ISO/TR 16982:2002 – Usability Methods

Want to know how to achieve a happy marriage between people and computers? The methods for evaluating computer-based systems and products for ease of use by people are described in a new ISO technical report: ISO/TR 16982:2002, Ergonomics of Human-System Interaction – Usability Methods Supporting Human-Centered Design. The document is expected to increase user satisfaction and productivity, decrease support and training costs, and improve user health and well-being.

The new technical report provides guidance on the different types of methods which can be used to diagnose problems and facilitate the design of computer-based systems or products. It is intended to help project managers gain a better understanding of the situation and context, in order to guide the design of the system or product to maximize its usability for users.

Ergonomics (human factors) is the scientific discipline concerned with an understanding of the interactions between human and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data, and methods to design for optimizing human well-being and overall system performance. When ergonomics is ignored in the design of equipment, users can develop injuries and disorders, such as, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, and lower back pain, which result from repetitive motion, performing work in awkward positions, or constant heavy lifting.

The principles of ergonomics can also be applied to the design of computer-based systems and software to consider usercapabilities, skills, limitations, and needs, and at the same time, increase their acceptance, commitment, and compatibility to the end product, thereby decreasing the likelihood of injuries and disorders.

ISO/TR 16982 provides an overview of usability methods which can be applied during the design and evaluation of computer-based systems or products before they are put on the market for consumer use. It applies throughout the life cycle of the system or product, including conception, design, implementation, support, use, and maintenance.

The new ISO technical report is expected to help managers make informed decisions about the selection of the appropriate usability methods, thereby enabling them to implement and plan effective and timely human-centered design activities.

Making interactive systems more human-centered has substantial economic and social benefits. In most countries, employers and system providers have legal obligations to protect users from risks to their health and safety. Making systems more usable is part of that process and helps ensure systems meet user and organizational needs.

“Human-centered design” is an approach to interactive system development that focuses specifically on making systems usable. The involvement of usability methods in the development process provides a valuable source of knowledge about the context of use, tasks, and how users are likely to work with the future product or system.

Usability methods help to ensure that systems can be developed to meet the usability goals of a human-centered design process and, at the same time, provide a means to increase the chances that systems used, or to be used, will achieve these objectives.

The new technical report is aimed at human factor specialists and project managers, as well as, everyone involved in human-centered system development, including end users.