Behaviour & Information Technology 20, 5 (Sept-Oct 2001), 367-376.
HCIL-2001-17, CS-TR-4276, UMIACS-TR-2001-56, ISR-TR-2001-17
The desire to make computing available to broader populations has historically been a motivation for research and innovation that led to new breakthroughs in usability. Menus, graphical user interfaces, and the World-Wide Web, are examples of innovative technological solutions that have arisen out of the challenge of bringing larger and more diverse groups of users into the world of computing. Universal usability is the latest such challenge: In order to build systems that are universally usable, designers must account for technology variety, user diversity, and gaps in user knowledge. These issues are particularly challenging and important in the context of increasing the usability of the World-Wide-Web. To raise awareness, we urge web designers to provide universal usability statements, to provide users with useful information about the usability of their sites. These statements can inform users and thereby reduce frustration and confusion. Further steps toward universal usability might be achieved through research aimed at developing tools that would encourage or promote usability. We close with five proposals for future research.