Focus on the user - also standardizing computerized work

Germany was the first country to introduce technical standards focusing on people who work with computers - now called „user centred design approach“. In this country, two persons, Dr. Harald Koch (Siemens AG) and Prof. Albert Armbruster (Technical University of Berlin), one of the founders of ERGONOMIC Institute, have initiated one of the most seminal developments in standardizing: The standards did not fix the state-of-art or the state-of technology, but what technology should do for people. A very seldom approach in standardization - writing prospective standards!

The scientific basis of this standardization was created during the research project „ Anpassung von Bildschirmarbeitsplätzen an die physische und psychische Funktionsweise des Menschen” (adopting workplaces with with visual display terminals to the physical and psychological functioning of humans“, conducted under the leadership of Dr. Çakir, the second founder of the ERGONOMIC Institute. This project was sponsored by the Ministry of Labour as the first project of the program „Humanizing Work“. The results of this projects have been implemented in the first ever issued „Safety Regulations for VDT Work“ (ZH1/618 "Sicherheitsregeln für Bildschirm-Arbeitsplätze im Bürobereich"). The health and safety people have been much faster in adopting new knowledge than those working on standards.

After creating the first set of standards on VDT work in Germany, the issue was transferred to ISO (International Standards Organisation) where the most comprehensive set of standards were issued: the series ISO 9241. One of the most important projects within this work was ISO 9241-11 „Ergonomic requirements for office work with visual display terminals (VDTs)- Guidance on Usability“, the basis for the „usability engineering“. Those involved in this work have laid the fundaments for a new engineering discipline.

The ERGONOMIC Institute has been involved in the national and international work from the very beginning. Dr. Çakir has been editor of three DIN-Standards and four of the 17 ISO-Standards of the series 9241. The scopes of these standards include keyboards, computer input devices, work environment (lighting, acoustics, air quality, radiation etc.) and postural requirements for the design of workplaces. Currently, the Convener of the corresponding German Standardization Committee and the ISO-WG and the editor of the ISO 9241-series for input devices (ISO 9241-400, ISO 9241-410) comes from the Institute.

Since 2001, a new structure is being implemented of the ISO 9241 series to improve the usability of the standards and to match the requirements by the European health and safety legislation. We have worked out the appropriate structure and work on the implementation of the new structure in standardization. The major benefit of the new structure is that the documents are designed to fit the needs of different target groups, and to separate the requirements addressing manufacturers and designers from those to be applied by the user organizations.
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__ downloads/links
ISO 9241: The makers
The Committee >>
ISO 9241: In the mirror of the Usability Net
Usability Network >>
ISO 9241: In Quality Management (German)
QM-Lexikon >>
ISO 9241: In academic environments
Online-handbuch (German) >>
ISO 9241: Implementation in health and safety (German)
BGI 650, 2,312 kb >>