Introduction to Heuristic Evaluation

Heuristic Evaluation

A Beginners guide to evaluate a product’s usability. Heuristic Evaluation is a technique derived by the Nielson Norman group to assess the usability of a digital product. This is usually performed by a set of usability experts who reviews a product against the set of thumb rules derived the Norman group. These thumb rules at sometimes are revised by the usability engineers to accommodate more findings.

Why Heuristic Evaluation?

The finest way to grade a product’s user experience or usability is by the user testing it, which although consumes more resource that produce the best results. User feedbacks are pricey, interpreting them them is also time-consuming, because not all user centered products have such freedom to these resources.

At such cases Heuristic Evaluation of your product helps in minimizing the usability problems with a much lower consumption of your limited resources.

Studies also show how effective thumb rules can actually be at discovering the usability issues. A team of four usability experts would be able to discover 77% of the problems during an evaluation process. Although it’s important to remember the fact that such percentage of success is possible only when the evaluation is performed by the experts and decreases as per the evaluators expertise and experience.

How to perform Heuristic Evaluation ?

The basic needs to perform a Heuristic Evaluation includes
1. 3–5 Evaluators with different but related expertise in building digital products
2. Expert users to assist the evaluators
3. 10 usability Heuristics to evaluate

It’s is important that the evaluators perform the process individually and all of their findings would be correlated at the end to remove duplication. Each evaluator would analyse the whole product multiple times to grade the key elements of the system like,

1. Information Architecture
2. Visual Design
3. Navigation
4. Functionality
5. Interaction Design
6. Content

The findings are listed based on their level of impact it would cause on the system’s user experience (High, Medium, Low).

What are the Heuristic Principles?

1. Visibility of system status: The user should always be made aware of the system’s status at all times with efficient feedback interactions.
2. Match between system and the real world: The system’s communication with the user must be familiar to the user. The user should be able to relate it with their real world equivalent
3. User control and freedom: User should have the control to revert back their actions with the freedom to exit the system when they wish to, at all time.
4. Consistency and standards: The system must follow standard interface conventions with user familiar terminologies that accommodates same meaning all over the system.
5. Error prevention:Humans are bound to make errors, and the system should support the user in eliminating them.
6. Recognition rather than recall: User assistance must be provided by the system to reduce the user’s memory load.
7. Flexibility and efficiency of use: The system’s must prove efficient for both the novice and experienced users. Accelerators/ Shortcut commands for the Experienced and obvious alternatives for the novice users.
8. Aesthetic and minimalist design: User should be presented only with relevant data. More the relevant data more easy it is for the system to acquire user focus.

9. Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors: The system must help the user in recovering from errors. Error messages should be constructed with empathy.
10. Help and documentation: User should be provided with appropriate help documents both online and offline about the system. The documentation must deliver effective steps for the users to accomplish their goals.


Though Heuristics can never replace the conventional user testing methods it still could deliver a lot about a product’s broken usability and experience. Not every product manager/designer can afford the time, money or effort to perform user testing but Heuristic evaluations could be the faster and effective way to solve them.