ISO 9241 - The standard for UX design

Do you develop digital products? Are you wondering whether and to what extent the ISO 9241 standard affects you? We explain the standard and provide instructions on how to implement it. We are happy to support you. You can also download our checklist to get started.

Standardisation for the UX area

When I think of standardization, the first thing that comes to mind is electrical appliances and other household appliances. By complying with and certifying the relevant standards, I can assume that these appliances can be used and installed without any concerns. Without them flying around my head, melting, starting to burn or the like (hopefully!).

In short: the appliances have been tested and certified accordingly, only then is it possible to bring these appliances onto the market at all. Our article is also about standardization, but not about refrigerators or grills, but about standardization in the UX area. Now you might ask yourself: how can you standardize such an undefined, constantly changing and evolving area? After all, it's not a finished product that you test, put a standard stamp on and that's that.

No, there is no international standard solely for UX design, but there is the huge ISO 9241 standard, whose scope, depth and of course wonderfully bureaucratic writing style (can you call it style?) probably didn't just make me gulp. And yes: it's about guidelines for human-computer interaction, including the user experience.

While ISO 9241 is not specifically designed for UX designers, it covers related topics such as user-centered design, usability issues and other principles of human-machine interactions. The goals of ISO 9241 go hand in hand with those of UX designers, namely to develop useful, usable and accessible products. The principles are absolutely context-, technology- and user-unspecific!

With the checklist you can...

● Check the current status of your project
● See the most important requirements at a glance
● Introduce or improve the UX structure and user-centered processes as you tackle the points

UX Checklist for ISO 9241

Who is ISO 9241 intended for?

Are you a UX designer or product owner with UX decision-making power and think what you do is complex? So does the standard, but it's worth taking a look at it if you develop digital products, regardless of whether you are more operationally active or more on the process/management side. At best, your product should meet the requirements of the ISO 9241 standard and reflect its principles.

After all, the standard was developed by many experts from 160 (!) national standards organizations in the UX field, by experts for experts and all those who are on their way there, so to speak. The work is also open to comments and remarks and is constantly updated. For example, the latest version of ISO 9241-110 (probably the most important standard for UX professionals alongside ISO 9241-210) was only published in March 2020.

However, no UX designer or product owner is (yet) obliged to follow this standard or act in accordance with its principles. It is actually more of a guideline than a strict set of rules. No one is told how to do UX design or develop user interfaces; the standard is intended to guide and systematize rather than strictly direct. Every UXer can decide for themselves how they use and implement the resources.
We will explain a little later what the reality looks like and why the B2B sector in particular will soon be relying on the ISO 9241 standard.

What are the benefits of ISO 9241?

When you get to grips with the standard, you can immediately make the knowledge of industry experts your own and adopt many best practices that you may not have been aware of yourself. It's a solid methodology, you could say a library.

Working with ISO 9241 increases the credibility and level of professionalism of a UX designer or product developer. After all, it validates the work according to many best practices and processes used by professionals.

Design has a reputation for being subjective and not based on scientific findings. At interfacewerk, we always pursue a scientifically sound and knowledge-based approach, without focusing on pure gut feeling or "beautiful" and purely aesthetic design. Referring to an international standard also enhances the scientific view of UX design. The standard helps us to always have UX processes and important principles at hand and not have to reinvent the wheel for every project.

If you comply with ISO 9241 and use the standards there, you are definitely in a good position. You can also communicate this to the outside world. On the one hand, compliance with the standard is definitely useful for your own work and on the other hand, it supports your external image and is a quality feature of software.

‍Software in the B2B sector in particularnow relies on the ISO 9241 standard to confirm its basic suitability. We are also convinced that the standard will receive much more attention in the future and will become a basic requirement for all (B2B) software. The standard will become an industry standard, given the current legal situation. Therefore, it is best to deal with it at an early stage, i.e. now.

Which parts are UX-relevant?

When you start to deal with this standard, you quickly realize that if you want to meet parts of the standard, you face a challenge. But the reputation that precedes the standard is not fair. Yes, ISO 9241 is complex, but you should keep in mind:

1. Not all parts relate to the user experience of digital systems and are therefore actually relevant for UX designers or product developers.

2. The content is brilliant! Expertise, best practices, guidelines for action, (UX) processes, UI design guidelines in one central and concentrated place.

Each organization must decide for itself which parts are crucial for its own work. To shorten this process a little, almost every chapter offers a checklist that gives a small foretaste. Now it would be very easy to dismiss the usefulness of the standard.

Standards have a reputation for not really being user-friendly. They are either too specific or too general, too restrictive or lost in theory without examples and anything concrete to illustrate. However, we believe that ISO 9241 is very useful.

‍Whichparts of the standard are useful for the UX field?

‍These
parts are particularly important for UX designers. General principles:

●DIN EN ISO 9241-110: Principles for the ergonomic design of interactive systems
●DIN EN ISO 9241-210: Process for designing usable interactive systems (the focus is indeed on usability, which is a priority for all UX designers and product managers)
●DIN EN ISO 9241-171: Guidelines for accessibility & accessibility of software for everyone

More in-depth UX/UI topics:
●ISO 9241-11: Methods for usability testing
●ISO 9241-161: Guidance on visual user interface (UI) elements

In our view, these are the practical chapters for the UX area. However, depending on the project and the focus of the work, other parts may also be added. As mentioned, the standard is a kind of library in which you may have to browse a little.

As with any standard, it is not freely available for download, but is offered by the official standards publisher . However, the standard is also available for inspection at so-called Standards Info Points, which are distributed throughout Germany. A list of the points can be found here. Complete tables of contents of all standards can be found here.

Accessibility according to ISO 9241-171

The topic of accessibility is more present today than ever before. And this topic is of course also part of ISO 9241, namely ISO 9241-171, which relates specifically to the accessibility of software user interfaces. This standard provides guidelines and requirements for the design of user interfaces to ensure that they are accessible to people with different abilities. Practical: Annex C of ISO 9241-171 contains a checklist that you can work through to achieve accessibility. Accessibility is already a legal requirement for software, whether in private or public applications.

‍Becausethe corresponding ordinance from the German government will come into force in 2025. It therefore makes sense to address the issue of accessibility when developing or relaunching a digital tool.

The relationship between ISO 9241-171 EN 301 549, BITV 2.0 & WCAG 2.1

1. EN 301 549

EN 301 549 is a European standard for the accessibility of information technology and communication services (ICT). It specifies accessibility requirements for ICT products and services, taking into account various aspects such as software, websites, multimedia products and more.

3. WCAG 2.1 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines)

WCAG 2.1 is an international guideline developed by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). It provides clear guidelines for achieving accessibility of web content. Many countries and organizations refer to WCAG to ensure that their digital products and services are accessible to people with different abilities.

2. BITV 2.0 (accessibility)

The BITV 2.0 relates to the accessibility of information technology and includes requirements for the design of websites and other digital services. The BITV is the German national implementation of the WCAG. This means that the BITV takes up the WCAG guidelines and defines specific requirements and regulations for the implementation of accessibility in Germany.

Conformity with ISO 9241-171

In terms of the relationship between these standards, it is often the case that national regulations and standards, such as EN 301 549 and BITV 2.0, are based on international guidelines such as WCAG to ensure consistent and far-reaching accessibility. The ISO standards can also serve as a reference for the software aspects of accessibility, and many organizations use multiple standards together to ensure that their digital products are as accessible as possible. Although they have different focuses, organizations dealing with accessibility can use all of the above standards as a reference to ensure that their digital products are accessible in terms of both software user interfaces and web content . If your product has already achieved compliance with EN 301 549 and BITV 2.0, compliance with ISO 9241-171 is a simple next step. We can advise you as an independent auditor and work with you to achieve conformity.

Services

Your conformity with ISO 9241

We support you on your path to conformity with parts of ISO 9241. In the first meeting, we find out what your status quo looks like and what your specific challenges are.

You are already EN 301 549/WCAG 2.1 compliant

Confirmation of conformity

Independent confirmation of
ISO 9241-171 conformity (accessibility)

Check with the ISO 9241-171 checklist

Preparation of tasks for your team in your ticket system

Bi-weekly meetings to clarify all open questions

Conformity report as independent confirmation of conformity

You are ready for formal certification as soon as it is published

€ 10 000 (plus VAT)

You are not yet EN 301 549/WCAG 2.1 compliant

Compliance roadmap

Roadmap to conformity according to
ISO 9241-110, -210, -161, -171

Consisting of two workshops (status quo/analysis & roadmapping)

We analyze which conformity you need (ISO & sub-parts, BITV 2.0, EN 301 549)

We provide you with a concrete roadmap with the steps according to the required norms/standards

Compliant web application after performing the steps

€ 5 000 (plus VAT)

We bring clarity

Your ISO 9241 conformity partner

This is how it continues

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Gain clarity about which parts of the ISO 9241 standard and which other standards in the UX field are relevant for you.

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Download our UX checklist according to ISO 9241 and check the status of your project!

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