What is Heuristic Evaluation?

Heuristic evaluation is a set of principles for evaluating usability. The ten general principles were defined by Jakob Nielson and Rolf Mlich in the 90s. They mentioned that these heuristic principles are more natural rules of thumb that help identify common usability issues in interaction design. 

HE is relevant in UI/UX design because it provides a relatively quick, cost-effective way to identify usability problems early in the design process. By uncovering these issues before a product is released to users, designers can make informed decisions to improve the overall user experience, leading to higher satisfaction, increased efficiency, and reduced errors. Overall, HE contributes to creating more user-friendly and effective interfaces.

Why is Heuristic Evaluation Important?

Heuristic evaluation helps in identifying usability issues by employing a systematic and structured approach to assess a user interface or system design against established usability principles or heuristics. This allows for timely adjustments and improvements to enhance the overall usability of the interface.

In comparison to other usability tests, HE is more cost-effective and fast because it requires fewer resources and time as it doesn't involve recruiting participants or setting up testing sessions, making it particularly suitable for projects with limited budgets or tight schedules. Its speed and affordability make it a valuable tool for identifying and addressing usability issues early in the design process.

Heuristic evaluation improves user experience by ensuring that the design aligns with user needs and expectations. Additionally, heuristic evaluation improves interface design by providing designers valuable insights into usability issues and opportunities for enhancement. This process facilitates the refinement of the interface, ensuring that it is intuitive, efficient, and user-friendly. 

Ten Heuristic Principles 

1. Visibility of System Status

The system should always inform users about what is going on through appropriate feedback within a reasonable time.

Showing process bars or steps can help users understand the states in the system and let them know where they are in the process.

2. Match Between the System and the Real World

Design should use elements that are familiar to users. It should be related to common human experiences and concepts.

For example, an arrow gives a sense of direction, and the + sign represents adding things. Users can easily understand what the UI elements mean in the interface with the expected concept.

3. User Control and Freedom

Users often perform actions by mistake. They need a marked emergency exit to leave the unwanted action. 

Here is an example of supporting redo or undo. If users accidentally press the exit button during the conversation with the customer support agent, it provides the ‘Stay on’ button to undo their unwanted action. 

4. Error Prevention

Good error messages are important, but the best designs carefully prevent problems from occurring in the first place

For example, Hubspot provides this deleting process to warn the users and prevent them from the error of accidentally deleting the customer lists.

5. Help Users Recognize, Diagnose, and Recover

Error messages should be expressed in plain language(no error codes), precisely indicate the problem, and constructively suggest a solution. 

For example, the Tacpoint Salesfin Smart lock system provides an error message to the user and offers the next step to resolve the error.

By considering these factors, you can choose the heuristic evaluation methodology that best aligns with your project needs and objectives, ultimately leading to more effective usability evaluations and improvements. Read our Part 2 on Heuristic Evaluation to learn more.

Tacpoint, a digital product agency with 20+ years of experience, can help you build and design engaging B2B enterprise digital products. 

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What is Heuristic Evaluation? Part 1

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