USABILITY OF THIRD PARTY APPLICATIONS
Scope: This checklist applies to all procurement activities which include provision of a web based
application for BT internal use (hosted on the BT intranet or hosted on a supplier’s site if
exclusively for BT people to use).
To be acceptable
A system must meet criteria 1.1, 1.11, 2.6, 3.1, 3.3 and 5.2 and 80% of all other
criteria in sections 1 – 5.
Section 6 details additional information that can be provided, but these are not
1. System status and messages
Users require informative error messages and clear feedback in order to navigate smoothly. It
should always be clear to them what is the next step, what information they should enter, and what
to do if they get stuck.
1.1 Data entry error messages are If the user has entered information in the form
informative and suggest a that is not in the expected format, they are given
corrective action understandable advice that enables them to
correct the data. e.g. if a user tries to submit a
form without filling out a mandatory field, this is
indicated by an error message telling the user
they need to enter data in the field in question.
This may not apply in some rare security
situations (e.g. passwords)
1.2 System error messages do not If the system encounters an error, the user is
just display a code number and given understandable advice that allows them
technical terminology either to address the issue themselves or
escalate it to technical support. If the message
just shows an incomprehensible code, the user
is left wondering what went wrong.
1.3 The system enables technical staff There is a reporting interface as well as the
to easily monitor and analyse any ability to directly investigate raw log files.
errors that are generated Information includes details of the user and
process concerned, as well as a timestamp.
1.4 The system provides clear If a user performs an action, for example submits
feedback to the user on progress a form, the system informs them if there is going
of system processing activity to be a delay while it processes the information.
(beyond just the progress bar in An example of this would be a pop-up box that
the browser) appears on the screen to let the user know that
they need to wait. Ideally it should also indicate
how long this wait will be.
1.5 Mandatory fields clearly marked Entry boxes marked by an asterisk are
with asterisk commonly recognised as mandatory, whereas if
mandatory boxes are either not marked or
marked with a custom icon the experience
becomes less intuitive.
1.6 Auto-population of data already The user is spared the frustration and wasted
entered or already known by the time of having to re-enter information that the
system system already has stored (e.g. name) or that
the user has already entered.
1.7 All information needed for the user The user should not be forced to jump
to complete tasks is available on backwards and forwards between pages in order
the current page to get all the information they need. E.g. in filling
out a form for annual leave, they can also view
information about how much leave they have left
1.8 Data validation on fields ensures If the user enters inappropriate data (e.g.
that appropriate entries are made numbers in a field that only allows letters), the
by the user system prompts them to correct themselves.
1.9 A clear visual focus indicator As the user moves through a form, they can see
shows the user where the cursor where they are in it e.g. the cursor flashes in a
is text field or a button is highlighted.
1.10 Help is available to the user in a As in Word of Excel, the user can easily access
central help area a central help area to browse through help
topics, and without interrupting the flow of what
they are doing.
1.11 Context-sensitive help is available Short snippets of help are available to the user
to the user at each step of the on the current page, particularly at points where
process people often get stuck or confused. An example
of this would be question mark icons next to
fields, which the user can roll their mouse over to
2. Branding and appearance
The application should be easily configurable to reflect the branding of the organisation.
2.1 There is a consistent look and feel The user is not confused by different appearance
throughout in different parts of the application. This is much
the same as navigating through a website: while
subtle elements such as colour may be used to
make it clear which section you are in, the
overall layout and style remain the same.
2.2 Default font is legible The type of font used, as well as its size and
colour, are easy on the eye rather than being
difficult to read and causing the user strain.
‘Sans serif’ fonts such as Arial and Verdana are
the easiest to read on a computer screen.
2.3 The content of the page appears Unless the screen resolution is locked down
correctly (and with no errors) even centrally, users may well change it to suit their
when the window is resized particular needs and preferences. They may also
use the browser at just half its full size. The
application can cope with this and still present
users with a usable interface.
2.4 The content displays correctly The interface is still usable even if someone has
even when a large font size is chosen to view browser content with a larger text
selected via the browser settings size.
2.5 Text in default colours has enough E.g. text is navy on white, not light grey on dark
contrast to be legible grey.
2.6 Application can easily be A good example of this is in Clarity, where you
configured to change the logos, can use configuration options to change the
colours and images colours and images used in order to create
exactly the interface you want.
2.7 Form fields allow sufficient space It’s frustrating for the user if there isn’t enough
for entries space in an entry box to type in what they need
Default terminology should be user-friendly, consistent, and easily configurable to fit the context of
3.1 Text can be easily changed and Every organisation has its own particular
help and advice tips can be added terminology that is familiar and accepted.
on the initial login screen, at Meaning will differ from company to company,
page/form level, and at field level and even in different countries. It is essential that
text can easily be changed to reflect local
3.2 User-friendly terminology While it is possible to change text, the basic
language the system uses is intuitive and
straightforward. It isn’t necessary to change all
the text just to make it user friendly.
3.3 Terminology on all field labels, See notes for 3.1 above. An example of this not
buttons, titles and navigation is being the case is the default label in Oracle for
easily configurable daily expense allowances. The term used for this
is “per diem”, which is not widely used in the UK
but cannot be changed in the configuration.
3.4 Multilingual entries are easily The application is configurable for different
3.5 Consistency of terminology E.g. if “Submit” is used at the end of a form, this
throughout is used consistently on all forms.
3.6 Related buttons and page The title of a page is the same as the button or
headings should match link used to navigate to it.
Users should be able to navigate intuitively and without getting lost.
4.1 Consistent and logical navigation E.g. if you cancel or go back the application
flow takes you to where you were before
4.2 The system shows the user their E.g. in Oracle, the system shows users with a
progress through task steps visual image that there are four steps in the
current process and that you are currently on
4.3 User can go backwards in the A back button is provided in the application to
process without losing data allow users to go back a step and check or
modify an entry. Without this, the tendency is to
use the browser back button, and data may be
4.4 TAB works in a logical order and The use of TAB in a form to move from one field
reaches all functions or function to the next happens in a logical order.
4.5 ENTER activates the current Once a particular control is highlighted (e.g. a
control button) the user can press ENTER to activate it.
4.7 Experienced users can skip Users can quickly get to the parts of the
repetitive navigation links application they use most frequently.
4.6 Keyboard shortcuts are available These speed up usage of the system and mean
users have the option of using shortcuts if this is
their preferred method.
4.8 Selecting a button or link twice in a Users often double-click a button to activate it. It
row (quickly) does not cause error is important that this doesn’t cause an error.
The following general accessibility guidelines should be met as a baseline. You should add any
requirements from your organisation’s own accessibility policy.
5.1 The application is still usable when The application remains usable when browser
browser accessibility options are accessibility options are selected, such as the
selected removal of page styling. E.g. at BT, when the
style was removed from a Clarity screen.
5.2 The use of assistive technology The application is built in a way that supports
(e.g. a screen reader) is supported assistive technologies - e.g. a screen reader,
which attempts to identify and interpret what is
being displayed on a page, and represent it to
the user with text-to-speech, sound or Braille.
5.3 Colour should be an enhancement E.g. coloured text is not the only means of
rather than the only way to convey denoting a mandatory field (which would not be
certain information accessible to colour-blind users).
5.4 All images should have If a user rolls their mouse over an image, they
informative ALT text are given descriptive text about it (also used by
6. Additional questions/miscellaneous
(these are not part of the checklist pass / fail process)
6.1 Has usability testing been An indicator of how seriously the vendor takes
performed and, if so, what reports usability and the investment they have made in
are available? making their application usable and accessible.
6.2 Does the vendor have a usability Another indicator of how seriously the vendor
group and, if so, when was it takes usability.
6.1 What are the vendor’s While exact performance is difficult to predict
commitments and targets with (given differences of architecture in each
respect to performance? organisation), examples should be given of
expected performance within a number of
6.2 Are any applets required (e.g. java, This is about checking whether the application
xml) that must be installed will run in the browser without additional
separately? components having to be installed on the user’s
computer. If additional components are required,
this will add to the time and cost of maintenance.
6.3 What browsers and browser This is a check to see that the application will
versions are supported? work fully in any browsers/versions used by
6.4 Are any custom browser settings If custom browser settings are required to run
required? the application, this may affect other applications
already running through the browser.
6.5 Can the application be configured Any of the configurations applied to the
in a supportable way, or will application should not need to be re-applied at
changes have to be re-applied upgrade.
after every upgrade?
6.6 Does the application pass W3C Another indicator of how serious the vendor is
validation? about the accessibility of the application. This
can be checked using the W3C Validator (see
appendix C, ‘Useful resources’).
6.7 How is accessibility testing done? The vendor should provide detailed reports on
What guidelines (e.g. Section 508, how their product meets accessibility standards.
WCAG) does the application