CIFter Aims to Create Software Usability Standards

Posted: August 4, 2000 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Jeremy Lasich

Wayne Gray, a faculty member in the Psychology Department and director of the Human Factors and Applied Cognitive Program, recently joined forces with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Motley Fool in an ongoing effort to create the first “gold standard” in computer software usability.

The CIFter (Common Industry Format test, evaluation, and review) project attempts to establish the first standard for software producer companies, such as Microsoft and Oracle, to document software testing before it is released to the public. Currently, each company uses a different format, which results in inconsistent products on the market.

“There are many organizations that purport to do user testing and usability evaluation; however, the validity and reliability of these efforts has not been established,” says Gray. “The goal of CIFter is to create a gold standard for usability.”

Gray’s role in the project included finding a company–Motley Fool–willing to participate in a comparative usability evaluation. Motley Fool, a leader in the dot-com community, will have its’ website evaluated by 6 to 12 professional from a wide range of usability labs in world. Gray also will work with Motley Fool to help define usability questions and with NIST to recruit labs to devote resources to the project.

The final product will be a CD-ROM containing usability standards with a subset of Motley Fool’s website frozen in time. The results will be presented at several professional conferences; Motley Fool representatives will explain which recommendations were most useful, and Gray will discuss what things the evaluators agreed and disagreed on.

“This project highlights the high-tech prowess of George Mason University and Northern Virginia, increases the technological competitiveness of this country, and benefits all users of computer software,” says Gray.

For more information, contact Gray at x31357 or

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