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International Standards for Usability Should Be More Widely Used

Nigel Bevan

Journal of Usability Studies, Volume 4, Issue 3, May 2009, pp. 106-113

Article Contents


Human Centered Design Process

One of the most well-known usability standards is ISO 13407: human-centered design processes for interactive systems. Intended as a managerís guide, it is probably the best concise introduction to usability that is available. ISO 13407 is currently being revised (renumbered as ISO 9241-210). Ten years on, some of the recommendations in ISO 13407 have been turned into requirements in ISO DIS 9241-210. For a development process to show conformance with ISO DIS 9241-210 it must comply with requirements that include the following:

ISO 13407 spawned two comprehensive models of human centered design (human centered rather than user centered to acknowledge the importance of stakeholders who may not be users): ISO TR 18529 and ISO PAS 18152. ISO TR 18529 broadly covers the scope of ISO 13407. ISO TR 18529 was derived from surveys of good practice procedures in industry. It has been used as the basis for assessing whether a project has adequately implemented human centered design, for assessing the usability maturity of an organization (Bevan, 2005b; Jokela & Iivari, 2001), and it provided the basis for a proposed scheme for accrediting usability professionals (Bevan, 2002).

ISO PAS 18152, originally developed in conjunction with the UK defense industry, is more ambitious in scope, covering the whole range of human centered activities involved in systems engineering. ISO PAS 18152 is divided into four categories: human-centered design activities, human resources activities, life cycle involvement activities, and human factors integration. It can be used in conjunction with the ISO/IEC 15288 systems engineering standard, which already has pointers to the essential human centered activities.

What are the benefits?

ISO 9241-210 is a powerful tool to assure a human centered design process. The comprehensive nature of these standards make them the most authoritative starting point for human centered design education, training, and practice (Earthy et al., 2001).

What are the problems?

ISO TR 18529 and ISO PAS 18152 are quite complex documents. To use these standards one needs to become familiar with the concept of processes, which are generic activities that can be implemented in different ways depending on the particular design and development needs.

What should you use?

If you are going to read only one standard, make it ISO 9241-210 or ISO 13407, as these provide the high level framework for usability work. Use ISO 18529 or ISO 18152 as a tool for improving the usability capability of your organization.

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