Heuristic Evaluation of User Interfaces


Heuristic evaluation is a method for finding
usability flaws in a design by judging it relative to known principles for what makes
user interfaces easy to use. The ten most fundamental of these principles
are called the Usability Heuristics, which is how the method got its name. Now, “heuristic” means rule of thumb,
so basically a very broad design guideline that applies to a wide range of user interfaces. Though, not necessarily every single time. There are exceptions, but very few of them,
and you should not bet that your design is one of those few exceptions. And I would definitely recommend that you do
a lot of user testing if you think about launching a product that violates
any of the top ten usability heuristics. We have separate articles
and videos for each of the ten heuristics, but just to give you an example,
Heuristic #1 is visibility of system status. This means users should always be able to tell what the
computer is doing and what state it’s in. They should not have to guess or remember things.
The system should show them and give good feedback. Now, that’s a really general rule; as with all ten heuristics,
it applies across all types of computer technology. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a mainframe computer,
a PC, a mobile phone, or a smartwatch. It also doesn’t matter whether you’re designing a video
game, an enterprise application, or consumer website. In any case, you should aim
for visibility of system status. Of course, if you’re designing
an auditory user interface, such as a voice assistant, we have to interpret
the rule of “visibility” a bit differently. It’s more a matter of the status being easily
available and noticeable by the user, even if the information is provided by maybe sound
effects or spoken words. The top ten usability heuristics have
remained the same for more than 25 years, exactly because they’re so broad. They come from the basics of human behavior
and the basics are what make any kind of interaction design
easy or difficult to use. Because these heuristics have proven themselves again and again, with so many different technologies, I predict that they will also be relevant for future generations of user interfaces, decades from now. Because the heuristics are so durable, it’s well worth
the investment for you to spend the time to learn all ten of them and think about how
they’re applied to designs you are working on. See the list of all ten UX heuristics
on the NNgroup website.

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