Chairman: Matthias Schneider
What is “Human Factors”?
Human Factors is the application of knowledge about the capacities and limitations of users so that products, systems, services and environments can be made attractive, safe, efficient and easy to use. Human Factors is therefore a key issue in the commercial success of new Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) products and services.
ETSI's Human Factors work
Within ETSI, the Human Factors Technical Committee (TC HF) deals with issues relating to the ease of use and accessibility for all users. ETSI's work in Human Factors (HF) is aimed at empowering industry to deliver successful new ICT products and services.
Many HF-related standards and guides that have been produced by ETSI are in wide use in industry. These include keypad and voice command standards that ensure that most products can be offered in a consistent way to support the majority of languages currently used in Europe – greatly increasing the potential market opportunities inside and beyond Europe. The recommendations in these and other standards were derived from a level of detailed study throughout Europe that assures the appropriateness of the recommendations made. The ability to perform such thorough background study puts ETSI in a unique position, certainly in comparison to most individual companies. As well as their use within the communications market, ETSI's HF-related documents are also used and referenced by a diverse range of other organizations.
In tests, ETSI has managed to prove to designers that some of their products can be so difficult to use that even other knowledgeable designers cannot operate them “out of the box”. By following the guidance provided by ETSI many fundamental failings can be eliminated or reduced, allowing designers to focus on producing unique and appealing products that are easy to use. Following standards does not inhibit industry’s need to differentiate its products at the level of the user interface.
As well as standards and guides aimed directly at product design, ETSI has produced guides that relate to design and testing procedures and some companies have taken these as the design basis of their own processes.
Avoiding tomorrow’s problems
Much of ETSI's ongoing work in the field of Human Factors is aimed at helping industry to pre-empt future problems as the marketplace becomes ever more diverse and fast-moving. One major goal is to identify emerging user interaction technologies, to look for factors that could cause problems for certain users in some situations, and to identify solutions. These considerations should greatly reduce the instances of the costly and reputation-damaging cycle of partial launch failure followed by expensive post -hoc fixes.
Another key area in which ETSI is active is in ensuring that European accessibility requirements related to public procurement of ICT products and services are approached in a way that is effective and embraced by industry. The publication of EN 301 549, jointly with CEN and CENELEC, was a major step in this direction. The European Standard is intended in particular for use by public authorities and other public sector bodies during procurement, to ensure that websites, software, digital devices are more accessible – so they may be used by persons with a wide range of abilities.