used by both designers and evaluators of command dialogues, but the focus is primarily towards the designer.

 

ISO 9241-154:2013 Interactive voice response (IVR) applications

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This part of the major ISO 9241 series gives guidance on, and requirements for, the user interface design of interactive voice response (IVR) applications. It covers both IVR systems that employ touchtone input and those using automated speech recognition (ASR) as the input mechanism. It is equally applicable to cases in which the caller or the IVR system itself (e.g. in some telemarketing applications) initiates the call. It is intended to be used together with ISO/IEC 13714.

 

ISO 9241-16:1999 Direct manipulation dialogues

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This part provides recommendations for the ergonomic design of direct manipulation dialogues, and includes the manipulation of objects, and the design of metaphors, objects and attributes.  It covers those aspects of ‘Graphical User Interfaces’ which are directly manipulated, and not covered by other parts of ISO 9241.  Part 16 is intended to be used by both designers and evaluators of command dialogues, but the focus is primarily towards the designer.

 

ISO 9241-143:2012 Forms

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Requirements and recommendations for the design and evaluation of forms, in which the user fills-in, selects entries for or modifies labelled fields on a "form" or dialogue box presented by the system.  It contains guidance on the selection and design of interface elements relevant to forms.  The requirements and recommendations can be used during design, as a basis for heuristic evaluation, as guidance for usability testing and in the procurement process.

 

ISO 9241-151:2008  Guidance on World Wide Web user interfaces

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Sets out detailed design principles for designing usable web sites – these cover: high-level design decisions and design strategy; content design; navigation; and content presentation.

 

ISO 9241-171:2008   Guidance on software accessibility

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Aimed at software designers and provides guidance on the design of software to achieve as high a level of accessibility as possible.  Replaces the earlier Technical Specification ISO TS 16071:2003 and follows the same definition of accessibility - ‘usability of a product, service, environment or facility by people with the widest range of capabilities’.  Applies to all software, not just web interfaces.

Designing or selecting displays

ISO 9241-300: 2008 Introduction to electronic visual display requirements
(The ISO 9241-300 series supersedes ISO 9241 parts 3, 7 and 8)

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A very short (4 pages ) introduction to the ISO 9241-300 series which explains what the other parts contain.

 

ISO 9241-302: 2008 Terminology for electronic visual displays

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Definitions, terms and equations that are used throughout ISO 9241:300 series.

 

ISO 9241-303: 2011 Requirements for electronic visual displays

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Sets general image quality requirements for electronic visual displays. The requirements are intended to apply to any kind of display technology.

 

ISO 9241- 304: 2008 User performance test methods for electronic visual displays

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Unlike the other parts in the subseries which focus on optical and electronic measurements, this part sets out methods which involve testing how people perform when using the display.  The method can be used with any display technology.

 

ISO 9241 – 305: 2008 Optical laboratory test methods for electronic visual displays

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Defines optical test methods and expert observation techniques for evaluating a visual display against the requirements in ISO 9241-303.  Very detailed instructions on taking display measurements.

 

ISO 9241 – 306: 2008 Field assessment methods for electronic visual displays

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Provides guidance on how to evaluate visual displays in real life workplaces.

 

ISO 9241-307: 2008 Analysis and compliance test methods for electronic visual displays

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Supports ISO 9241-305 with very detailed instructions on assessing whether a display meets the ergonomics requirements set out in part 303.

 

ISO/TR 9241- 308: 2008 Surface-conduction electron-emitter displays (SED)

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Technical report on a new eco friendly display technology called "Surface-Conduction Electron-Emitter Displays" (SED).

 

ISO/TR 9241- 309: 2008 Organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays

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Technical report on another new display technology called "Organic Light Emitting Diode Displays" (OLED) which are better for fast moving images than LCDs.

 

ISO/TR 9241- 310: 2010 Visibility, aesthetics and ergonomics of pixel defects

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Pixel defects are controversial.  Users expect none, but would not be willing to pay the extremely high price that would be charged to achieve this.  This Technical report explains the current situation and gives guidance on the specification of pixel defects, visibility thresholds and aesthetic requirements for pixel defects.

 

ISO/TR 9241-331:2012 Optical characteristics of autostereoscopic displays

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This part discusses the optical properties of autostereoscopic displays (ASDs), with the aim of reducing visual fatigue caused by stereoscopic images on those displays.  It provides terminology, performance characteristics and optical measurement methods for ASDs.  It is applicable to spatially interlaced autostereoscopic displays (two-view, multi-view and integral displays) of the transmissive and emissive types.

 

ISO 9241-12:1999 Presentation of information

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This part contains specific recommendations for presenting and representing information on visual displays.  It includes guidance on ways of representing complex information using alphanumeric and graphical/symbolic codes, screen layout, and design as well as the use of windows.

 

Designing or selecting keyboards and other input devices

ISO 9241-4:1998 Keyboard requirements. (some clauses in this standard have been superseded by ISO 9241-400 and ISO 9241-410

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This part specifies the ergonomics design characteristics of an alphanumeric keyboard which may be used comfortably, safely and efficiently to perform office tasks. 

 

ISO 9241-400:2007 Principles and requirements for physical input devices 

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Sets out the general ergonomics principles and requirements which should be taken into account when designing or selecting physical input devices.

 

ISO 9241-410:2008 Design criteria for physical input devices (supersedes ISO 9241-9: 1998)

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Describes ergonomics characteristics for input devices, including keyboards, mice, pucks, joysticks, trackballs, touchpads, tablets, styli and touch sensitive screens. The standard is aimed at those who design such devices and is very detailed.

 

ISO/TS 9241-411:2012 Evaluation methods for the design of physical input devices

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Describes ergonomics evaluation and test methods for physical input devices including keyboards, mice, pucks, joysticks, trackballs, touchpads, tablets and overlays, styli and light-pens and touch-sensitive screens

 

ISO 9241-420:2011 Selection of physical input device

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Ergonomics guidance for selecting input devices for interactive systems. It describes methods for evaluating a wide range of devices from keyboards and mice to pucks, joysticks, trackballs, trackpads, tablets and overlays, touch-sensitive screens, styli and light pens. It encourages user organizations and systems integrators to consider the limitations and capabilities of users and the specific tasks and context of use when selecting input devices.

 

ISO 9241-910:2011 Framework for tactile and haptic interaction

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A framework for understanding and communicating various aspects of tactile/haptic interaction. It defines terms, describes structures and models, and also serves as an introduction to the other parts of the ISO 9241 "900" subseries. It provides guidance on how tactile/haptic interaction can be applied to a variety of user tasks. It does not specifically cover gesture based interfaces, although it does offer some relevant guidance for understanding such interactions.

 

ISO 9241-920:2009 Guidance on tactile and haptic interactions

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Gives recommendations for tactile and haptic hardware and software interactions.  It provides guidance on the design and evaluation of hardware, software, and combinations of hardware and software interactions.  It does not provide recommendations specific to Braille, but can apply to interactions that make use of Braille.

Designing workplaces for display screen users 

ISO 9241-5:1999 Workstation layout and postural requirements

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 This part specifies the ergonomics requirements for a Visual Display Terminal workplace which will allow the user to adopt a comfortable and efficient posture.

 

ISO 9241-6:2000 Guidance on the work environment.

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 This part specifies the ergonomics requirements for the Visual Display Terminal working environment which will provide the user with comfortable, safe and productive working conditions.

Supporting and training users

ISO 9241-13:1999 User guidance

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 This part provides recommendations for the design and evaluation of user guidance attributes of software user interfaces including Prompts, Feedback, Status, On-line Help and Error Management.

Designing jobs and tasks

ISO 9241-2:1992 Guidance on task requirements

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 Deals with the design of tasks and jobs involving work with visual display terminals.  It provides guidance on how task requirements may be identified and specified within individual organizations and how task requirements can be incorporated into the system design and implementation process.

By Tom Stewart

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