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Visualization and Usability Group

The Visualization and Usability Group performs research to develop user-centered measurement and evaluation methods, guidelines, and standards by applying human factors, cognitive science, user-centered design, and usability principles to improve human system interaction.

Projects / Programs

Usability and Public Safety Communications Research – The public safety community is undergoing a transition in communication capabilities. The goal is to develop a high-speed backbone, Nationwide Public Safety Broadband Network (NPSBN) to enable law enforcement officers, fire fighters, and paramedics to send data, images, video, and location information in real-time. 

The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Public Safety Communication Research (PSCR) program is leading a coordinated, multidisciplinary research effort to facilitate the transition from existing disparate Land Mobile Radio (LMF) networks to a nationwide Long Term Evolution(LTE) broadband Network. PSCR has selected the user interface as an important R&D opportunity area given the demonstrated high leveragability, feasibility, impact, and return on investment to the public safety community. User interfaces, human-computer interaction (HCI) and usability are critical components of the adoption and success of this effort.


Usable Security and Privacy -- This work is part of the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (CNCI) Research and Development effort. Our goal is to provide guidance for policymakers, system engineers and security professionals so that they can make better decisions that enhance the usability of cybersecurity in their organizations. Ideally, these decisions should: (1) Have a basis in real empirical data, (2) Create solutions that are secure in practice, not just in theory, and (3) Take user needs and behavior into account.

  • De-Identification -- De-identification is a way for organizations to remove personal information from data that they collect, use, archive, and share with other organizations. 
  • Usable Privacy Lecture Series -- To better understand how privacy is changing, we have developed an invited lecture series to explore various aspects of privacy as it relates to the digital world from the user's perspective.
  • Publications

Health Information Technology and Electronic Health Record Usability -- The NIST Health IT Usability initiative is focused on establishing a framework that defines and assesses health IT safety-related usability. The research effort is being conducted in collaboration with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and other government agencies. Our goal is to create a detailed specification of an objective, repeatable procedure for measuring and evaluating the usability of health IT systems and guide industry in applying usability engineering best practices. The outcome of this research will inform the development of standards and evaluation methods for HIT safety-related usability.

Usability for Biometric Systems -- This research focuses on improving the usability of  critical biometrics systems that are being integrated into many areas of government and public life.

Usability Standards -- We participate on the ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 7 and ISO/TC 159/SC 4 as the WG28 Joint Working Group, US delegation co-convener, to develop standards for usability documentation. This family of standards provide a definition of the type and scope of formats and the high level structure to be used for documenting required usability information and the results of usability evaluation. These standards define the content of the context of use, user needs, user requirements , user interaction specification, user interface specification, user report format, and field data report. 

Voting System Usability and Accessibility -- The 2002 Help America Vote Act gave NIST a key role in helping to realize nationwide improvements in voting systems. NIST performs research that examines the role of human factors in the design and application of next generation voting systems, including assistive technologies for individuals, in order to develop usability and accessibility requirements and test methods for those requirements. This research assists the Election Assistance Commission in the development of voting system standards and guidance.

Cloud Usability Framework -- The goal of this work is to provide a framework that encompasses multiple characteristics for the evaluation of the cloud user experience.  

Shape Analysis Research Project (SHARP) -- The goals of the SHARP project are to investigate 3D shape-based retrieval and to apply statistical shape analysis to address a number of scientific research problems.  We have developed different 3D shape retrieval benchmarks to evaluate retrieval algorithms. The benchmarks cover different aspects and tasks of 3D shape retrieval, for example: generic; non-rigid, range data (partial), sketch-based 3D retrieval; salient point detection; classification; and recognition in cluttered scenes.


Safety of Building Occupants Project Task 2 -- This is a collaboration with the Engineering Lab.  Data related to human behavior during fires is being collected, via survey and interviews, and analyzed to determine how mobility impaired individuals evacuate multi-story buildings during emergencies and the role their personal risk perception plays in their decisions/actions such as their concerns about using elevators during these evacuations.  Data is also being gathered via focus groups with emergency responders and people with disabilities on evacuation procedures for their elevator usage. The goal is  guidance for designers and building managers about the concerns of individuals with mobility impairments and how to improve elevator design and usage during emergencies.