In Cyclades project task 2.7 the aim is to discuss how usability can be evaluated by regulators and how usability requirements can be provided that enable the equipment and system designer to develop products with better usability and to allow the regulator to measure this usability.

Today, usability evaluation by the regulator is either based on mandatory requirements addressing usability aspects, or based on non-mandatory recommendations. The evaluation is characterised as a verification of compliance to these requirements by the regulator.

These requirements are not explicitly addressing usability in the sense of ensuring effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction when using the equipment. Usability is contained in the requirements more implicitly, by providing requirements addressing aspects of usability, mainly ergonomics and human-machine interface aspects, but also some aspects relating to human-centred design (HCD).

For several shipborne equipment, especially equipment implemented on ships’ bridges, performance standards exist. Some of them contain methods for equipment tests and also specifications of the test results. However, these requirements predominantly address technical performance and have fewer focus on usability aspects.

Many of the requirements that address usability aspects are formulated in a general and unspecific manner (e.g. equipment shall be “easy to use”, designed for “ease of understanding”). They leave room for interpretation by both the designer and regulator. A consistent interpretation of these requirements requires that both designers and regulators have a profound knowledge of usability and human centred design Human Centred Design (HCD) on both sides, which, in most cases, is not adequately available.

By applying the existing requirements to the design of an equipment or system, usability is actually not measured in a quantitative way. Usability, or better, usability aspects as far as contained in the requirements are evaluated in a more qualitative manner.

The motivation of improving the above described current situation is to push for a more consistent and holistic consideration of usability in the design of equipment and systems and to enable regulators to evaluate usability more consistently and to provide better information regarding what aspects are influencing the usability and therefore need to be considered in design and evaluation.

Two general approaches for improving the situation have been identified.

The first approach is aimed at improving the existing requirements in the current international regulatory instruments by clarifying what they mean. Currently several of these requirements are formulated generically and they are not specific, leaving much room for interpretation. This may be done by amending the relevant instruments and providing interpretations for each of the requirements. However, it is noted that the current situation with the existing requirements may change if specific user centered design knowledge and competences are demanded to be present and participating in the design team and process, and if evidence of usability is demanded.

The other approach is aimed at establishing a practice of more holistically considering usability during the design of equipment and systems. This practice should be based on the principles of a human centered design (HCD) process. In accordance with these principles, the evaluation of usability should also have a stronger focus on the users, their tasks and their goals when they use the equipment and/or system, as well as the context of use, the working environment and the conditions under which the user carries out the tasks with the equipment. The usability evaluation would focus on to what extent and/or quality usability aspects have been considered during design and also on the performed usability testing carried out for the equipment.

The approach differs from the first one mainly in the holistic nature of the design and evaluation process. It distinguishes four stages of a HCD process, i.e. pre-design, concept design, detailed design and evaluation. In each stages of this process dedicated activities need to be carried out in order to achieve equipment design with high usability. The activities are documented in deliverables, which are the basis for the regulator to carry out the usability evaluation.

The evaluation shall be carried out by applying evaluation criteria on how poor or how well the activities have been carried out and/or on how poor or how well relevant usability aspects have been considered in equipment design. During the development of the approach it is further investigated if it is possible to allocate a scoring to the evaluation, meaning that the more and better usability aspects have been considered in the design, the higher the usability score or level in the evaluation will be.

The chosen usability approach needs further development in order to be ready for application. This refers to guidance on the activities to be carried out during the process stages, the expected content of the related deliverables and the evaluation criteria forming the basis for a scoring.

The approach may create the basis for a voluntary certification scheme for equipment usability. Hence it could help in pushing for the application of human-centred design and usability aspects in the maritime industry. By demonstration that equipment has achieved and been certified a certain usability score or level, this equipment may have a competitive advantage on the market. principles of a human centered design (HCD) process. In accordance with these principles, the evaluation of usability should also have a stronger focus on the users, their tasks and their goals when they use the equipment and/or system, as well as the context of use, the working environment and the conditions under which the user carries out the tasks with the equipment. The usability evaluation would focus on to what extent and/or quality usability aspects have been considered during design and also on the performed usability testing carried out for the equipment.

The approach differs from the first one mainly in the holistic nature of the design and evaluation process. It distinguishes four stages of a HCD process, i.e. pre-design, concept design, detailed design and evaluation. In each stages of this process dedicated activities need to be carried out in order to achieve equipment design with high usability. The activities are documented in deliverables, which are the basis for the regulator to carry out the usability evaluation.

The evaluation shall be carried out by applying evaluation criteria on how poor or how well the activities have been carried out and/or on how poor or how well relevant usability aspects have been considered in equipment design. During the development of the approach it is further investigated if it is possible to allocate a scoring to the evaluation, meaning that the more and better usability aspects have been considered in the design, the higher the usability score or level in the evaluation will be.

The chosen usability approach needs further development in order to be ready for application. This refers to guidance on the activities to be carried out during the process stages, the expected content of the related deliverables and the evaluation criteria forming the basis for a scoring.

The approach may create the basis for a voluntary certification scheme for equipment usability. Hence it could help in pushing for the application of human-centred design and usability aspects in the maritime industry. By demonstration that equipment has achieved and been certified a certain usability score or level, this equipment may have a competitive advantage on the market.