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HCI Standards

Standards concern prescribed ways of discussing, presenting, or doing something, which seeks to achieve consistency across products of the same type. We are familiar with standards in many walks of life standard colors for electric wiring, standard controls on cars, standard shoe and clothing sizes. In Britain, a "kitemark" appears on products to inform potential buyers that the item in question conforms to a known standard. In many situations, this quest for consistency is also related to safety and quality.

Standards exist for most everyday items in our houses. We have standard brick sizes and food labels, standard arrangements for telephones and typewriter keyboards, safety standards for electric kettles, and gas ovens, and so on. Standardization generally makes people's lives easier and safer.

Software standards

Quality in software is very important In the past, or quality software has been implicated in disasters in the worlds of finance, clinical care, air transport, and nuclear power. Standards are developed and promoted by a number of different organizations for a number of different reasons. National and International organizations are the most prominent. There are two major international standards bodies: the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). The first covers the field of mechanical standardization, and the second is responsible for standards in the field of electrical standardization. Because computing straddles both camps, they have formed a joint committee to deal with standards in the field of information technology (JTC1). The international standard series ISO 9000 is concerned with general software quality (the European equivalent is EN29000; the British version is BS 5750; the American equivalent is ANSI/ASQ Q9001). The main standard relevant to HCI design is ISO standard 9241. ISO works closely with national standards bodies such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and British Standards Institution (BSI). CEN (Comité européen de normalisation) is the European equivalent of ISO. European standards supersede any national standards in member states that cover the same field.

HCI standards

Standards have been produced for many areas of the computer industry: paper sizes, transmission protocols, compilers, character see representations, language definitions, and so on. Ne standards are being developed all the time, as different needs are identified, or problems occur.

ISO 9241

ISO 9241 address the ergonomics requirements for work with Visual Display Terminals (VDTs), both hardware and software. Office tasks including text and data processing are covered by ISO 9241, but CAD and industrial processes are covered by ISO 11064. Issues covered by ISO 9241 include: workstation layout and postural requirements, human-computer dialogue, software aspects of display design, keyboard requirements, and user guidance. In recognition of the fact that many problems attributed to poor equipment design stem, in fact, from poor job design, part of the standard provides guidance on the design of VDU tasks.

EC Council Directive

The Council Directive from the European Community issued on 29 May 1990 addresses the minimum safety and health requirements for work with display screen equipment. It is not a standard as such, but its impact on HCI design practice and standards of the future is quite high. Directives from the EC are part of their legislative action and are binding for member states as regards the results to be achieved. However, it is left to national authorities to determine the methods for achieving these results. It, therefore, says nothing about penalties and enforcement The technical annex to the EC directive contains a number of very general minimum requirements which apply to both the workstation and the task of the user. In the UK, this anomaly has been picked up by the Health and Safety Executive Regulations, which include regulations for temporary and self-employed labor.

House style guides

The importance of consistency has been mentioned several times. Consistent interfaces can aid usability considerably. One way to ensure consistency across different parts of the system, or across a family of systems, is for the developers to base their designs on one set of principles and rules. It is therefore advantageous for organizations that develop software to produce sets of guidelines for their own developers to follow. These collections are called house style guides and vary in detail, spirit, and intent between companies. There are two main kinds of style guides: commercial style guides produced by hardware and software manufacturers, and corporate style guides produced by companies for their internal use.

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