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Nice question ... and very topical as I'm right in the middle of making
a heuristic evaluation of the usability of all our software.
There are lots of variations on the theme, and lots of argument about
what the actual features are that make software usable, but the
best definitions that I have found of what usability itself is are
ISO 9126 (1991) Software Engineering Product Quality: A set of
attributes that bear on the effort needed for use,
and on the individual assessment of such use, by a stated or implied
set of users.
ISO 9241-11 (1998) Guidance on Usability: The extent to which a product
can be used by specified users to achieve
specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a
specified context of use.
hope this helps,
Simon North, Technical Writer.
Quintiq Application Software BV
's Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands
"To be stupid, selfish, and have good health are three requirements for
happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost."
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