for HCI and usability
Standards related to usability can be categorised as primarily concerned
- the use of the product (effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction
in a particular context of use)
- the user interface and interaction
- the process used to develop the product
- the capability of an organisation to apply user centred design
The standards described here are divided into these categories, and are
listed in the table below.
9126-1: Software Engineering - Product quality - Part 1: Quality
20282: Usability of everyday products
ISO/IEC TR 9126-4: Software Engineering - Product
quality - Part 4: Quality in use metrics
ISO 9241-11: Guidance on Usability
ISO/IEC TR 9126-2: Software Engineering - Product
quality - Part 2 External metrics
ISO 9241: Ergonomic requirements for office
work with visual display terminals. Parts 3-9
ISO/IEC TR 9126-3: Software Engineering - Product
quality - Part 3 Internal metrics
10741-1: Dialogue interaction - Cursor control for text editing
ISO 9241: Ergonomic requirements for office
work with visual display terminals. Parts 10-17
11581: Icon symbols and functions
11064: Ergonomic design of control centres
13406: Ergonomic requirements for work with visual displays based
on flat panels
14915: Software ergonomics for multimedia user interfaces
14754: Pen-based interfaces - Common Gestures for text editing
with pen-based systems
TR 61997: Guidelines for the user interfaces in multimedia equipment
for general purpose use
18021: Information Technology - User interface for mobile tools
18789: Ergonomic requirements and measurement techniques for electronic
18019: Guidelines for the design and preparation of software user
15910: Software user documentation process
13407: Human-centred design processes for interactive systems
14598: Information Technology - Evaluation of Software Products
TR 16982: Usability methods supporting human centred design
TR 18529: Ergonomics of human-system interaction - Human-centred
lifecycle process descriptions
9241-1: Part 1: General Introduction
9241-2: Part 2:Guidance on task requirements
10075-1: Ergonomic principles related to mental workload - General
terms and definitions
DTS 16071: Guidance on accessibility for human-computer interfaces
Development of ISO standards
Standards for HCI and usability are developed under the auspices of the
International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) and the International
Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). The status of an ISO and IEC documents
is summarised in the title of the standard:
ISO nnnn (date)
A standard number nnnn published on date, developed
by an ISO committee.
ISO nnnn-xx (date)
Part xx of a standard developed by an ISO committee.
ISO/IEC nnnn (date)
A standard developed by JTC1: a joint technical committee of ISO
ISO TS nnnn (date)
An ISO Technical Specification: a normative document that may later
be revised and published as a standard.
ISO TR nnnn (date)
An ISO Technical Report: an informative document containing information
of a different kind from that normally published in a normative
ISO ZZ nnnn (date)
A draft standard of type ZZ made available on date.
The main stages of development of international standards and abbreviations
(ZZ) used for the document types are shown below:
Approved Work Item
|| Prior to a working
draft for discussion by working group
Complete draft for vote and technical comment by national bodies
CD TR or TS
Committee Draft Technical Report/Specification
Committee Draft for Vote (IEC)
Final draft for vote and editorial comment by national bodies
Draft International Standard
Final Committee draft (JTC1)
DTR or DTS
Draft Technical Report/Specification
Final Draft International Standard
|| Intended text
for publication for final approval
ISO TR or TS
Technical Report or Technical Specification
This standard (which is part of the ISO
9241 series) provides the definition of usability that is used in
subsequent related ergonomic standards:
Usability: the 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.
ISO 9241-11 explains how to identify the information that it is necessary
to take into account when specifying or evaluating usability in terms
of measures of user performance and satisfaction. Guidance is given on
how to describe the context of use of the product and the measures of
usability in an explicit way. It includes an explanation of how the usability
of a product can be specified and evaluated as part of a quality system,
for example one that conforms to ISO 9001.
It also explains how measures of user performance and satisfaction can
be used to measure how any component of a work system affects the quality
of the whole work system in use.
ISO/IEC 9126: Software product evaluation - Quality
characteristics and guidelines for their use (1991)
In the software engineering community the term usability has been more
narrowly associated with user interface design. ISO/IEC 9126, developed
separately as a software engineering standard, defined usability as one
relatively independent contribution to software quality associated with
the design and evaluation of the user interface and interaction:
Usability: a set of attributes that bear on the effort needed for use, and
on the individual assessment of such use, by a stated or implied set of
ISO/IEC FDIS 9126-1: Software Engineering
- Product quality - Part 1: Quality model (2000)
ISO/IEC 9126 (1991) has recently been replaced by a new four part standard
that has reconciled the two approaches to usability. ISO/IEC 9126-1 describes
the same six categories of software quality that are relevant during product
development: functionality, reliability, usability, efficiency, maintainability
The definition of usability is similar:
Usability: the capability of the software product to be understood, learned,
used and attractive to the user, when used under specified conditions.
The phrase "when used under specified conditions" (equivalent to "context
of use" in ISO 9241-11) was added to make it clear that a product has
no intrinsic usability, only a capability to be used in a particular context.
The standard now recognises that usability plays two roles (Bevan
a detailed software design activity (implied by the definition of usability),
and an overall goal that the software meets user needs (similar to the
ISO 9241-11 concept of usability). ISO/IEC 9126-1 uses the term "quality
in use" for this broad objective:
Quality in use: the capability of the software product to enable specified
users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, productivity, safety
and satisfaction in specified contexts of use.
Quality in use is the combined effect of the six categories of software
quality when the product is in use. The overall objective is to achieve
quality in use, both for the end user and the support user. Functionality,
reliability, efficiency and usability determine quality in use for an
end user in a particular context. The support user is concerned with the
quality in use of maintenance and portability tasks.
Other parts of ISO/IEC 9126 define metrics for usability and quality
Use in context
This technical report contains examples of metrics for effectiveness,
productivity, safety and satisfaction. Specifying usability requirements
and verifying that they have been achieved in a usability test is an important
component of user centred design (ISO 13407). ISO/IEC 9126-4 suggests
metrics for effectiveness, productivity, satisfaction and safety that
can be used for this purpose. The results can be documented using the
Industry Format for usability test reports, which is included as an
example in an Annex to ISO/IEC 9126-4.
ISO WD 20282: Usability of everyday products (2001)
A multi-part standard is being developed to specify the information about
usability that should be provided with a consumer product, so that a purchaser
can judge the ease of use of the product. It will specify a test method,
the characteristics of a "normal user", and how to specify the characteristics
of intended users with special needs or with special skills or experience
(Bevan and Schoeffel, 2001).
Software interface and interaction
These standards can be used to support user interface development in
the following ways:
- To specify details of the appearance and behaviour of the user interface.
ISO 14915 and IEC 61997 contain recommendations for multi-media interfaces.
More specific guidance can be found for icons in ISO/IEC 11581, PDA's
in ISO/IEC 18021 and cursor control in ISO/IEC 10741.
- To provide detailed guidance on the design of user interfaces (ISO
9241 parts 12-17).
- To provide criteria for the evaluation of user interfaces (ISO/IEC
9126 parts 2 and 3).
However the attributes that a product requires for usability depend on
the nature of the user, task and environment. ISO 9241-11 can be used
to help understand the context in which particular attributes may be required.
Usable products can be designed by incorporating product features and
attributes known to benefit users in particular contexts of use.
ISO 9241 provides requirements and recommendations relating to the attributes
of the hardware, software and environment that contribute to usability,
and the ergonomic principles underlying them. Parts 10 and 12 to 17 deal
specifically with attributes of the software. Parts 14-17 are intended
to be used by both designers and evaluators of user interfaces, but the
focus is primarily towards the designer.
The standards provide an authoritative source of reference, but designers
without usability experience have great difficulty applying these types
of guidelines (de
Souza and Bevan 1990).
To apply guidelines successfully, designers need to understand the design
goals and benefits of each guideline, the conditions under which the guideline
should be applied, the precise nature of the proposed solution, and any
procedure that must be followed to apply the guideline. Parts 12 to 17
contain a daunting 82 pages of guidelines, but even then do not provide
all this information for every guideline.
Several checklists have been prepared to help assess conformance of software
to the main principles in ISO 9241 (Gediga 1999, Oppermann and Reiterer
1997, Prümper 1999).
Part 10: Dialogue principles (1996)
This part deals with general ergonomic principles which apply to the
design of dialogues between humans and information systems: suitability
for the task, suitability for learning, suitability for individualisation,
conformity with user expectations, self descriptiveness, controllability,
and error tolerance.
Part 12: Presentation of information (1998)
This part contains 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.
Part 13: User guidance (1998)
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.
Part 14: Menu dialogues (1997)
This part provides recommendations for the design of menus used in user-computer
dialogues. The recommendations cover menu structure, navigation, option
selection and execution, and menu presentation (by various techniques
including windowing, panels, buttons, fields, etc.).
Part 15: Command dialogues (1997)
This part provides recommendations for the 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 16: Direct manipulation dialogues (1999)
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 that are directly manipulated, and not covered
by other parts of ISO 9241.
Part 17: Form filling dialogues (1998)
This part provides recommendations for the ergonomic design of form filling
dialogues. The recommendations cover form structure and output considerations,
input considerations, and form navigation.
9126-1 defines usability in terms of understandability, learnability,
operability and attractiveness. Parts 2 and 3 include examples of metrics
for these characteristics. These can be used to specify and evaluate detailed
Part 2: External metrics (DTR: 2001)
This technical report describes metrics that can be used to specify or
evaluate the behaviour of the software when operated by the user. For
example: how long does it take to learn to use a function, can users undo
functions, do users respond appropriately to error messages?
Part 3: Internal metrics (DTR: 2001)
This technical report describes metrics that can be used to create requirements
that that describe static properties of the interface that can be evaluated
by inspection without operating the software. For example: what proportion
of the functions are documented, what proportion of functions can be undone,
what proportion or error messages are self explanatory?
Part 1: Icons - General (2000)
This part contains a framework for the development and design of icons,
including general requirements and recommendations applicable to all icons.
Part 2: Object icons (2000)
This part contains requirements and recommendations for icons that represent
functions by association with an object, and that can be moved and opened.
It also contains specifications for the function and appearance of 20
Part 3: Pointer icons (2000)
This part contains requirements and recommendations for 8 commonly used
pointer icons that represent a pointer associated with a physical input
device. It also specifies how pointer icons change appearance to give
Part 4: Control icons (CD: 1999)
This part contains requirements and recommendations for 14 commonly used
control icons that enable the user to operate on windows, lists and other
Part 5: Tool icons (FCD: 2000)
This part contains requirements and recommendations for 20 commonly used
icons for tools, and specifies the relationships between tool and pointer
Part 6: Action icons(1999)
This part contains requirements and recommendations for 23 commonly used
icons typically used on toolbars that represent actions by association
with objects that prompt the user to recall the intended actions.
This standard specifies how the cursor should move on the screen in response
to the use of cursor control keys.
This standard contains user interface specifications for PDA's with a
data interchange capability with corresponding servers.
Part 1: Design principles and framework (DIS: 2000)
This part provides as an overall introduction to the standard.
Part 2: Multimedia control and navigation (CD: 2000)
This part provides recommendations for navigation structures and aids,
media controls, basic controls, media control guidelines for dynamic media
and controls and navigation involving multiple media.
Part 3: Media selection and combination (DIS: 2000)
This part provides general guidelines for media selection and combination,
media selection for information types, media combination and integration
and directing users' attention.
Part 4: Domain specific multimedia interfaces (AWI)
This part is intended to cover computer based training, computer supported
co-operative work, kiosk systems, on-line help and testing and evaluation.
This technical report gives general principles and detailed design guidance
for media selection, and for mechanical, graphical and auditory user interfaces.
These standards can be used in the design and evaluation of workplaces,
screens, keyboards and other input devices. Unlike the software standards,
most of these standards contain explicit requirements. ISO 9241 and ISO
13406 contain requirements for visual display terminals in offices. These
standards can be used to support adherence to European regulations for
the use of display screens (Bevan 1991).Gestures for pen-based systems
are covered in ISO/IEC 14754.ISO 11064 contains ergonomic requirements
for the design of control centres.
ISO 9241: Ergonomic requirements for office work
with visual display terminals
ISO 9241 provides requirements and recommendations relating to the attributes
of the hardware, software and environment that contribute to usability,
and the ergonomic principles underlying them. Parts 3 to 9 contain hardware
design requirements and guidance.
Part 3: Visual display requirements (1992)
This part specifies the ergonomics requirements for display screens that
ensure that they can be read comfortably, safely and efficiently to perform
office tasks. Although it deals specifically with displays used in offices,
it is appropriate for most applications that require general-purpose displays
to be used in an office-like environment.
Part 4: Keyboard requirements (1998)
This part specifies the ergonomics design characteristics of an alphanumeric
keyboard that may be used comfortably, safely and efficiently to perform
office tasks. Keyboard layouts are dealt with separately in various parts
of ISO/IEC 9995: Information Processing - Keyboard Layouts for Text and
Office Systems (1994).
Part 5: Workstation layout and postural requirements (1998)
This part specifies the ergonomics requirements for a Visual Display
Terminal workplace that will allow the user to adopt a comfortable and
Part 6: Guidance on the work environment (1999)
This part provides guidance on the Visual Display Terminal working environment
(including lighting, noise, temperature, vibration and electromagnetic
fields) that will provide the user with comfortable, safe and productive
Part 7: Requirements for display with reflections (1998)
This part specifies methods of measurement of glare and reflections from
the surface of display screens, including those with surface treatments.
It is aimed at display manufacturers who wish to ensure that anti-reflection
treatments do not detract from image quality.
Part 8: Requirements for displayed colours (1997)
This part specifies the requirements for multicolour displays that are
largely in addition to the monochrome requirements in Part 3.
Part 9: Requirements for non-keyboard input devices (2000)
This part specifies the ergonomics requirements for non-keyboard input
devices that may be used in conjunction with a visual display terminal.
It covers such devices as the mouse, trackball and other pointing devices.
It also includes a performance test. It does not address voice input.
ISO 13406: Ergonomic requirements for work with
visual displays based on flat panels
Part 1: Introduction (1999)
Part 2: Ergonomic requirements for flat panel displays (2001)
This standard establishes ergonomic image-quality requirements for the
design and evaluation of flat panel displays and specifies methods of
determining image quality.
ISO AWI 18789: Ergonomic requirements and measurement
techniques for electronic visual displays (1999)
This standard is intended to revise and replace ISO 9241 Parts 3, 7 and
8 and ISO 13406.
ISO/IEC 14754: Pen-based interfaces - Common gestures
for text editing with pen-based systems (1999)
This standard defines a set of basic gesture commands and feedback for
pen interfaces. The gestures include: select, delete, insert space, split
line, move, copy, cut, paste, scroll and undo.
ISO 11064: Ergonomic design of control centres
This eight part standard contain ergonomic principles, recommendations
Part 1: Principles for the design of control centers (2000) Part 2: Principles
of control suite arrangement (2000) Part 3: Control room layout (1999)
Part 4: Workstation layout and dimensions (CD: 2000) Part 5: Human-system
interfaces (WD: 1999) Part 6: Environmental requirements for control rooms
(WD: 2000) Part 7: Principles for the evaluation of control centers (WD:
2000) Part 8: Ergonomic requirements for specific applications (WD: 2000)
ISO/IEC 15910 provides a detailed process for the
development of user documentation (paper and on-line help), while ISO/IEC
18019 gives more guidance on how to produce documentation that meets user
ISO/IEC 15910: Software user documentation process (1999)
This standard specifies the minimum process for creating user documentation
for software that has a user interface, including printed documentation
(e.g. user manuals and quick-reference cards), on-line documentation,
help text and on-line documentation systems.
ISO/IEC WD 18019: Guidelines for the design and preparation
of software user documentation (2000)
This standard describes how to establish what information users need,
how to determine the way in which that information should be presented
to the users, and how then to prepare the information and make it available.
It covers both on-line and printed documentation and has been developed
from two British Standards:
BS 7649: Guide to the design and preparation of documentation
for users of application software (1993)
BS 7830: Guide to the design and preparation of on-screen
documentation for users of application software (1996)
The standard is intended to compliment ISO/IEC 9127 - User documentation
and cover information for software packages, and ISO/IEC 15910 Software
user documentation process.
The Development Process
ISO 13407 explains the activities required for user centred design, and
ISO 16982 outlines the types of methods that can be used. ISO/IEC 14598
give a general framework for the evaluation of software products using
the model in ISO/IEC 9126-1.
ISO 13407: Human-centred design processes for interactive
This standard provides guidance on human-centred design activities throughout
the life cycle of interactive computer-based systems. It is a tool for
those managing design processes and provides guidance on sources of information
and standards relevant to the human-centred approach. It describes human-centred
design as a multidisciplinary activity, which incorporates human factors
and ergonomics knowledge and techniques with the objective of enhancing
effectiveness and efficiency, improving human working conditions, and
counteracting possible adverse effects of use on human health, safety
and performance. The recommended process is shown below:
The EU-funded INUSE project has developed a more
detailed procedure and a set of criteria that can be used to assess
how closely a development process has followed the principles of ISO 13407.
project recommended specific methods for user centred design based
on ISO 13407.
ISO DTR 16982: Usability methods supporting human
centred design (2001)
This technical report outlines the different types of usability methods
that can be used to support user centred design.
ISO/IEC 14598: Information Technology - Evaluation
of Software Products (1998-2000)
This multi-part standard specifies the process to be used to evaluate
software products. The first part included the original definition of
quality in use.
Capability of the organisation
The usability maturity model in ISO TR 18529 contains a structured set
of processes derived from ISO 13407 and a survey of good practice. It
can be used to assess the extent to which an organisation is capable of
carrying out user-centred design. Each HCD process (such as "specify the
user and organisational requirements") can be rated on the ISO 15504 Software
Process Assessment scale: Incomplete, Performed, Managed, Established,
Predictable or Optimising (Earthy et al, 2001).
ISO TR 18529: Ergonomics of human-system interaction
- Human-centred lifecycle process descriptions (2000)
This Technical Report contains a structured and formalised list of human-centred
HCD.1 Ensure HCD content in system strategy
HCD.2 Plan and manage the HCD process HCD.3 Specify the user and organisational
requirements HCD.4 Understand and specify the context of use HCD.5 Produce
design solutions HCD.6 Evaluate designs against requirements HCD.7 Introduce
and operate the system
The Usability Maturity Model in ISO TR 18529 is based on the
model developed by the INUSE project.
Other related standards
ISO 9241-1: Ergonomic requirements for
office work with visual display terminals (VDTs) - Part 1: General Introduction
This part 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 9241-2: Part 2:Guidance on task
This part 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 organisations and how
task requirements can be incorporated into the system design and implementation
ISO 10075-1: Ergonomic principles related to mental
workload - General terms and definitions (1994)
This part of ISO 10075 explains the terminology and provides definitions
in the area of mental workload.
ISO DTS 16071: Guidance on accessibility for human-computer
This technical specification (derived from ANSI HFS 200) provides guidelines
and recommendations for the design of systems and software that will enable
users with disabilities greater accessibility to computer systems (with
or without assistive technology). It includes low vision users,
hearing impaired users, deaf users, users with physical and cognitive
impairments, and the elderly.
Where to get international standards
ISO standards have to be purchased. They can be obtained direct from
or from a national
standards body, NSSN:
A National Resource for Global Standards also has a comprehensive list
of standards, some of which can be purchased as pdf files. In principle
ISO standards can also be purchased, but while the FDIS and DIS documents
published by ISO are easy to obtain, to obtain earlier drafts (e.g. FCD,
CD or DTR) the individual
secretariats have to be approached. While these early drafts may give
a good indication of the likely content of the final standard, they are
often subject to major change, and in some cases may never be published.
National standards bodies BSI:
British Standards Institute ANSI:
American National Standards Institute.
Support for legislation
The European Display
Screen Equipment Directive (EEC, 1990) specifies minimum ergonomic
requirements for workstation equipment and the environment. These can
be achieved by conforming to ISO 9241 parts 3-9. The Directive also requires
that the "principles of software ergonomics" are applied in designing
the user interface. ISO 9241 part 10 contains appropriate principles.
The other requirements for ease of use of software can be met by conforming
to ISO 9241 parts 12 -17.
Directive (EC, 1998) requires suppliers to provide machinery that
meets essential health and safety requirements, one of which is that the
interactive software is "user friendly".
Directive (EEC, 1993) requires that the technical specifications used
for procurement by public bodies must make reference to relevant standards
adopted by the European standards body (CEN). These could include ergonomic
and user interface standards, provided that they have explicit conformance
European Union countries have national legislation to implement these
Bevan, N. (1991)Enforcement
of HCI? Computer Bulletin, May 1991.
Bevan, N. (1999), Quality
in use: meeting user needs for quality
In: Journal of Systems and Software,49(1), 89-96.
Bevan, N., Claridge, N., Earthy, J., Kirakowski, J.(1998) Proposed
Usability Engineering Assurance Scheme.INUSE Deliverable D5.2.3.
Bevan N., Schoeffel R. (2001) A proposed standard for consumer product
usability.Proceedings of 1st International Conference on Universal Access
in Human Computer Interaction (UAHCI), New Orleans, August 2001.
de Souza, F. and Bevan, N. (1990)The
Use of Guidelines in Menu Interface Design:Evaluation
of a Draft Standard. Proceedings of IFIP INTERACT'90: Human-Computer Interaction
Earthy, J. (1999).
Usability Maturity Model: Processes, version 2.2.
Gediga, G., Hamborg, K., Düntsch, I. (1999)The IsoMetrics usability
inventory: An operationalisation of ISO 9241-10.Behaviour and Information
Oppermann, R., Reiterer, R. (1997)Software Evaluation Using the 9241
Evaluator Usability Evaluation Methods. Behaviour and Information Technologyv.16
Prümper, P. (1999) Test it: ISONORM 9241/10.In: Bullinger H-J and
Ziegler J (eds), Proceedings of HCI International, Munich, 22-27 August
1999.Lawrence Erlbaum, Mahwah, NJ, USA.