The area of usability concerns how easy it is for a person to use a specific tool to assist them to achieve a certain goal. Usability is very important in the realm of human factors as it relates to the human-machine interaction which is present in day-to-day life and can have dramatic effects, particularly in aviation.

Usability is as simple as how easy it is for a person to turn on a television with using a remote control.

Basic Requirements of Usability

The object or tool must be:

  • Easy to learn how to use
  • Efficient as using it should allow the user to complete particular tasks quicker
  • Enjoyable to use

Basically, for a tool or piece of equipment to have a high level of usability, it must be designed initially with the human user as the central focus. This is known as User-centred design. There are five main questions that need to be answered in relation to usability:

  • Who is the intended user?
  • What is the user’s background and knowledge?
  • What does the user want from this tool?
  • What does the tool have to do itself?
  • What environment will the tool be used in?

What are the Benefits of Usability?

  • Increased user efficiency resulting in increased productivity = increased revenue
  • With a well-designed tool with high usability, there will be reduced training costs for users also.

Usability versus Ergonomics

Usability and ergonomics are very similar. Usability is thought to be within the software specialisation section of the overall ergonomic topic.

How to Assess Usability

Usability can be assessed through three ways; inspection, testing and inquiry. Each can very in effectiveness and efficiency.


  • A select group consisting of basic users, the product designers and usability specialists can inspect each facet of the tool or equipment, raising any potential issues involving usability.


  • A sample group of users can use the tool or equipment with a researcher (either present or remote) viewing the operation to pick up on any potential usability issues. If the researcher is present, users can raise any usability issues straight away with the researcher.


  • Users can be interviewed. This can be very useful to determine usability as in-depth information can be attained from those interviewed. However interviewing can be time consuming so is not necessarily efficient.
  • Users could be surveyed. One effective yet efficient way to assess the usability of a particular piece of equipment or system is to use Brooke’s System Usability Scale.

Application in Aviation

It is crucial that the tools and equipment that are used in aviation have a high level of usability. Within the cockpit, tools such as Electronic Flight Bags (EFB) or radar within air traffic control towers must be able to be used effectively and efficiently by the user. This is not just down to training, but the actual design of the tool to be ‘user-friendly’.

High usability of tools and equipment in aviation will:

  • Decrease workload demand on users such as pilots, air traffic controllers
  • Increase level of safety
  • Increase user productivity leading to greater revenues
1. Brooke, J. (1996). SUS – A quick and dirty usability scale. Retrieved September 22, 2010 from
2. Nielsen, J. (n.d.). Usability 101: Introduction to usability. Retrieved September 22, 2010 from
3. Usability Professionals’ Association. (n.d.). Resources: Usability in the real world. Retrieved September 22, 2010, from
4. Wikipedia. (2010a). Comparison of usability evaluation methods. Retrieved September 23, 2010, from
5. Wikipedia. (2010b). Usability. Retrieved September 22, 2010 from

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