Heuristic evaluation in UX is like a health inspection test your product needs to pass, to confirm if it’s easy to use. An expert ‘inspector’ refers to a checklist of principles, and evaluates your app/website on its usability.
Read on to know how exactly heuristic evaluation in UX works, heuristic evaluation best practices, and how you can conduct your own heuristic evaluation.
Heuristic evaluation is a usability inspection method that can help identify and fix usability problems in your designs.
In simple terms, it’s a systematic way of assessing whether your design is fit for use, by referring to a set of usability principles. These principles are called heuristics, and are based on best practices for user interface(UI) design.
For example, a heuristic from Jakob Nielsen’s ‘10 Usability Heuristics’ states that systems should communicate in a way that mirrors the user’s real-world experiences and connections. This simply means that while designing interfaces, avoid jargon. Instead, use visual and language cues that users are familiar with. If you need an icon for the Search feature, for example, use something people associate with Search. Like a magnifying glass.
You see this heuristic in practice with how the Delete option is accompanied by a trash can, or the Email icon is a mail envelope. Using standardized, real-world references like these can make users more comfortable, and the experience more intuitive.
There are many sets of heuristic evaluation principles that are used by usability experts everywhere, but the basic tenets remain the same. We will quickly explore these later in the article, no spoilers for now!
To conduct a heuristic evaluation in UX, you need to evaluate your design against the set of heuristics.
The checklist often includes a list of heuristics, each with a brief explanation and a set of questions that the evaluator can use to assess the UI against that heuristic. For instance, a heuristic evaluation checklist section on system status visibility would look like this.
Heuristic: Visibility of system status
Explanation: The system should always keep users informed about what is going on, through appropriate feedback within a reasonable time.
Does the UI provide timely feedback to users about their actions?
Does the UI provide feedback to users about the system's status?
Is the feedback clear and understandable?
Scroll on till the end of the article to access Looppanel’s heuristic checklist template, all spruced up and ready to share with evaluators.
Heuristic evaluation is a good method to use when:
Heuristic evaluation principles are general rules of thumb that are based on best practices for user interface design. These principles are used to evaluate user interfaces for usability problems.
There are many different sets of heuristic evaluation principles, but some of the most popular ones include:
Let's imagine you're a UX designer working on a new e-commerce website for youth that sells locally-made leather shoes. You have created a prototype of the website and you want to get feedback on the usability of the UI before you launch the site to the public.
One way to do this is to conduct a heuristic evaluation. This is how one’ll go about it.
Just like we have discussed earlier, there are many different sets of heuristics available. Let’s assume that you select Nielsen and Molich's ‘10 Usability Heuristics’ that you find most relevant to this project. You can even decide to create your own set based on your specific needs.
It is best to have a team of at least three evaluators. The evaluators should be experienced in usability evaluation and understand the target users well.
A good team of evaluators include:
It is important to select evaluators who have experience with heuristic evaluation. If your evaluators do not have experience with heuristic evaluation, you should provide them with training on the process.
In this case, you assemble a team of three evaluators: a UX designer, a software engineer, and a marketing manager.
Before the evaluators begin evaluating the UI, it is important to familiarize them with the UI. This can be done by giving them a tour of the prototype and explaining how to use it.
You should also provide the evaluators with a set of tasks to complete. This will help to ensure that they are evaluating the UI from a user's perspective. Let’s say that you create the following to-do list for them:
Each evaluator should independently evaluate the UI against the set of heuristics. The evaluators should identify any usability problems and make recommendations for improvement.
They can also use a heuristic evaluation checklist, as we discussed above.
In this scenario, each evaluator independently evaluates the UI against Nielsen and Molich's 10 Usability Heuristics.
Once the evaluators have completed their evaluations, compile their findings and prioritize them based on their severity and impact on the user experience.
Share the findings of the heuristic evaluation with the design team. The design team should then review the findings and make changes to the UI/UX as needed.
Now that you know the basics of heuristic evaluation, let's talk about some of the most common issues that evaluators find, and how to fix them. We'll also cover some best practices for conducting heuristic evaluations, so you can get the most out of this valuable tool.
Here are a few of the most common issues that evaluators find:
These issues can make it difficult for users to use the interface effectively and efficiently. Thus, it can lead to frustration and abandonment.
The good news is that there are simple fixes for most heuristic evaluation issues. For example, to fix a lack of visibility, you can make important information more visible by placing it prominently in the interface and using high-contrast colours and fonts. To fix inconsistent design, you can make the interface more consistent by using the same design elements and conventions throughout.
Here are specific tips for fixing common heuristic evaluation issues:
By following these tips, you can fix common heuristic evaluation issues and improve the usability of your interface.
Next time you run a heuristic evaluation, follow these tips to make things go smoothly:
Before we bid adieu, here’s one last tip - just use Looppanel’s detailed evaluation checklist for your next heuristic evaluation!
Our checklist uses Jakob Nielsen's 10 Usability Heuristics, using a number of questions to evaluate the project’s score on each heuristic on a scale of 0 to 4.
Looppanel automatically records your calls, transcribes them, and centralizes all your research data in one place