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A heuristic evaluation is a method of checking the usability of a website or user interface. Usually fixed criteria (heuristics) are used for checking. A heuristic evaluation can be part of the user experience (UX) design and provides an alternative to a usability test.
For a long time it was assumed by developers that it required quite some effort to investigate the usability of a product, website or software. Consequently, ways to minimize the time required and financial expenses were sought. One possible alternative to traditional usability tests was the heuristic evaluation, which was presented in 1990 by the two usability experts Jakob Nielsen and Rolf Molich. As part of their work, the two scientists developed 10 aspects that are part of conducting a heuristic evaluation.
As part of a usability inspection, a heuristic evaluation is a method to evaluate the usability of a project with the help of three to five experts. The number of experts is justified by the fact that one expert can only discover about 35 percent of the existing problems by himself. The more experts are participating in the evaluation, the higher the percentage of errors found.
The following 10 heuristics were established by Nielsen and Molich:
- System status is visible: Every system should give its users useful information about its current status within a limited period of time.
- Match between system and real world: the system under study should not communicate to the user using technical terms, but be generally understandable and use a logical order in the ideal case.
- User control: A user should always have the option to return to a previous system condition, such as with the “Undo” function.
- Consistency / standards: In order to be optimally oriented, actions and terms should be standardized.
- Prevention of errors: The design used should help to avoid mistakes.
- Recognition: The user should be able to use the functions as intuitively as possible without having to remember previous steps.
- Flexibility and efficiency: Programs and websites should be designed in such a way that advanced users can quickly access content and functions.
- Minimalistic design: In order to get a user’s full attention, dialogues should not contain irrelevant information.
- Help in troubleshooting or error recognition and diagnostics: If an error occurs, the system should notify about it without technical expressions or cryptic error codes.
- Help and documentation: Help functions or software documentations should be adapted to the required task and contain the necessary troubleshooting steps.
After the evaluation has been conducted by three to five experts, the results are summarized in a report. It contains a list of existing usability problems that are marked based on severity. Priority lists for optimization can be created from that list.
- Ten Usability Heuristics nngroup.com. Accessed on 07/02/2014