The Common Industry Format (CIF) was approved on December 12, 2001 as an ANSII standard (ANSI/NCITS-354-2001). The CIF is a deliverable from the Industry USability Reporting (IUSR) Project begun in 1997, facilitated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (www.nist.gov/iusr
). The IUSR group includes representation from prominent suppliers of software, representatives from large consumer organizations, usability consultants, and academics. The goal was to raise the visibility of software usability so that it could be used as a factor when companies are making procurement decisions. The group decided to concentrate its efforts on developing a common usability reporting format for sharing usability data with consumer organizations and validating the format by pilot trials. The resulting CIF does not specify what needs to be tested but details what should be reported about a summative usability evaluation. This information includes the tasks used in the evaluation, the testing environment including hardware, software, and evaluation protocols, the results of the evaluation, the analysis techniques used in determining the results, and the data collection mechanisms. The CIF is meant to be generated and interpreted by usability professionals. It allows consumers to determine if the usability testing done by the software supplier reflects their target users, tasks, and context. Consumer companies can then use this information to determine how the usability of this product will affect their bottom line. The IUSR group is currently conducting pilot studies in which software suppliers are using the CIF to convey usability information to consumers. Consumer organizations are collecting data to benchmark total cost of ownership of individual software applications and using this data to predict the cost/benefits of acquiring new versions of the software based on the usability metrics. NIST continues to facilitate this effort and will be collecting and distributing the process and metrics that the consumer companies find useful. The IUSR group is considering future expansions to the CIF. Extensions currently under consideration include: reporting of Web usability studies, reporting of hardware usability, communicating usability requirements, and accessibility reporting. Other participants are using the CIF as a reporting format for teaching usability and as a basis for comparing different usability testing methods.