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Heuristic Review

What is a heuristic review?

A heuristic review is a usability inspection method primarily used by UX professionals  to identify any design issues that might hinder the user experience. During a heuristic review a product or service’s user interface design is evaluated by checking it against established usability principles or ‘heuristics’. 

Synonyms: heuristic evaluation, heuristic analysis

glossary bee

When to use heuristic review? 

  • Heuristic review can be conducted during the early stages of product development when the design is still in progress. It helps identify potential usability issues and allows for iterative improvements before proceeding to more resource-intensive usability testing.
  • Heuristic review can be a cost-effective alternative when resources or time limitations make it challenging to conduct extensive usability testing. It allows for quick evaluations by experts and provides valuable insights for usability improvements.
  • Heuristic review can be used to compare different versions or variations of a design to determine which one performs better in terms of usability. It helps evaluate the impact of design changes on usability and guides decision-making in the UX design process.

Benefits of a heuristic review

  • Reduced development costs: A heuristic review does not require extensive resources or a large sample of users, making it a cost-effective method for identifying usability issues early in the design process.
  • Empathy for Users: Heuristic evaluations promote a user-centric mindset among designers and developers. This leads to interfaces being more aligned with user needs, improving overall user satisfaction.
  • Simplified Navigation: By adhering to heuristics such as “Consistency and Standards” and “User Control and Freedom”, UIs are likely to be more intuitive and user-friendly. This reduces the cognitive load for users, allowing them to navigate the application more easily and efficiently.
  • Reduction in User Errors: Heuristics such as “Error Prevention” help to design interfaces that reduce the likelihood of user errors. This enhances the user experience by minimizing frustrations and creating a smoother, more enjoyable interaction with the system.

How to do a heuristic review? 

  1. Select a Set of Heuristics: Choose a set of usability heuristics to guide the evaluation. Popular sets of heuristics include Nielsen’s 10 Usability Heuristics, Shneiderman’s Eight Golden Rules, or your own customized set based on industry standards and project-specific requirements.
  2. Assign Expert Evaluators: Identify and assign expert evaluators who have knowledge and experience in usability and UX design. Ideally, involve multiple evaluators to ensure a diverse range of perspectives and insights.
  3. Familiarize Evaluators: Provide evaluators with relevant information about the product, its purpose, target users, and any specific design guidelines or requirements.
  4. Conduct Individual Evaluations: Each evaluator should independently review the product, considering one heuristic at a time. Evaluators should document any usability issues or areas of improvement related to each heuristic.
  5. Identify Usability Issues: Analyze the evaluations to identify common patterns or recurring usability issues. Pay attention to critical issues that significantly impact the user experience or violate multiple heuristics.
  6. Categorize Issues: Categorize the identified issues based on severity and impact. Prioritize high-impact issues that have the most significant influence on usability and user satisfaction.
  7. Provide Recommendations: For each identified issue, offer specific recommendations or solutions for improvement. These recommendations should align with the respective heuristic violated and provide actionable insights for design enhancements.

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What is the difference between a heuristic review and usability testing?

While both methods aim to identify usability issues, a heuristic review is conducted by experts using established usability principles, whereas usability testing involves real users interacting with the product.

What are some examples of heuristics?
  • Nielsen’s 10 Usability Heuristics
  • Shneiderman’s Eight Golden Rules
  • ISO 9241-11 Ergonomic Principles
  • Gerhardt-Powals’ Cognitive Engineering Principles

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