A quick guide to usability engineering resources

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User centred design and user validation: where to get public domain materials, how to get started, and where to go for assistance. This page refers to the work of relevant cross-sectorial usability engineering support projects in the EU.

At the end of the page there's a contents list, and a list of resources and addresses.

Additional information on user centred design and usability testing can be found on this site on a topic page.

What is Usability Engineering?

Usability Engineering is the discipline of supporting the entire development process of electronic information applications with user-centred design and user validation activities, in order to create applications which are fit for their intended use and are of added value to the intended users.

When's the best time to start?

Right now!

What should happen first?

Consider your end users' needs and create a user validation plan. Such a plan should describe:

  1. the objectives, requirements, and constraints of the development project.
  2. the user groups, what they will do with the application you are developing, and the anticipated environments in which they will use it.
  3. the user validation scenario, how and when you propose to do this.
  4. the critical success and quality factors for the application project from the point of view of the developers and the users.
  5. the most appropriate user validation methods.

The Context of Use guide can help you perform steps 1-3.

The User Validation Assistant helps you structure the whole plan. The ftp file is available as a Word 6 file (d412.doc) of 135K or an rtf file (d412.rtf) of 350K. Download a copy directly from ftp.ucc.ie in /hfrg/baseline/d412 (.doc for the Word file and .rtf for the rtf file) or by anonymous ftp.

If you have some specific queries, see the BASELINE Frequently Asked Questions list or contact their help desk.

Well, that's a start! What next?

Don't forget that the User Validation Assistant form is designed to be filled in incrementally. Your answers will become increasingly detailed and sometimes may change as your project progresses.

You have to develop some kind of standards for the way your interface is going to look and feel, so that it presents a consistent picture to the user and doesn't commit some of the more elementary mistakes. Take a look at the INUSE Multimedia Design Guide - it complements many existing in-house or proprietary style guides.

But what about the functionality?

Start by using disposable prototypes to try out some ideas with people from your user group. You'll find a lot of helpful information about user-based requirements elicitation and early prototyping in the RESPECT Methods Guide. As your ideas firm up with the help of your user groups, you'll be starting to create more advanced prototypes which may contain portions of code that you can use for the final release. MEGATAQ can advise you of methods for measuring the impact of network performance on users.

What are the best methods to use for validation?

This depends primarily on your critical success and quality factors. However the maturity level of your project with regards to usability engineering will influence the process of method selection.

  1. Projects which include people who have used usability methods before. You most probably already know which are the most appropriate methods for your project. Other projects may benefit from your experience. Contact BASELINE to disseminate information about your project and your methods.
  2. Projects still looking around for methods. Take a look at the ELPUB 105 handbook: it's a comprehensive compendium of methods available. The file is PC zipped (el105.zip) and contains a set of Word 6 files and Excel spreadsheets (the spreadsheets are primarily tables from the report and are not essential in using the document). The size is 180K. Download a copy directly from ftp.pira.co.uk in /users/ket/public/el105.zip or by anonymous ftp. If you want to know more about a method supported by a European Usability Support Centre partner, then read the INUSE Usability Methods Guide, a management guide to specifying, designing and measuring usability, obtaining feedback on the design, and using ergonomic standards. The file is availailable from ftp.pira.co.uk in /users/ket/public/use-ass.zip or by anonymous ftp and is a Word 6 file PC zipped, 97K.
  3. Projects which are getting started with usability. For specific advice, go to the User-Based Assessment Guide, and use the resources suggested there for further planning.

What support is there for user validation activities?

There are two basic sources of help.

Does anyone here deal with cooperative work?

Yes, the MEGATAQ project can advise you on techniques for assessing users' communicative behaviour, and on tools for exploring impacts of telematics applications on cooperative work.

Contents List

List of Resources and Addresses

Getting in touch with people:

BASELINE help desk email form
INUSE project manager email form
European Usability Service Centre network list
Jurek Kirakowski, document editor, email form

Basic documents you should have:

User Validation Assistant - the ftp file is available as a Word 6 file (d412.doc) of 135K or an rtf file (d412.rtf) of 350K. Download a copy directly from ftp.ucc.ie in /hfrg/baseline/d412 (.doc for the Word file and .rtf for the rtf file) or by anonymous ftp.
Context of Use (NPL)

Collections of Methods:

ELPUB 105 Usability Study Report (Handbook) (from ftp.pira.co.uk in /users/ket/public/el105.zip or by anonymous ftp). The file is PC zipped (el105.zip) and contains a set of Word 6 files and Excel spreadsheets (the spreadsheets are primarily tables from the report and are not essential in using the document), 180K.
INUSE Usability Methods Guide (from ftp.pira.co.uk in /users/ket/public/use-ass.zip or by anonymous ftp) Word 6 file PC zipped, 97K.
RESPECT Methods Guide

Other key documents:

Introduction to User centred Design
User-Based Assessment Guide
Multimedia Design Guide

WWW pages of interest:

BASELINE reading list
IE SERVE Usability Resource Links and Downloads


Telematics Applications Programme Homepage
INUSE Homepage
RESPECT Homepage
MEGATAQ Homepage
NECTAR Homepage
HFRG Homepage


Please point to this page rather than copying its contents, as the latter may change over time.

This page was edited by Jurek Kirakowski, Human Factors Research Group, University College Cork, Ireland; with the assistance of Elke-Maria Melchior of ACit GmbH, Münster, Germany; Nigel Bevan and Ian Curson of NPL, UK; Bert Arnold, TUD, Netherlands; and Michel Lacroix, DGXIII, EC. Please send any comments to me.

We welcome feedback and contributions to the information service, and proposals for subjects for the news service, e-mail: to editors@elpub.org

Last up-dated: 15 April 2014

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