Usability and Users’ Health Issues in Systems Development — Attitudes and Perspectives

  • Åsa Cajander
  • Inger Boivie
  • Jan Gulliksen
Part of the Human-Computer Interaction Series book series (HCIS)


Poor usability and hence a stressful work situation is still a severe problem in computer-supported work, despite efforts to increase the focus on these issues. Consequently, Sweden has a high level of sick rates, particularly in the civil service sector, and some problems relating to inadequate IT systems with poor usability. In this chapter, we aim at understanding attitudes about and practices for integrating usability and users’ health issues in systems development. Quality in value—i.e. users’ well-being, productivity, and user satisfaction—is shaped by attitudes and perspectives underpinning discourse in systems development. These attitudes and perspectives are embedded in the methods, models, and representations used in systems development, as well as in discourse and action. In our qualitative study, data was collected through semistructured interviews with 127 informants, and in a case study of an ongoing project in one organization. During analysis of data, we identified problems with attitudes and perspectives about users and their work, such as the strong focus on automation, efficiency, and surveillance of work, which shaped the development of new technology and ultimately shapes the work situation of the user. Furthermore, we identified that the work of civil servants was frequently discussed in terms of simple steps and procedures that can be predefined and automated in accordance with clearly defined rules and regulations. Finally, we suggest user-centered design and field studies to address the problems and to improve the understanding of the users’ needs and work practices in development projects.


System Development Civil Servant Work Practice Work Situation User Representative 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aarås, A., Horgen, G., & Ro, O. (2000). Work with the visual display unit: Health consequences. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, 12, 107–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. åborg, C., & Billing, A. (2003). Health effects of ‘the Paperless Office’ – evaluations of the introduction of electronic document handling systems. Behaviour & Information Technology, 22, 389–396.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. åborg, C., 2001, Electronic document handling – a longitudinal study on the effects on work environment and health. In Sandsjö, L., & Kadefors, R. (Eds.), Prevention of muscle disorders in computer users: scientific basis and recommendations (pp. 245–250). The 2nd Procid Symposium.Google Scholar
  4. åborg, C., Sandblad, B., Gulliksen, J., & Lif, M. (2003). Integrating work environment consideration into usability evaluation methods – the ADA approach. Interacting with Computers, 15, 453–471.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Aronsson, G., Dallner, M., & åborg, C. (1994). Winners and losers from computerisation. A study of the psychosocial work conditions and health of Swedish state employees. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, 6, 17–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Beath, C.M. & Orlikowski, W.J. (1994). The contradictory structure of systems development methodologies: deconstructing the IS-user relationship in information engineering. Information Systems Research, 5, 350–377.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bergkvist, U. (1993). Health problems during work with visual display terminals. Arbete och Hälsa 1993:28. Stockholm, Sweden: Arbetslivsinstitutet.Google Scholar
  8. Beyer, H. & Holtzblatt, K. (1998). Contextual design – Defining customer-centered systems. San Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann.Google Scholar
  9. Boivie, I. (2003). Usability and usability and users’ health issues in systems development. Licentiate Theses. Uppsala, Sweden: Uppsala University.Google Scholar
  10. Boivie, I. (2005). A fine balance – Addressing usability and users’ needs in the development of IT systems for the workplace. Ph.D. dissertation. Uppsala, Sweden: Acta Universitatis Uppsaliensis.Google Scholar
  11. Boivie, I., Åborg, C., Persson, J. & Löfberg, M., (2003). Why usability gets lost or usability in in-house software development. Interacting with Computers, 15, 623–639.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Boivie, I., Blomkvist, S., Persson, J., & Åborg, C., (2003). Addressing users’ health issues in software development – an exploratory study. Behaviour & Information Technology, 22, 411–420.Google Scholar
  13. Boivie, I., Gulliksen, J., & Göransson, B. (2006). The lonesome cowboy – A study of the usability designer role in systems development. Interacting with Computers 18, 601–634.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Clegg, C., Axtell, C., Damodaran, L., Farbey, B., Hull, R., Lloyd-Jones, R., Nicholls, J., Sell, R., & Tomlinson, C. (1997). Information technology: a study of performance and the role of human and organizational factors. Ergonomics, 40, 851–871.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Eason, K., (1997). Understanding the organizational ramifications of implementing information technology systems. In Helander, M. Landauer, T.K. Prabhu, P. (Eds.), Handbook of Human-Computer Interaction (pp. 1475–1494). Amsterdam: Elsevier Science.Google Scholar
  16. Göransson, B. (2004) User-centred systems design. Designing usable interactive systems in practice. Ph.D. dissertation. Uppsala, Sweden: Acta Universitatis Uppsaliensis.Google Scholar
  17. Göransson, B., Gulliksen, J., & Boivie, I. (2003). The usability design process – Integrating User-centered systems design in the software development process. Software Process Improvement and Practice, 8, 111–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Greenbaum, J. & Kyng, M. (1991). Design at work: Cooperative design of computer systems. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  19. Greenbaum, J. (1990). The head and the heart: Using gender analysis to study the social construction of computer systems. Computers & Society, 20. 9–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gulliksen, J., Göransson, B., Bovie, I., Blomkvist, S., Persson, J. & Cajander, å. (2003). Key principles for user-centered systems design. Behaviour & Information Technology, 22, 397–409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hagberg, M., Wigaeus Tornqvist, E., & Toomingas, A. (2002). Self-reported reduced productivity due to musculoskeletal symptoms: Associations with workplace and individual factors among white-collar computer users. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 12, 151–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Harris, J., & Henderson, A. (1999). Better mythology for system design. In Proceedings of ACM CHI 99. Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Vol 1. (pp 88–95).Google Scholar
  23. ISO 13407. (1999). ISO 13407: Human-centred design processes for interactive systems. Geneva: International Organization for Standardization.Google Scholar
  24. ISO 9241-10. (1996). ISO 9241-10: Ergonomic requirements for office work with visual display terminals. Geneva: International Organization for Standardization.Google Scholar
  25. ISO 9241-11. (1998). ISO 9241-11: Ergonomic requirements for office work with visual display terminals. Geneva: International Organization for Standardization.Google Scholar
  26. Kammersgaard, J. (1990). Four different perspectives on human computer-interaction. In J. Preece, & L. Keller, Human-Computer Interaction. Hemel Hempstead, UK: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  27. Karasek, R. & Theorell, T. (1990). Healthy work: Stress, productivity and reconstruction of working life. New York: Basic books.Google Scholar
  28. Klein, H., & M. Myers (1999). A set of principles for conducting and evaluating interpretive field studies in information systems. MIS Quarterly 23, 67–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Landauer, T.K. (1995). The trouble with computers – Usefulness, usability and productivity. Cambridge: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  30. Norman, D.A. (1986) Cognitive engineering. In D.A. Norman & S.W. Draper (Eds.), User centered systems design (pp. 31–61). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  31. Nurminen, M. I. (1987). Different perspectives: What are they and how can they be used? In Docherty, P. Fuchs-Kittowski, K., Kolm, P, & Mathiassen, L. (Eds.). System design for human development and productivity: Participation and beyond. North-Holland: Elsevier Science Publishers.Google Scholar
  32. Nygaard, K. (1986). Program development as a social activity. Information Processing 86. In Kugler, H-J. (Ed.), Proceedings from the IFIP 10th World Computer Congress, Dublin, Ireland, September 1–5, 1986, (pp. 189–198). North Holland: Elsevier Science Publishers.Google Scholar
  33. Punnett, L., & Bergkvist, U. (1997). Visual display unit work and upper extremity musculoskeletal disorders: A review of epidemiological findings. Arbete och Hälsa (Work and Health). 1997:16. Solna, Sweden: National Institute of Working life.Google Scholar
  34. Sachs, P. (1995). Transforming work: Collaboration, learning and design. ACM, 38, 36–44.CrossRefMathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  35. Sandblad, B., Gulliksen, J., Åborg, C., Boivie, I., Persson, J., Göransson, B., Kavathatzopoulos, I., Blomkvist, S., & Cajander, å. (2003). Work environment and computer systems development. Behaviour & Information Technology, 22, 375–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Standish Group (1995), CHAOS report, from Scholar
  37. Standish Group (1998), CHAOS report, from Scholar
  38. Statistics Sweden. (2001). Statistiska meddelanden, rapport 2001:2. (Statistical messages, report 2001:2).(in Swedish, summary in English).Google Scholar
  39. Statistics Sweden. (2005). Statistiska meddelanden, Arbetorsakade besvär AM43 SM 0501. (Statistical messages, Work-Related Disorders). (in Swedish, summary in English).Google Scholar
  40. Suchman, L.A. (1987). Plans and situated actions: The problem of human machine communication. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Vicente, K.J. (1999). Cognitive work analyses. Toward safe, productive and healthy computer-based work. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  42. Wigaeus Tornqvist, E., Eriksson, N., & Bergqvist, U. (2000). Dator-och kontorsarbetsplatsens fysiska och psykosociala arbetsmiljörisker, (The physical and psychosocial work environment risks at computer- and office workplaces). Arbetsliv och Hälsa 2000 (Working Life and Health 2000). Marklund, S. (pp. 235–260). Solna, Sweden:Arbetslivsinstitutet.Google Scholar
  43. Winograd. T. & Flores, F. (1984). Understanding computer and cognition. Menlo Park, CA: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Åsa Cajander
    • 1
  • Inger Boivie
    • 2
  • Jan Gulliksen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Information TechnologyUppsala UniversitySweden
  2. 2.Guide Redina ABSweden

Personalised recommendations