Workshop on Software Usability

THURSDAY 8 NOVEMBER 2001, 14:45-18:00

Organisers: N. Avouris (University of Patras, and S. Retalis (Universtiy of Cyprus,


The workshop objective is to draw the attention of the research community and industry in the area of usability engineering. Usability engineering covers tools and techniques that lead to usable software, i.e. software that is designed with consideration of the tasks, users and context of use. In particular this workshop will be an opportunity to present the results of the Network of Excellence on Software Usability  (, funded by the Greek Secretariat for Research and Technology (GSRT). The main purpose of this network is to enhance co-operation and sharing of experience and practice of its members in the area of software usability. The Network is active since the beginning of 2000 and the activities planned until the end of 2001. Participants are most major Greek Universities and some of the largest software industries in the country: the University of Patras (co-ordinator), National Technical University of Athens, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, University of Ioannina, University of Athens, University of the Aegean, Computer Technology Institute (CTI), Institute of Computer Science (ICS) of the Foundation for Research and Technology, Sunsoft Ltd, Opentec Ltd, DIS-Computer logic S.A., Knowledge S.A.

Workshop outline (also in pdf format)

1st part. Chairperson: N. Avouris, Univ. of Patras
The first part of the workshop introduces the field of software usability and investigates its relationship with software engineering, quality standards and human-computer interaction.
This paper attempts an introduction in the field through two complementary perspectives, the normative and the empirical one. The first perspectives concerns definition of the term through various international standards and norms (ISO 9126, 9241 etc.), while the second concerns the established practice of the field in relation to software usability evaluation techniques. Finally an example of application of heuristicevaluation experiment is briefly introduced
This paper presents usability perspective through the most frequently used models of software quality, i.e. FCM, CSQ and ISO 9126. Furthermore, it discuses the requirements, in terms of usability, in ISO 9001 quality assurance international standard (using the ISO 9000-3 guidelines for software as well), in Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards and in Capability Maturity Model. The aim of the paper is to position usability in the overall framework of software quality and to underline the importance of usability into software quality models and standards.
This paper describes a structured approach for evaluation of software usability. This evaluation approach that is based on decision support methods, has been proposed in other software engineering areas but not extensively used for usability engineering. Some typical usability evaluation problem situations are described and their most important aspects are outlined in the paper: the evaluation context (target, scope, actors), the type of the evaluation, the definition and measurement of the usability attributes, the definition of the preferences of the evaluator and the preference aggregation procedure.
This paper concentrates on evaluation of learning environments and the appropriateness of the established usability techniques in the particularly difficult case of educational software.
2nd part. Chairperson: S. Retalis, University of Cyprus
The second part of the workshop includes examples of interface design of complex applications, in which the techniques and the tools introduced in the previous section are applied.
This paper  suggests a heuristic approach for the evaluation of web-sites. The paper presents an experiment through which heuristic evaluation was adapted for web-based applications. Special emphasis is provided in the training of the evaluators, attempting to answer the question if their training has an effect on the evaluation itself. The results from the presented study confirm that adapted heuristic evaluation is applicable to web applications and that the prior evaluators' expertise is of great importance, while it was proven that it is possible to augment, under conditions, this expertise in a short way, in order to increase effectiveness of the evaluation process. 
This paper is also concerned with usability evaluation of a web application, i.e. a web-based Modern Greek online course.  A set of user-cantered evaluation methods have been used in this case.  In the paper, an analysis of the design methodology employed in this specific case study is provided and then examples of how valuable usability information can be extracted from different user-centre evaluation methods is presented. Conclusions, related to the analysis of the information obtained through the different evaluation methods and about the usability of the course, are also provided in the paper.
In this paper, a stepwise evaluation study is presented applied in evaluation of educational software. This approach includes a specific summative evaluation method, involving specially developed pre-test and post-test questionnaires, which provide data for both quantitative and qualitative analysis. The focus of this evaluation is on the learning effectiveness of the course and its instructional model as well as the identification of extensions and revisions needed to be made.
This paper  concerns the design of a speech and natural language understanding system, i.e. a generic platform for the development of natural and multi-modal interactive interfaces to a wide area of databases employed by information service providers. The presented platform utilizes generic dialogue components easily adaptable to new services and languages. Generation of multilingual and multimodal interfaces is then achieved by incorporating the lexical and semantic relations of the database contents, thus reducing the development time and facilitating the system's maintenance and transportability to different applications and languages. >
This paper describes the design of a distributed web-based multi-agent application that supports sharing of personal document collections of the members of a scientific group. The paper focuses on the system architecture and technology applied, functionality and especially typical patterns of use. Issues of control, task allocation, transparency and privacy protection are discussed with reference to interaction design of the system. The usability factors defining these last two innovative environments need to be redefined and are a matter of discussion in the frame of the workshop.