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NCITS Approves Groundbreaking Software Usability Standard

NCITS Approves Groundbreaking Software Usability Standard
Fast-Track Process Took Project from Proposal to Standard in Only 4.5 Months

Washington, DC, November 19, 2001 — At a meeting of the National Committee for Information Technology Standards (NCITS), the Executive Board approved the Common Industry Format (CIF) for Usability Test Reports (NCITS 354). The document standardizes the types of information captured in the software development testing process.

Usability it a key factor in predicting successful deployment of software. The purpose of the CIF standard is to make it easier to incorporate usability into the procurement decision-making process for software. It enables human factors engineers and usability professionals in software development companies to report the methods and results of usability tests in a common format to customers.

"Usability is all too often overlooked when software is evaluated prior to purchase," explained Susan Zevin, Deputy Director of the Information Technology Laboratory at the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST). "Millions of dollars are spent correcting problems that might have been prevented if testing were done with users before releasing a product." The CIF specification, developed through a series of workshops sponsored by NIST, was created by the Industry USability Reporting (IUSR) Project involving 70 representatives from industry, government, and academia.

Using its fast-track process for mature specifications, NCITS completed its work on the document–including a 6-week public review and response to all comments–in 4.5 months.

"Even in the fast moving, market-driven world of technology standards this is an impressive accomplishment," said Rhett Dawson, President of the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), the industry trade group that hosts NCITS. "We received a document from NIST that reflected technical excellence, and the public providing comments clearly agreed that should become a standard."

The benefits of NCITS 354 go beyond cost savings, according to Kate McMillan, Director of the NCITS Secretariat: "Now that the CIF is a national standard for reporting the results of usability testing, the black box of user testing will be open for the first time. Companies that do usability testing will be able to share their results with their customers in a standard way–they will share a common language. The CIF also provides a way of streamlining training of usability professionals since there is only one format to learn instead of one per organization."

The National Committee for Information Technology Standards (NCITS) is the forum of choice for information technology developers, producers and users for the creation and maintenance of formal de jure IT standards. NCITS is accredited by, and operates under rules approved by, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). These rules are designed to ensure that voluntary standards are developed by the consensus of directly and materially affected interests. The NCITS web site is and the address is NCITS Secretariat, Information Technology Industry Council, 1250 Eye St. NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20005.

About NIST
As a non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Technology Administration, NIST develops and promotes measurements, standards, and technology to enhance productivity, facilitate trade, and improve the quality of life. The NIST web site is