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What is a Heuristics Evaluation?

education Feb 15, 2022

It’s always helpful to have a second pair of eyes when creating a product. In UX design, it’s critical to have a constantly evolving product that keeps up with your audience. To best fit the needs and motivations of your audience, User Experience designers use a strategy called a heuristic evaluation. 


Definition of a Heuristic Evaluation

A heuristic evaluation, as defined by the Interaction Design Foundation, is “a process where experts use rules of thumb to measure the usability of user interfaces in independent walkthroughs and report issues". In other words, heuristic evaluations help determine if a site is user-friendly or not. The usability of a site is critical in maintaining your audience. If you have a 404 error, for example, your site will have a high bounceback rate and result in less traffic on your site overall. This can hurt your metrics and your standing overall. This brings up the question: How can I use a heuristic evaluation, and why should I use it? 


Types of Heuristics To Use

When determining which types of heuristics to use, a lot of experts refer to Jakob Nielson’s 10 fundamental Usability Heuristics, a bible of sorts for heuristic evaluations. It goes as follows:


  1. Visibility of System Status - The System should always keep the user informed.
  2. Match Between System and Real World - Information should appear in a logical order. 
  3. User Control and Freedom - There should be a quick fix in the event that a user makes a mistake on your site. It allows your users to feel in control of the site rather than frustrated when they’re stuck. 
  4. Consistency and Standards - Having your users navigate something they’re not used to may be frustrating for them. Users have expectations from other products and compare them to yours. 
  5. Error Prevention - Good error messages are important, but it’s better to not have them happen in the first place. 
  6. Recognition Rather Than Recall - Humans have a short attention span, but also a short memory. Make it easier for your users to find information rather than having them remember information from one interface to the next.
  7. Flexibility and Efficiency of Use - Make your product seamless for novice, intermediate, and expert users. 
  8. Aesthetic and Minimalist Design - Keep the content relevant. Don’t include information that’s unnecessary.
  9. Help Users Recognize, Diagnose, and Recover From Errors - Error messages should explain to the user in plain language what a problem is and how to fix it.
  10. Help and Documentation - Help should be easy and painless to find. It should also be related to the user’s task. 


Why Do We Need Usability Heuristics in UX/UI Design? 

Without some sort of evaluation or check-in every so often, the product can lose touch with your audience. It’s critical to stay on top of where your audience’s interests lie and what they’re using your product for. If the product isn’t satisfactory in some way, or worse, it’s not working, usability heuristics take you through a step-by-step process to help evaluate what needs to be improved. Modern heuristics provide a relatively quick response in terms of getting feedback, and as a result, you can improve your metrics fairly quickly. 


How to Get Started

Three experts are recommended to perform the evaluation. However, if it’s too pricey, you can perform it yourself. Here are the steps that are typically conducted with or without experts. (Although as aforementioned, experts are highly recommended for the best review).

  1. Define what needs to be evaluated.
  2. Decide the audience’s motivations. What needs are being met/not met?
  3. Decide which type of heuristics to use. This article mentions Jakob Nielson’s Usability Heuristics
  4. Take yourself through the product from the very beginning to the end. This will take some time, so set aside a few hours for this.
  5. Take screenshots and put them into a document, PowerPoint, or any other place that you can seamlessly go through!


 A heuristic evaluation, as defined above, helps determine whether your site is user-friendly or not. Experts are typically recommended for this evaluation, as they know what to look for when it comes to improving a product. While you can do this evaluation yourself, keep in mind that it will be time-consuming. But, it can be done! With these tips, you’ll have improvements to your site in no time. 

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