Usability is defined in the European standard EN ISO 9241-11:2018 “Ergonomics of human-system interaction. Part 11: Usability: Definitions and concepts”. In the standard, usability is defined in the context of human-system interactions as “the extent to which a system, product or service can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of use”.

In practice, then, usability refers to a certain quality when using some entity. In the context of BIMprove, usability can be applied in situations where people use and interact with the building information model although usability also refers to other systems as well (such as built environments, industrial and consumer related products and technical and personal services).

Regarding the key concepts of the above quoted definition of usability, it is defined in ISO 9241-11:2018(en) that

  • effectiveness refers to accuracy and completeness with which users achieve specified goals (point 3.1.12);
  • efficiency refers to resources used in relation to the results achieved (point 3.1.13);
  • satisfaction refers to the extent to which the user’s physical, cognitive and emotional responses that result from the use of a system, product or service meet the user’s needs and expectations (point 3.1.14).

Usability does not only depend on the quality of the system. The context of use affects usability as well.

Usability is affected by users so that, for instance, a professional user appreciates logical, versatile functionalities and professional, business-like look while a casual user enjoys the few functionalities that are needed for casual use and enjoyable, possibly more colourful appearance. The fact BIMprove system is for professionals eases a bit the development of the system. When the system is used by professionals needing the system for work, it usually means that the system does not need to be entertaining or attract the user. Instead, it is enough that the system is logical and easy-enough to use. Even a complex system can be appropriate from the usage perspective; if it is used frequently, the complexities will be learned by heart. If the system is appropriate for its intended usage, user forgives more easily the difficulties in learning to use of the system. The situation is quite the opposite when a system for casual users are in case as then, immediate pleasure is sought for.

Usability is also affected by the goal, the intended outcome of the user when using the system, and the tasks with which the system is to be used. If the user’s goal and tasks are well known, it is easier to develop a usable system than in the situation when the goal and tasks are not known or when there are diverse types of users with different goals and tasks. In BIMprove, the main features of work of BIMprove users are identified which supports the development of a meaningful system.

The environment in which the system is to be used – technical, physical, social, cultural and organisational – affect usability. For instance, if the system is to be used while moving outside, the usability related requirements are different from the ones for a system, which is to be used indoors and in when not moving. In BIMprove, the physical environment is especially considered.

Finally, resources that need to be used to achieve the specified goals have an effect, too. Resources can be reusable, such as equipment and information.  Expendable resources include available time, human effort, financial resources and materials. Regarding a system, which is used in a mobile phone or tablet that is carried along, like in BIMprove solutions, connectivity belongs to the important expendable resources.

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