Heuristic Evaluation…I beg your pardon?
Sounds Greek to you? That’s no accident, it originates from the Greek word of find or discover (Εὑρίσκω). So, there you go. (Big Fat Greek Wedding? Got it?) On a more serious note, I am sure you have already heard one of the following expressions: usability review, usability audit, expert review, heuristic review or usability evaluation.
The good news is that all refer to the same process and there is plenty more where those expressions came from. I’ve also came across usability inspection, user experience assessment or even usability critique. Most of the phrases include the cue for the bottom line…usability. That’s why I posted last week an article about what actually usability is. The topic would be a bit confusing without that info.
Ok, now we know all about usability, but what does heuristic evaluation mean?
“A heuristic evaluation is a usability inspection method for computer software that helps to identify usability problems in the user interface (UI) design. It specifically involves evaluators examining the interface and judging its compliance with recognized usability principles (the “heuristics”). “
The formula is simple: heuristic=usability principles and evaluation=process of comparison against those heuristics. The method was developed and made famous by Jakob Nielsen (often mentioned by my posts) in the 90s and was introduced to the world by this article: 10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design.
Since this method is quite informal, the rules and therefore the heuristics are not carved into stone. I believe most usability experts created their own combination of many existing usability principles using Nielsen’s list as a base. Without being exhaustive, here is a list of the widely used heuristics:
- Jakos Nielsen: 10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design
- Jakob Nielsen: Top 10 Mistakes in Web Design
- Gerhardt-Powals: Cognitive engineering principles
- Classification of Susan Weinschenk and Dean Barker
- Connell & Hammond: 30 Usability Principles
- Arnie Lund: Expert Ratings of Usability Maxims
- Bruce Tognazzini: Principles of Interaction Design
- Ben Shneiderman: Eight Golden Rules of Interface Design
You can get a superb overview about this way of assessment in the article of Ritch Macefield published in 2014: An Overview of Expert Heuristic Evaluations.
Like every method, heuristic evaluation has its pros and contras, but it definitely has its place in usability. To see how we do it, here at TACO, check out our Usability Audit page.
Would you add other principles?