We are planning to have an informal SIG at CHI Thursday, May 20th at Lunch.
We are still in the process of locating a place to hold the SIG. Watch the
bulletin board at CHI for logistics. The purpose of the SIG will be to
introduce interested parties to the work we've been doing and determine if
others are interested in participating. The description of this project
The Industry Usability Reporting Project (I-USR)
When companies or organizations make large purchase decisions for software,
they currently have little visibility of the usability of the products they
are buying. However, the business case for software usability has been
clearly established. Moreover, poor usability is an uncontrolled source of
overhead, caused by the need for users to correct errors and continually
re-learn complex user interfaces. Software that is measurably usable
reduces errors, reduces training costs, reduces maintenance costs, while
increasing user productivity and satisfaction.
From the software supplier's perspective, the pressure to bring software to
market rapidly has adversely affected qualities such as usability. As
dependence on shrink-wrapped software and Web -based applications increases
so will the need for consumers to have visibility of software product
usability before making large purchase decisions.
In October, 1997, the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology
(NIST) initiated an effort to increase the visibility of software usability.
Cooperating in this effort are prominent suppliers of software and
representatives from large consumer organizations. The goals of the
* Encourage software suppliers and consumer organizations to work
together to understand user needs and tasks.
* Develop a common usability reporting format for sharing usability
data with consumer organizations.
* Conduct a pilot trial to determine how well the usability reporting
format works and to determine the value of using this format in software
The role of NIST in this effort is to:
* Act as a facilitator in bringing together the supplier and consumer
* Maintain the documents drafted by these groups and support a public
* Collect and analyze data from the pilot trial to determine the value
of incorporating usability into product decision-making. This data will not
be attributed to companies but will be anonymously used in analyzing the
To date, two workshops and numerous e-mail discussions have resulted in the
draft documents included on this web site. The web site contains :
* The I-USR white paper containing a detailed explanation of the
project, including requirements for participating in the pilot trial.
* The Common Industry Format (CIF) for reporting usability results
* The metrics that will be collected during the pilot study
Readers should note that these documents are the initial public DRAFTS and
that we plan several iterative cycles to revise these documents.
We invite the public to participate in several ways. First, we are now
soliciting comments on the documents published on this web site. Readers
will find a form at the end of each document for this purpose. All comments
received will be considered and the documents will be revised in a
systematic fashion. The draft of the CIF now on this web site will be the
one used for the initial pilot studies. We will be considering comments for
inclusion in a second revision after initial pilot study results are
Secondly, we invite participants for the pilot trial. We invite consumer
and supplier organizations to pair up and to participate in our formal pilot
trial. This involves the collection of metrics outlined in the white paper
from the consumer organization, both before and after the product purchase
decision (assuming the software is purchased). This data must be delivered
to NIST for inclusion in the pilot trial database. Supplier organizations
must agree to furnish the CIF report to the consumer organization. The
consumer organization will provide to NIST a summary of the CIF and their
business data. This data will be analyzed anonymously and reported by NIST
at a pilot trial workshop. Organizations participating in the pilot trial
should send one representative to this workshop.
Thirdly, companies may wish to tryout the CIF for reporting usability in
their own usability labs. We encourage people to do so and to send us
comments on these results.
We are planning a pilot trial kick-off meeting for Fall, 1999. The dates
for this workshop will be finalized once we have identified the candidates
for the pilot study. Companies wishing to participate should contact Dr.
Sharon Laskowski at NIST. [[log in to unmask], 301-975-4535]
Currently, this project is an independent effort. We are not formally
connected with any other standards bodies although we have drawn upon the
work of the ISO standards. Once we have some results from the pilot trial
and have produced another iteration of the CIF, we intend to turn these
results over to an appropriate standards body for inclusion in their
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