9241 – From a usability point of view much more than just a number

19. November 2019

9241 … that’s just a four-digit number for most people, but a daily tool for usability experts. ISO 9241 is the international standard for the interaction between people and computers. We at HeiReS have specialized in development and design to always consider the user’s point of view. Thus ISO 9241 plays a particularly important role for us.


Source: YouTube

Admittedly, the term “human-computer interaction” may quickly bring to mind Scotty from Star Trek, who tries to speak into the mouse of a computer and thereby communicate with the computer. In fact, there are many very useful guidelines behind this term, how to use, operate and interact with computers and similar devices.

Specifically, part 9241-110 of the standard plays the most important role for our usability experts as well as for designers and developers in the development of apps and software. Seven aspects are defined here which, when correctly considered, provide user-friendly solutions that are easy to learn and use.

The seven aspects mentioned – also called dialogue principles – illuminate different software criteria that play a particularly important role for the user and are intended to avoid “critical usage situations”, i.e. points at which the application becomes difficult or even impossible for the user.

To understand: In this context, a dialog does not necessarily mean the “dialog windows” known from development. Rather, it is about whenever the computer – i.e. the application – and the human being enter into dialogue with each other, i.e. communicate. In addition to windows, icons, text etc., this can also be a waiting time, a necessary step on the part of the user, the user interface as a whole etc.


Source/Copyright: HeiReS-Training

Here is an attempt to describe the principles of dialogue in an understandable way by asking questions. This is combined with a request to all those who are active in the software industry to simply question them again and again in the future when it comes to creating programs or apps that are actually used with pleasure.

  • Task adequacy
    Does the UI match what the user wants to do/must do in the application?
    Does the structure, categories and workflow match how the user works and thinks?
    Are there disruptive factors that unnecessarily distract or confuse the user?
    Are there showstoppers that completely prevent the user from performing the actual task?
  • Controllability
    Is it left to the user how he moves through individual work steps?
    Does the software allow the user to determine the direction/speed of interactions?
    Are there places where the user is unnecessarily pushed in one direction?
    Is the user free to take (lossless) steps back and forth at any time?
  • Self-descriptiveness
    Does the user understand the interface, its layout and which areas are for what?
    Are all controls (buttons, icons, status indicators, links etc.) recognizable as such?
    Is it clear which controls the user can currently use and which not?
  • Learning facilitativeness
    Does the interface and content help the user learn how to use it?
    Is the user provided with a helpful guide to the software quickly?
    Do meaningful and helpful tool tips exist for controls and their use?
  • Customizability
    Can the user adapt the interface to his individual needs?
    Does the application also allow adaptations to the influences of the usage context?
    Can the content of the software also be adapted to the specific needs of the user?
  • Fault tolerance
    Does the procedure within the software fit the actual way the user works?
    Do known controls behave the way the user expects them to?
    Is the use of colors and imagery appropriate to what is common in this context?
  • Expectation conformity
    Does the procedure within the software fit the actual way the user works?
    Do known controls behave the way the user expects them to?
    Is the use of colors and imagery appropriate to what is common in this context?

Even though some of these questions are quite general, we hope to provide some food for thought on how to add real value to software with a little effort and a little perspective from the user’s point of view.

Do you also want to give your software real added value thanks to good usability? We are happy to support you in an advisory capacity or in trainings! Simply call us on 0351-65615776 or email us at info@heires.net