Normative requirements structure for IT-products

Usability Goals in png
In the course of a century since its beginning, standardization in Germany and elsewhere has created a vast variety of documents of all nature. Some of these govern our entire social and private life without being noticed. As long as the addressees of standards are experts they are not of public interest. E.g., the distance of the holes inserted by hole punchers has never been subject to controversial discussions. People enjoy the benefits of such standards without much awareness - Did anybody ever think of the fit between the punched holes and the distance of the pins in the folder? Another type of standards address not only experts but require some specific knowledge for their application. For example, standards on screws fix numerous details of them without disclosing any hint for the selection of the adequate screw for a certain task. To comprehend and successfully apply the whole system of the standards on screws, one may need more than just a degree in mechanical engineering.

A very different approach can be found behind the standards dealing with tools, e.g. the standards on tools for computerized work. While they fix some features, e.g. the minimum contrast a monitor shall be able to display, but do not give any hint on the appropriate size of a display. Forgotten?

There is a simple reason for not specifying the size of a display: Different tasks require different amounts of space to present the required amount of information. While a display of the size of a square inch may be more than enough to present the current time in hours and minutes, for some tasks even a cinema screen may fail to display the entirety of information needed. How to create a standard on the appropriate size of a display?

A study dealing with the adequate structure of standards was performed by our Institute in cooperation with a health and safety organization for the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in the years 2002 and 2003. The outcome of this study is being applied to the standards of the series ISO 9241. The first of the standards with the novel structure will be published at the beginning of the year 2007 (ISO 9241-400 „Ergonomics of human-system interaction — Part 400: Principles and requirements for physical input devices“), fully edited by our Institute. Another standard (ISO 9241-410 „Ergonomics of human-system interaction — Part 410: Design criteria for physical input devices“) will follow in the course of 2007.

During the year 2006 we have also finalized a study on the appropriate structure of standards in general that suggests a hierarchical system with generic standards on the top level and two or more levels below them. A survey among standards makers has shown that they believe that such a structure will improve especially the integrity of the standards systematically. The study has also analyzed which existing standards fulfill the requirements to be applied on generic standards.

Promoting order and coherence within the body of standards will also help improving the usability of the standards for new groups of users.

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Research Report Fb 1013
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Development of generic standards
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