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Usability Section

This Usability Section of my webspace covers computer system usability and human-computer interaction (HCI) from my perspective:

For a bit of background about how I got started in usability, what I'm doing, my education, and papers I've written, see my usability background.

My webspace also has a Personal Section, which has a miscellany of interests both serious and fun (including some articles about travel in Scotland and about Jungian psychological type), and a Photography Section, which covers the other major pursuit in my life.

What are HCI and usability?

Although HCI and usability are obviously related, there is some difference between the two. I may include an explanation of how I see the difference, after I figure out exactly what I want to say about it. If anyone knows of a webspace that contains an explanation of the difference and to which I could link instead of writing it myself, please let me know.

Some useful links on HCI and usability

Favorite usability quotes

Special interest areas of mine

(I will expand these topics in upcoming enhancements to the Usability Section.)

Standards and guidelines for software user interfaces

I've been a member since 1992 of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society's HCI Standards Committee, which is currently writing the standard HFES-200, "Human Factors Engineering of Software User Interfaces," as an accredited standards developing organization of the American National Standards Institute. I am the editor of two sections: definitions and references. For more information on this forthcoming standard, contact HFES.

The Committee is also continuing to contribute to the development of international standards related to software usability (mainly those of the International Organization for Standardization, or ISO).

Warning: HCI standards and guidelines are not the answer to all your design problems. To find out why, see my page on HCI Standards: A Mixed Blessing.

Usability engineering in government systems

For 30 years I've been working in the area of computer-based systems for civilian government agencies. Through the years I've noticed that most of the attendees at SIGCHI conferences, and virtually all of the research and publication on HCI and usability, are oriented toward one of two types of products/systems, neither of which is readily translatable to the procurement and engineering processes that governments tend to use.

So, for several years I was heavily involved in the efforts to raise the awareness of the SIGCHI community to the special issues and challenges that confront HCI and usability in government system procurements/developments. In 1995 I cochaired a workshop on this topic at SIGCHI's annual conference, and wrote the workshop report for the SIGCHI Bulletin. (The report is listed as being by two authors, because two of us chaired the workshop. But I wrote the durn thing myself.)

I am also involved in the efforts to raise the awareness among government decisionmakers about the importance of usability in procurement and development. With Bill Hefley (then of the Software Engineering Institute), I spoke on this topic at the 1997 NIST Symposium on Usability Engineering in Government Systems.

At the 1998 NIST symposium, held in conjunction withthe Usability Professionals Association and its annual conference, I gave a tutorial with Charlie Kreitzberg of Cognetics Corporation on "Using the RFP to Get the Usability You Need."

I'm thinking of preparing a page on usability in government systems.

Integrating HCI and usability engineering with system and software engineering

One of my longtime interests has been incorporating usability engineering into the system life cycle. I point you to the abstract of a paper I coauthored with several others: "Integrating Human Factors with Software Engineering Practices." I also gave a paper titled "Integrating HCI Engineering with Software Engineering: A Call to a Larger Vision" at the HCI International 97 conference in August of 1997.


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Copyright © 1997, 1998, 2000, 2006 Elizabeth A. Buie. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to print this page or link to it, as long as such use is personal or educational and is not for commercial gain or profit.

Last updated 22 January 2007, to add a link to the HCI '97 paper