ISO-9241-14 Ergonomic requirements for office work with visual display terminals (VDTs) - Part 14: Menu dialogues


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This part of ISO 9241 provides conditional recommendations for menus used in user-computer dialogues to accomplish typical office tasks. The recommendations cover menus presented by various techniques including windowing, panels, buttons, fields, etc. These recommendations can be utilized throughout the design process (e.g., as guidance for designers during design, as a basis for heuristic evaluation, as guidance for usability testing).

Interface design depends upon the task, the user, the environment, and the available technology. Consequently, ISO 9241-14 cannot be applied without a knowledge of the design and use context of the interface and it is not intended to be used as a prescriptive set of rules to be applied in their entirety. Rather, it assumes that the designer has proper information available concerning task and user requirements and understands the use of available technology (this may require consultation with a qualified ergonomics professional as well as empirical testing with real users).

Although this is an International Standard, some of the conditional recommendations are based on Latin-based language usage and may not apply, or may need to be modified, for use with a different language. For example, in right-to-left languages those conditional recommendations oriented towards left-to-right reading may need to be modified and adapted. In applying those conditional recommendations that assume a specific language base (e.g., alphabetic ordering of menu options, compound titles), care should be taken concerning the intent of the standard when translation is required to a different language.

The recommendations relate to the three major design components of user interfaces, i.e., dialogue, input, and output.

Dialogue design determines the way in which a user is guided by the system to make inputs and influences the amount of control the user has over the dialogue. The dialogue should be designed to support the user in his/her actual work without the user being bothered by additional work caused by system peculiarities. Menu dialogue design is covered in this part of ISO 9241 in terms of designing the menu structure, providing facilities for menu navigation and defining the selection methods for menu options.

Input design is concerned with how users input information into the system using various input devices. Menu options can be selected by means of one or more input devices such as an alphanumeric keyboard, function keys, cursor keys, pointing devices and voice (other devices are not excluded) depending on the task at hand and dialogue requirements, as well as on individual preferences. ISO 9241-14 provides conditional recommendations for the use of each of the input devices listed above.

Output design is concerned with how data should be presented consistently and perceptibly distinct on the display. ISO 9241-14 provides conditional recommendations for the placement of options and option groups, the structure and syntax for textual, graphic and auditory options and presentation techniques to indicate option accessibility and discrimination.

Providing users with the capability to alter the interface to suit their own needs has become a popular approach to software interface design. This is often a desirable feature of the interface. However, providing users with customization capabilities is not an acceptable substitute for ergonomically designed initial menus (i.e., default menus). It should be noted that customization of the menus may result in deviations from ISO 9241-14. Therefore, customization options also should be evaluated with respect to the recommendations in ISO 9241-14.




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Document Number

ISO 9241-14:1997

Revision Level




Publication Date

June 1, 1997

Committee Number

ISO TC 159/SC 4/WG 5