ERCIM News No.24 - January 1996 - SICS

Usable Information Technology

by Cecilia Katzeff

The purpose of the "Usable IT" project at SISU is to develop a research strategy for reducing the gap between research in human computer interaction (HCI) and the application of results from this field. A major hypothesis for the project is that fruitful research in HCI implies intimate cooperation between researchers and practitioners.

"Usable IT" is divided into four parts and has an emerging character. Phase one consists of a survey of usability in practice within Swedish industry. On the basis of results from this survey, a case study is formulated. This sub project will constitute a test for the suggested research strategy. During phase three, the case study is carried out by researchers and practitioners in cooperation, and during phase four it is evaluated.

The following major consequences from "Usable IT" are expected:

The project started in January 1995 and will run through October 1996. Phase one has just been concluded and has produced interesting results about the focus on usability in Swedish insudstry. Questions on usability practices were formulated in a questionnaire, which was replied to by 112 system developers in 30 companies. In short, the results were as follows. On a scale from 1 to 4, the average usability maturity was 3.0. This value corresponds to an unsystematic integration of usability in the process of system development. Knowledge about users and tasks is gained through informal discussions, without systematic analysis. Only a few companies evaluate usability with HCI-techniques. Results also show that most companies in the survey lack formal usability groups.

Companies who have formulated criteria for usability in the requirement specification have a higher score on the usability maturity scale than companies who have not. From this we conclude that companies in our survey have a potential to use user centered methods in their development of interactive systems, but they lack special skills in methods for user-centered system design.

Please contact:
Cecilia Katzeff - SISU
Tel: +46 8 752 1600

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