That’s impressive! But hey…can people actually use it?

When it comes to software and technology, the systems within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are vast and complex (we’re talking about airport screening and imaging systems to border security). It’s critical that people can work comfortably within these systems, as mistakes can be fatal. So DHS engineers are responsible for ensuring the systems are user-friendly, lowering any opportunity for error. Making that job easier is where we came in. Together with Alion Science and Technology, TiER1 researched the development of a prototype for a framework and common vocabulary that would help the engineers boost system usability. Because the more usable these freedom-protecting systems are, the safer the country will be.

Usability Evaluation Tool

Project Details

Proposal Title:
A-TAUS: Automated Tool for Assessing Usability in Systems
Department of Homeland Security
Contract Number:
Start Date:

A-TAUS, a joint research project between TiER1 and Alion Science and Technology, was undertaken to develop a prototype for an organizing framework and standard usability vocabulary to organize and guide usability problem analysis, documentation, reporting, and post-testing usability development activities.

How we did it

The solution was a web-based tool that provided different levels of user support. This served as a knowledge warehouse and associated infrastructure that provided a single, integrated resource for usability evaluation, reporting, and tracking. The foundation was a research-based organizing framework for reliably categorizing usability problem types that resulted from usability testing. We also integrated a suite of usability engineering support tools for acquiring and logging usability evaluation data; analyzing, documenting, and reporting usability problems; and managing the resolution of these problems.

Another critical component to A-TAUS is a repository of specific, principle-based guidelines for user-interaction design, which can be used across the system design lifecycle. This simplifies the process of finding appropriate usability guidelines, interpreting them in terms of a specific design situation, and applying them appropriately to determine a design solution. A-TAUS creates a system to allow engineers to easily apply guidelines to specific usability-design situations. This platform for knowledge management and issue tracking in a central system provides an opportunity for system usability analysis and improvement across a spectrum of complex organizational structures.