Introduction to Heuristic Evaluation –

A Beginners guide to evaluate a product’s usability

Heuristic Evaluation is a technique derived by the Nielson Norman group to assess the usability of a digital product. This is usually performed by a set of usability experts who reviews a product against the set of thumb rules derived the Norman group. These thumb rules at sometimes are revised by the usability engineers to accommodate more findings

Why Heuristic Evaluation ?

The finest way to grade a product’s user experience or usability is by user testing it, which although consumes more resource produce the best results. User feedbacks are pricey and interpreting them is also time-consuming and not all user centered products have such freedom to these resources. At such cases Heuristic Evaluation of your product helps in minimizing the usability problems with a much lower consumption of your limited resources.

Studies also show how effective can these thumb rules actually be at discovering the usability issues. A team of four usability experts would be able to discover 77% of the problems during an evaluation process. Although it’s important to remember the fact that such percentage of success is possible only when the evaluation is performed by the experts and decreases as per the evaluators expertise and experience.

How to perform Heuristic Evaluation ?

The basic needs to perform a Heuristic Evaluation includes

  • 3–5 Evaluators with different but related expertise in building digital products
  • Expert users to assist the evaluators
  • 10 usability Heuristics to evaluate

It’s is important that the evaluators perform the process individually and all of their findings would be correlated at the final to remove duplication. Each evaluator would analyse the whole product multiple times to grade the key elements of the system like,

  • Information Architecture
  • Visual Design
  • Navigation
  • Functionality
  • Interaction Design
  • Content

The findings are listed based on their level of impact it would cause on the system’s user experience (High, Medium, Low).

What are the Heuristic Principles ?

  • Visibility of system status

The user should always be made aware of the system’s status at all times with efficient feedback interactions

Load state of a web page presented with a progress bar
  • Match between system and the real world

The system’s communication with the user must be familiar to the user. The user should be able relate it with their real world equivalent

A cart system reflecting the same shopping experience for the user
  • User control and freedom

User should have the control to revert back their actions with the freedom to exit the system when they wish to, at all times.

Undo and Redo actions with quick exit option on the menu bar
  • Consistency and standards

The system must follow standard interface conventions with user familiar terminologies that accommodates same meaning all over the system

Inconsistent labels over buttons with same meaning
  • Error prevention

Humans are bound to make errors, and the system should support the user in eliminating them.

Example of user error prevention with alternative suggestions
  • Recognition rather than recall

User assistance must be provided by the system to reduce the user’s memory load.

System helps the user in categorizing their favorites/most used
  • Flexibility and efficiency of use

The system’s must prove efficient for both the novice and experienced users. Accelerators/ Shortcut commands for the Experienced and obvious alternatives for the novice users.

Accelerators for Experts and Buttons for Novice users
  • Aesthetic and minimalist design

User should be presented only with relevant data. More the relevant data more easy it is for the system to acquire user focus.

  • Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors

The system must help the user in recovering from errors. Error messages should be constructed with empathy.

User recognizable warning message
Constructive warning message
  • Help and documentation

User should be provided with appropriate help documents both online and offline about the system. The documentation must deliver effective steps for the users to accomplish their goals.

Author: Karthikeyan Partheeban

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