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Standards and Guidelines

Web Based
Operating Systems
Microsoft Windows
Apple Macintosh
Gov't and International

Introduction Top

On this page we provide access to a number of Standards and Guidelines that pertain either specifically to the HCI community, or in a more broader sense to HCI-related topics. Additional information on HCI standards can be found from many of the key standards organizations such as ANSI, IEC, ISO and the IEEE. For those interested in obtaining hard copies of specific government and industry standards, the Document Centre is a good place to visit.

There are five major sections within the Standards and Guidelines page. Section 1, General, details links that contain fairly generic content about HCI and Usability Engineering. The next section, Web Based, contains items of interest to those developing applications and web pages for the world wide web. The third section, Operating Systems, contains HCI guidelines specific to individual operating systems and environments. Section 4, Gov't and International, provides links to standards organizations within the US government and the international community. Finally, NASA, contains a few links to standards developed by NASA which have application to more "earthly based" development projects.

General Top

This section contains links that are not specific to any particular platform, operating system, or organization. Here you will find various topics pertaining to HCI standards and development guidelines that individual companies have written as well as various special interest groups within the HCI community.

Ameritech User Interface Guidelines Ameritech Corp.

Consistency across interfaces reduces learning time, improves performance, and reduces accidental errors. In order to bring consistency to the many, many products and systems that are in development at any given time, Ameritech's human factors department has produced an evolving set of design guidelines.

Guidelines for Designing User Interface Software Smith & Mosier

Known as the S&M guidelines, these are considered to be the most comprehensive and widely used guidelines for HCI. Available in PostScript or text. Additional information can be found in this README. A hypertext version of the guidelines is also available for Macintosh.

Human-Computer Interaction Guidelines IBM Corporation

Covers general user interface design, web design techniques and IBM's latest set of guidelines providing information on creating 3D interfaces.

Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) Special Interest Group (SIG) American Society for Information Science (ASIS)

SIG/HCI serves practical and theoretical interests in research, design, development and evaluation of how human beings use and communicate with computers. Interests include on-line users and their behavior; the observable capabilities and performance of the interactive computer system; and the characteristics of the human-computer interface. SIG/HCI encourages the development and refinement of on-line interaction models to highlight common features in existing or proposed user interfaces. Major emphasis is on the interface with networks and various on-line information storage and retrieval applications, but other information-processing and display systems are also considered.

Standards and Legislation system concepts ltd

Getting to grips with national and international standards in HCI is more of a black art than a science. Documents reside all across the globe and are poorly indexed and cross-referenced. Standards development can sometimes depend as much on the individual personalities of the people involved as upon technical issues. Experts outside the standardisation process have strong and valuable views, but fail to contribute because the process of standardisation is confusing and bureaucratic. On this page we provide easy access to information on HCI standards.

Usability Standards European Usability Support Centres

Standards related to human-centered design fall into two categories, process-oriented, which specify procedures and processes to be followed, and product-oriented, that specify required attributes of the user interface. Some product oriented standards specify the requirements in terms of performance rather than product attributes. These standards describe the users, tasks, and context of use and assess usability in terms of user performance and satisfaction to be achieved.

Web Based Top

Much of the recent HCI development seems to be geared toward the world wide web and internet related applications. The following section provides a number of links to various papers and documents discussing standards and guidelines for use in web based development projects.

Characteristics of a Great Website
John Sumser (editor)
1996 Electronic Recruiting Index

Chapter excerpted from the 1996 Electronic Recruiting Index. Usability, marketing, authenticity, entertainment value, content, net awareness, and some do's and don'ts in website development.

Five Most Serious Web Design Pitfalls
D. Philip Haine
E Business, 3/1/98.
E. Business

Most web sites are cluttered, confusing and less than helpful. Five broad design errors account for the most common and serious interface issues on today's web sites. Haine helps you find ways to avoid these pitfalls.

Fixing Web-site usability
Lynda Radosevich,
InfoWorld Electric, December 15, 1997.
InfoWorld Electric

More often than not, companies design Web sites with their marketing and business objectives in mind, rather than their customers' needs. Radosevich shows you how to let visitors to your Web site cut through the document maze by having you understand the fundamentals of Web design.

Raising the Bar: 9 Principles for Improving a Business-To-Business Web Site
Laurie Windham and Jon Samsel,
E Business, 7/1/98.
E. Business

Windham and Samsel believe business-to-business Web sites must enable users to perform their jobs better, and productive Web sites must have a depth and breadth of content. Also, a site must hold a viewer’s attention, empower them, and cause them to want to come back. They state nine principles that may improve the effectiveness of your business-to-business Web.

Seven Deadly Web Site Sins (And Why You Must Avoid Them at All Costs)
Jesse Berst,
ZD Net AnchorDesk, January 30, 1998
ZD Net AnchorDesk

You can't have Web success if nobody will visit your site. So Jesse Berst offers you these rules: this list of Web site sins you must never be guilty of committing. This is a good site to read for business who want to design their own sites.

The Industry Standard: Does Your Site Work? Ask a Usability Guru E. Business

Users only care about content and a site's usability is more a function of how it's managed than of how it's designed. Pescovitz points out some classic mistakes to avoid when managing a Web site.

The Navigation and Usability Guide WEBREVIEW.COM

The people at Web Review decided to consult some web design experts. They read Information Architecture for the World Wide Web, Louis Rosenfeld and Peter Morville's book about designing large sites. Then they took an advance look at Jennifer Fleming's upcoming book, Web Navigation: Designing the User Experience. Finally, they linked to the Web itself and checked out Jakob Nielsen's collected usability wisdom from the Alertbox column. After reading several books and web articles, they figured out a set of navigation and usability rules. Designing Web navigation systems can be a complicated task, but Web Review has boiled it down to a simple 12-step program.

The 5 I's of a Good Website
Wally Bock
Bock Information Group, Inc.

Wally Bock believes a good Web site needs to do the following. It should have lots of information. It should allow individuals to use the information when and as they choose. It should make the information and the site as interesting as possible. It should be interactive in a variety of ways. It should be integrated with a company's entire marketing and business plan.

Usable Web: Guidelines Usable Web

This site contains a compilation of navigation and usability guides. There are 28 links contained within this page. The links range from 85 Tips For Web Designers to Yale C/AIM WWW Style Manual.

Usable Web: Web Site Usability: A Designer's Guide E. Business

The authors of this conducted more than 50 usability tests on nine different web sites. This book describes how well (and poorly) some information-rich sites actually work when people use them to find specific answers. Provides guidelines based on actual usability data.

Web-Site Usability Engineering, Part 1
Paul Helinski,
Web Techniques, April 1997.
Web Techniques

Discussion with two experts in computer-interface design about quality and usability, and with specific techniques for engineering usability into your site.

Web-Site Usability Engineering, Part 2
Paul Helinski,
Web Techniques, June 1997.
Web Techniques

Discussion of usability and computer-interface design showing how to test for usability and avoid common pitfalls. http://www.webtechniques.com/features/1997/06/helinski/helinski.shtml

12 Web Page Design Decisions Your Business Will Need to Make
by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson.
Usable Web

Ralph Wilson helps guides business owners through the process of designing a system of Web pages. He hopes that when his clients are finished, they will know a lot more about what goes into Web page design. He also hopes that his clients will use a set of design decisions to guide their own HTML development effort. Ralph Wilson claims that he has gotten thousands started in business website design.

Operating Systems Top

A good deal of how the user interacts with a software application is dependent to some degree on the operating system and language the application is written in. Contained within these sections are specific standards and guidelines for building GUIs in Microsoft Windows, Apple Macintosh and Unix.

Operating Systems : Microsoft Windows Top

The Microsoft Dynamic HTML (DHTML) Specification Microsoft Corporation

Microsoft is a staunch supporter of dynamic web content, through its VB scripting technologies and Active Server Page technologies. These technologies are used by Microsoft and owners of Microsoft products to make their web pages "come alive." This usually implies that they are made a lot more graphical in some fashion, by having widgets or other graphical components added to the page. These also allow the HTML to be dynamically created at runtime by the user doing some action. This link then is important to those of you interested in developing usability from the web via Microsoft technologies.

The Microsoft Windows Guidelines for
Accessible Software Design
Microsoft Corporation

Personal computers are powerful tools that enable people to work, create, and communicate in ways that might otherwise be difficult or impossible. The vision of making computers easier for everyone to use, however, can only be realized if people with disabilities have equal access to personal computing. The information contained in this document represents the current view of Microsoft Corporation on the issues pertaining to accessible software.

The Microsoft Win32 Technical Specification Microsoft Corporation

At the heart of the Microsoft Operating System and application product base is the 32-bit Windows Technical Specifications. These include how applications should run on 32-bit Windows systems, including Windows95, WindowsNT4, and Windows98. Contained within, is everything from how graphical applications should be built, how they should operate, to how disk systems should be accessed and when. There is a lot of material here, so using their search capability is strongly suggested if you are looking for something in particular.

The Microsoft XML Resources and Information Page Microsoft Corporation

Microsoft has made a very clear commitment to building future versions of their applications, as well as current versions XML compliant. XML is a subset of SGML as HTML is, however it lends itself to letting clients interpreting it to utilize dynamic discovery. This allows clients that are working with XML files to dynamically discover at the time they read the file what it is, and how they should go about processing it. Since it is possible and intended to convey graphical information (i.e. widgets, and the like), within the XML context, it is appropriate to start to consider the usability concerns of how graphical interface and related information is structured. Note that Microsoft does not own the XML specification, it is an open standard maintained by the World Wide Web (WWW) consortia.

The Windows Interface Guidelines for
Software Design
Microsoft Corporation

A complete discussion of interface guidelines when using Microsoft Windows including: Fundamentals of Designing User Interaction, Design Specification and Guidelines, and Windows Interface Components. The User Interaction section deals with such topics as: the Windows environment, input basics and other general interaction techniques. The Design Specification section introduces window management, working with OLE objects and user assistance. Finally, the last section presents topics on Windows itself: the menus, controls and toolbars, as well as how to handle secondary windows, etc.

Operating Systems : Apple Macintosh Top

Mac OS 8 Human Interface Guidelines Apple Computer, Inc.

New supplement to Macintosh Human Interface Guidelines will help you take advantage of Mac
OS 8 and beyond.

The Apple Macintosh Graphics and Media Specifications Apple Computer, Inc.

Apple also maintains several other sets of specifications. One we felt was most important besides the User Interface guidelines were the graphics and multimedia specifications, because so many training and related applications are built on these technologies. If you are looking to design and build applications that are to be used on Macintosh machines to train and coach people, you might think to look at these guidelines.

The Apple Macintosh User Interface Specifications Apple Computer, Inc.

Apple computer made history in 1984, when it released the highly acclaimed Apple Macintosh computer line. By far, the strongest part of this whole machine, Operating System, and API is its very consistent and well thought out user interface. Application developers went on to create very high-end robust and rich applications, but it is the User Interface guidelines that Apple released and has since been maintaining, that bind all the applications together. By using these guidelines, the developers all build their applications to a common set of characteristics, which in turn allows users to train in less time, and utilize more capability in an application faster.

Operating Systems : Unix-based Top

The Motif Standard Motif

Motif is the most widely used implementation standard that runs on the Unix platform. This set of guidelines outlines how widgets are to be set up, what they should look like, and how they should be used in applications. This specification is very large, as it was formed by a large consensus. This specification is also very specific and detailed. The Common Desktop Environment (CDE) is based on this specification. Some view implementations of Motif as a "toolkit" from which to build heterogeneous applications.

The X/Open Desktop Offering X/Open

The X/Open group provides a high-level screen and diagram for how the above technologies plug together to form a "desktop" for use on any machine, and in conjunction with any Operating System, and raw graphical hardware. If you are interested in seeing these technologies at a higher level, then please visit this link first.

The X-Windows Standard X-Windows

X-Windows is one of the most important windowing environments ever specified. Not only does it provide all means by which to design and build graphical interfaces on an architecture neutral platform, it also provides the key "remote" client/server processing model for event-based usability. Many have used X11 as a model from which to design distributed graphical applications, since the specification lends itself to this so well.

Gov't and International Top

A good deal of software development standards come out of government projects and initiatives and the International Standards Organization (ISO). HCI is no exception.

Applications Portability Profile - NIST 500-187  

US government standard on interoperability and portability of computer applications. The User Interface Component of the APP is important to those involved in HCI issues. Dealing with the protocols, libraries, and intrinsics of the X Window System, this is a component of the document (FIPS PUB 158-1). Also available in plain text.

Guidance on Usability - ISO 9241-11 (draft)  

This draft standard details the specification and measurement of usability in context. Also available as a Postscript document.

Human Engineering Requirements for Military Systems, Equipment and Facilities - MIL-STD-1472  

U.S. Department of Defense. Military Standard: Human Engineering Design Criteria for Military Systems, Equipment and Facilities. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, March 14, 1989. MIL-STD-1472 is the "bible" for Human Factors engineering on US government contracts. The standard is available in Macintosh hypercard form as MIL-STK-1472D. Additional availability can be found in this README.

ISO 9241, Ergonomic Standards for Office Work with Visual Display Terminals  

This site provides access to all sections of ISO 9241. However, interested readers can only obtain copies (or copies of sections) for a fee. Prices are noted.


The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has very stringent standards for both software and hardware used in a space environment. Much of their research is applicable on earth as well as these links demonstrate.

Human-Computer Interface Guidelines Carlow International Incorporated

This document presents user interface guidelines specifically addressing graphic/object oriented interfaces operating in either a distributed or independent systems environment. Developed for NASA by Carlow International Incorporated.

NASA Software Engineering Standards Link Page (including Usability Engineering) NASA

This is a link to a page that is maintained by NASA that points to all of the standards bodies that they follow when developing software and interfaces. Since they are usually such a good role model in building software and interfaces, we decided to provide this link in the hopes that if our pages don’t directly answer your questions or address your concerns, then these might.

NASA User Interface Implementation Guidelines NASA

NASA, a leader in software engineering practices and standards has published a user interface implementation set of guidelines for use with systems that are critical in nature, such as vehicle systems. The specification is extensive and has a lot of suggestions that would be well used in any user interface implementation.

Credits Top

This page was created by:

This page was last modified on 10/12/1998.