A heuristic evaluation is a design assessment performed by a UX expert to evaluate a site or product’s design against industry-standard usability principles.

How and Why to Use a Heuristic Evaluation

July 6, 2020

What’s a heuristic evaluation?

These principles were originally established by Jakob Nielsen in his book “Usability Engineering,” and provide a baseline of acceptable standards in human-centered design. 

The principles answer the following questions from the user’s perspective:

  • Can I recognize that a change I made is in progress, but not yet submitted?
  • Are the patterns in this interface familiar to me? Do I see them in my other day-to-day experiences?
  • Can I reverse an action I just took? Or do the same action again easily?
  • Can I easily recognize a button? Are they consistently displayed?
  • Am I given enough guidance when performing an action that I can successfully complete it without making mistakes?
  • Does the system remember what I did last time or suggest a path for me to take?
  • Are the things I use most commonly accessible to me or do I have to dig to find them every time?
  • Is the interface visually overwhelming or am I given enough to meet my needs, when I need it?
  • When I make a mistake, can I easily tell what the mistake was and how to correct it?
  • When all else fails, can I find the answers to my questions in writing?

By using these heuristics as a foundation, evaluators can identify key usability issues to be corrected. The evaluator may also incorporate knowledge of best UX practices, industry or product standards, and/or ADA guidelines in their recommendations to improve the user experience.

Who conducts a heuristic evaluation?

Heuristic evaluations at Useagility are conducted by two independent evaluators who review the design against standard usability principles. Our team members are all experts on usability principles and understand the implications and intricacies of how these play out in the designs. After their reviews, the evaluators aggregate the findings and make prioritized recommendations based on the severity and prevalence of the identified issues.

Why would a team have someone conduct an evaluation?

Heuristic evaluations provide a quick and approachable way to assess the validity of a design when time or resources are strapped. They also provide a baseline assessment to understand what corrective actions need to be taken.

Heuristic evaluations allow you to:

Leverage accessible resources

  • You likely already have quick, unfettered access to usability experts for your product or offering who could perform the analysis, whether they are within your organization or employed by a partner.

Speed up research & save money when resources are constrained

  • You need 2-5 people to individually perform the evaluation. This is fewer than you would need for usability testing allowing you to get results more quickly. And unlike user testing, heuristic evaluations do not need to be monitored, which saves time and money.

Focus your user testing

  • Doing this prior to testing a design with end users can help ensure that when you get into the usability testing phase, your users are providing feedback on a design that is free of basic usability issues.
  • This ensures your user feedback downstream is more valuable.

Contact Us

We highly recommend performing heuristic evaluations, as they are a key (and cost-effective) part of optimizing the user experience and ensuring the design meets minimum acceptable experience standards. A heuristic evaluation can also provide a baseline for a design that can be evolved to provide users with a new and delightful experience.

We can complete a heuristic evaluation in as little as one week.

Contact us to request a quote for your product or website today.