One of the most important objectives of UsabilityNet was to provide IST
projects with support for user-centred project development and quality
assurance through information resources and free consultation services.
The Tenuta project will soon be providing eTEN projects with on-site
support. For more information contact Nigel
UsabilityNet provides you with the guideline document "First
Steps to User-Centred Design", containing simple guidelines for
the incorporation of user-centred design and references to other relevant
resources. The document covers all important phases of the user centred
lifecycle: Analysis and Requirements, Design and Prototyping, Evaluation
(Test& Measure), Implementation and Management. A checklist at the
end of the document makes it possible to uncover the most important decision
points and problem areas in your project.
Usability in the IST programme
The IST programme is strongly oriented to the concept of user-centredness,
as can be seen in the following quotation:
"Research will focus on the future generation
of technologies in which computers and networks will be integrated into
the everyday environment, rendering accessible a multitude of services
and applications through easy-to-use human interfaces. This vision of
"ambient intelligence" places the user, the individual, at
the centre of future developments for an inclusive knowledge-based society
for all (IST in Fp6, http://www.cordis.lu/ist/fp6/fp6.htm#Roadmap).
The three areas of "core technologies" that are to be developed
within the IST (Fp6) should be mobile communication infrastructures and
computing technologies, intelligent user-friendly interfaces and the optimisation
of micro-system components. All these technologies have to be focused
on the users' needs and expectations in order to facilitate success.
As a consequence, EU projects should be oriented to User Centred Design
principles from the beginning of the project. UsabilityNet offers cost-free
support for EU Projects with regard to User Centred Design issues.
Usability in EU projects
The following issues and questions related to UCD often arise for novices
in EU projects.
Project participants may have difficulties in defining and organising
UCD activities in the project workplan. An easy way (especially for
UCD novices) would be to provide a separate workpackage accompanying
the whole project. The responsibility for this workpackage should have
an evaluation partner who is experienced in the field of user-centred
design (including Human Computer Interaction, Usability Engineering,
The activities in the project workplan should be iterative, i.e. they
should facilitate stepwise accommodation to user-centredness. For instance,
one could provide for each of the various project and development stages
the following subtasks: (1) assess structure and content of web site,
(2) assess graphic design, and (3) assess complete overall design.
When planning user-centred acitivities for a EU project, the required
effort is often difficult to estimate for inexperienced project participants.
For a better orientation, a rule of thumb would be to envisage 6 to
9 person months for user-centred activities (analysis, evaluation, design
input, etc.) in an average-sized EU project.
Once a project is already approved, project participants might think
that there is no possibility to increase user-centredness of their project
plan. Usually, there are still some possibilities to redefine project
tasks or to provide user-centred evaluation by sub-contracting external
consultants. Furthermore, support networks (such as UsabilityNet) offer
assistance by means of web site resources or consultation.
Very often, EU project participants underestimate the commission's
demand of a detailed documentation of the project activities and outcomes.
As a consequence, it is recommended to use standardised formats and
to explicitly describe the methodology of development and evaluation.