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September 1994

Ergonomic requirements for office work with visual display terminals (VDTs): -

Part 11:

Guidance on Usability

Editor's note:
This version of the standard will be circulated for international vote terminating in mid-1995. If you have any comments on the content, these can be made formally to your national standards body, or directly to me:
Nigel Bevan
NPL Usability Services
National Physical Laboratory
Teddington, Middlesex
Tel: +44 181 943 6993
Fax: +44 181 977 7091

Table of Contents

1. Scope
2. Normative references
3. Definitions
4. Benefits and rationale
5. Specifying and measuring the usability of products 5.1. Framework for specifying usability
5.1.1. Purpose
5.1.2. Components of usability
5.1.3. Information needed

5.2. Context of use
5.2.1. Description of users
5.2.2. Description of equipment
5.2.3. Description of environments
5.2.4. Description of goals
5.2.5. Description of tasks
5.2.6. Examples

5.3. Usability measures 5.3.1. Choice of measures
5.3.2. Effectiveness
5.3.3. Efficiency
5.3.4. Satisfaction
5.3.4. Further examples
5.4. Interpretation of measures
6. Specification and evaluation of usability during design 6.1. Specification of overall requirements for a product
6.2. Specification of usability requirements for a product
6.3. Product development
6.4. Specification or evaluation of product attributes
6.5. Usability measurement
6.6. Quality system
6.7. Comparative evaluation of products
6.8. Use with other standards
7. Specifying and measuring the quality of a work system in use 7.1. Relationship to usability
7.2. Examples of application 7.2.1. Design of a complete work system
7.2.2. Diagnostic evaluation
Annex A (informative) Example of how to specify the context of use
Annex B (informative) Examples of usability measures
B.1. Overall usability
B.2. Measures for desired properties of the product
B.3. Choosing usability criteria
B.4. Types of measures
B.5. Measures of effectiveness and efficiency
B.5.1. Measuring effectiveness
B.5.2. Measuring efficiency

B.6. Measures of satisfaction
B.7. Measures of cognitive workload&

Annex C (informative) Example of a usability requirements specification
Annex D (informative) Relationship to other standards

D.1. Definition of usability in ISO 9126
D.2. Use in conjunction with other parts of ISO 9241
D.2.1. Relationship of context of use to usability
D.2.2. Use in conjunction with ISO 9241-10: Dialogue Principles

Annex E (informative) References and bibliography


ISO (the International Organisation for Standardisation) is a worldwide federation of national standards bodies (ISO member bodies). The work of preparing international Standards is normally carried out through ISO technical committees. Each member body interested in a subject for which a technical committee has been established has the right to be represented on that committee. International organisations, governmental and non-governmental, in liaison with ISO, also take part in the work. ISO collaborates closely with the international Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) on all matters of electrotechnical standardisation.

Draft International Standards adopted by the technical committees are circulated to member bodies for voting. Publication as an international Standard requires approval by at least 75% of the member bodies casting a vote.

International Standard ISO 9241-11 was prepared by the Technical Committee ISO/TC159, Ergonomics, Sub-Committee SC4, Ergonomics of human-system interaction.

ISO 9241 consists of the following Parts, under the general title Ergonomics requirements for office work with visual display terminals (VDTs):

Part 1: General Introduction
Part 2: Guidance on task requirements
Part 3: Visual display requirements
Part 4: Keyboard requirements
Part 5: Workstation layout and postural requirements
Part 6: Environmental requirements
Part 7: Display requirements with reflections
Part 8: Requirements for displayed colours
Part 9: Requirements for non-keyboard input devices
Part 10: Dialogue principles
Part 11: Guidance on usability
Part 12: Presentation of information
Part 13: User guidance
Part 14: Menu dialogues
Part 15: Command dialogues
Part 16: Direct manipulation dialogues
Part 17: Form filling dialogues


The objective of designing and evaluating for usability is to enable users to achieve goals and meet needs in a particular context of use. This part of ISO 9241 explains the benefits of measuring usability in terms of user performance and satisfaction. These are measured by the extent to which the intended goals of use are achieved, the resources that have to be expended to achieve the intended goals, and the extent to which the user finds the use of the product acceptable.

This part emphasises that usability is dependent on the context of use and that the level of usability achieved will depend on the specific circumstances in which a product is used. The context of use consists of the users, tasks, equipment (hardware, software and materials), and the physical and social environments which may all influence the usability of a product in a work system. Measures of user performance and satisfaction assess the quality of the work system in use, and, when a product is the focus of concern, these measures provide information about the usability of that product in the particular context of use provided by the rest of the work system. The effects of changes in other components of the work system, such as the amount of user training, or the improvement of the lighting, can also be measured by user performance and satisfaction.

The term usability is sometimes used to refer to the attributes of a product which make it easier to use (see Annex D). Requirements and recommendations relating to the attributes of the hardware, software and environment which contribute to usability, and the ergonomic principles underlying them, are provided in other parts of ISO 9241. This part of ISO 9241 explains how the resulting usability of a product when used in a particular context can be assessed by measures of user performance and satisfaction.


Ergonomic requirements for office work with visual display terminals (VDTs): -

Part 11:

Guidance on Usability

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