Heuristic evaluation

Introductory articles

  • Heuristic evaluation
    Heuristic evaluation is a form of usability inspection where usability specialists judge whether each element of a user interface follows a list of established usability heuristics. Expert evaluation is similar, but does not use specific heuristics.
  • Heuristic guidelines for expert critique of a web site
    Heuristic usability evaluations (also called “expert reviews” or “usability audits”) are an efficient method of assessing a website for usability. This methodology provides for one or more usability professionals who are familiar with industry best practices in user interface design to evaluate an application based on recognised “rules of thumb.” The objective is to identify possible difficulties that users of the site may have with the current user interface and to recommend design improvements.

Discussion articles

  • A process for incorporating heuristic evaluation into a software release
    “This paper describes a process for incorporating heuristic evaluations into a software product release. The goal of the paper is to provide enough detail and results to other design teams to assist them in developing their own process for this activity.”
    (Marilyn Hollinger – AIGA Design Forum)
  • Characteristics of usability problems found by heuristic evaluation
    Heuristic evaluation is a good method for finding both major and minor problems in a user interface. Major problems are slightly easier to find than minor problems, with the probability for finding a given major usability problem at 42 percent on the average for single evaluators in six case studies. The corresponding probability for finding a given minor problem was only 32 percent.
  • Cleaning up for the housekeeper
    Once in a while a client will tilt their head and look at me with one of those smiles. “You want to do expert review and then also usability testing?” they say. “Is this one of those consulting tricks? Why would I need to do both?” Doing ER is like straightening up before the housekeeper gets there. If you conduct ER first, ER provides feedback that allows the developers to ‘tidy up’ the interface so that the usability testing can focus on cleaning. If you don’t straighten first, both the tester and the participant are distracted and waste time. However, if the right methods are applied at the right time, ultimate outcome is a really clean house….er interface.
  • Heuristic evaluation – a step-by-step guide
    Heuristic Evaluation (originally proposed by Nielsen and Molich, 1990) is a discount method for quick, cheap, and easy evaluation of the user interface. The process requires that a small set of  evaluators examine the interface, and judge its compliance with recognised usability principles (the “heuristics”). The goal is the identification of any usability issues so that they can be addressed as part of an iterative design process.
  • Heuristic evaluations
    Is there a useful set of usability heuristics currently available to practitioners? There is, but unfortunately the best set is not the one most widely used.
  • IA heuristics for search systems
    Lou Rosenfeld suggests some information architecture heuristics for evaluating search systems.
  • Information architecture heuristics
    Just finished a brief heuristic evaluation of a client site, basing part of my feedback on a set of questions that I find quite useful for just about every IA-related project. Every information architect should always have a set of favorite questions in their back pocket; they really do come in handy.
  • Persona-led heuristic inspection is here
    “Sometimes we need to review a product for usability in circumstances where usability testing isn’t an option. Lack of time, lack of budget, unwilling client: you name it. So an improvement on the heuristic inspection would be a great idea.”
    (Caroline Jarrett)
  • Pitting usability testing against heuristic review
    Empirical evaluations of the relative merit of usability testing and heuristic review outline both strengths and drawbacks for each. This article reviews research evaluating each method and concludes that in order to select the most appropriate method for your project you will need weigh the expertise of your evaluators, the maturity of your application, the complexity of the tasks, and possibly even the current status of your usability program.
  • Severity ratings for usability problems
    Severity ratings can be used to allocate the most resources to fix the most serious problems and can also provide a rough estimate of the need for additional usability efforts. If the severity ratings indicate that several disastrous usability problems remain in an interface, it will probably be unadvisable to release it. But one might decide to go ahead with the release of a system with several usability problems if they are all judged as being cosmetic in nature.
  • Site audits 1: introduction to site audits
    “You have a website, and you’ve been checking its performance against the targets you set during its planning (you did set measurable targets, didn’t you?). You’re also monitoring the traffic figures and feedback regarding the site. So far so good, but you still not might not be getting a real sense of how well your site is functioning – is the content up to date and well-written, does the search feature work well, are the navigation and orientation clear? A structured evaluation can deliver real benefits, providing a detailed picture of your current site, helping you create a prioritised roadmap for improvements.”
    (David Moore – IQ Content)
  • Site audits 2: how to conduct an audit
    “In the previous article in this series, we looked at the basics of site audits, including why they’re useful and the different approaches to auditing. This time, we’ll look in more detail in how to conduct a site audit, using the ‘light’ version of our auditing tool as a guide.”
    (David Moore – IQ Content)
  • Site audits 3: benchmarking and recommendations
    “In the previous two months we’ve looked at why you should carry out a site audit, and how best to do it. This month, we conclude the series by exploring how to make best use of the information you’ve gained from the audit.”
    (David Moore – IQ Content)
  • Site usability evaluation
    Keith Instone gives an overview of heuristic evaluation based on Jakob Nielsen’s 10 usability heuristics.
  • Take breaks! A simple way to improve your heuristic evaluation results
    “As primary tools in the usability field, heuristic or expert evaluations can be rich areas for methods studies and improvement. Early results of one methods study suggest that performing evaluations in limited segments, with breaks between each segment, may increase the effectiveness of the evaluator in identifying usability problems.”
    (Laura Faulkner)
  • Technology transfer of heuristic evaluation and usability inspection
    Participants in a course on usability inspection methods were surveyed 7-8 months after the course to find out what methods they were using, and why they used or did not use the methods they had been taught.
  • Undercover heuristics
    Usability people love heuristics, the rules of thumb used for expert evaluations and to guide design activities. There are thousands of heuristics on the web to evaluate everything from word processing programs to handheld gadgets. They range from well researched and insightful to callow and useless. A major London newspaper recently asked us for background information they could use to evaluate some popular websites. We wanted to acknowledge that most professional websites already handle the basics from well-established heuristics pretty well. So instead, we focused on the ten issues we most often see that prevent websites from succeeding. Here they are. If you are responsible for a website, we also list a fast test for each item that you can use to see how your website does.
  • Usability heuristics explained
    “Heuristic evaluation is one of the most common ways of identifying usability problems on your website. It involves checking a site against a set of good practice guidelines called heuristics, the most commonly used set of heuristics being those published by Jakob Nielsen. While this technique is quick and easy to learn, it can be hard to relate abstract guidelines to real site features. This skill comes with practice, but to get up and running here is some guidance on interpreting the Nielsen’s guidelines.”
    (John Wood – IQ Content)
  • Usability heuristics for rich Internet applications
    Heuristics, or “rules of thumb”, can be useful in both usability evaluations and as guidelines during design. Jakob Nielsen’s 1994 set of usability heuristics were developed with a focus on desktop applications. In 1997, Keith Instone shared his thoughts on how these heuristics apply to what was a relatively new area: websites. Today, in 2003, with Flash-enabled Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) becoming more popular, Nielsen’s heuristics still offer valuable guidelines for RIA designers and developers.
  • Using site evaluations to communicate with clients
    How do you prove your worth to clients in today’s difficult economy? Performed as part of a sales proposal or the discovery phase of a project, a site assessment can uncover opportunities for improvement and help you speak knowledgeably about solutions to your potential client’s problems.

Research articles

  • Pitting usability testing against heuristic review
    Empirical evaluations of the relative merit of usability testing and heuristic review outline both strengths and drawbacks for each. This article reviews research evaluating each method and concludes that in order to select the most appropriate method for your project you will need weigh the expertise of your evaluators, the maturity of your application, the complexity of the tasks, and possibly even the current status of your usability program.


Case studies

Heuristic checklists


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