The 10 Parts of a Usability Heuristic Evaluation

Jakob Neilson back in 1995 wrote that there are 10 principles to a usability. If you want to conduct a heuristic evaluation of your product these principles provide a great starting point. So let’s take a look at some questions that you can ask for each principle.

1. Status & Feedback

Is it clear to the user what’s going on at all times? Does your app or website occasionally show a spinning wheel without making clear what’s going on behind the scenes? When the user clicks on something, are you giving them feedback that you received their input and are working on it?

2. Relevance & Familiarity

Are you using language that is familiar to the user? Would someone in your target user base be familiar with the labels you’ve used? Does it line up with other products the user might have encountered?

3. Control & Freedom

Can the user click around the app and explore, or are they forced into a rigid workflow? If you have a series of steps, can they go backwards in the process without loosing progress?

4, 5, 6 – Error Prevention & Handling, Help

What happens when something goes wrong? Are the error messages helpful? Are you warning users about potentially destructive actions (i.e. deleting something)?

7. Consistency

Does your product follow existing conventions (i.e. double clicking vs single clicking)? Are you consistent within the product in where items like navigation are placed or how buttons look?

8. “Don’t Make Me Think” (Recognition vs Recall)

Do you provide relevant instructions to the user at the appropriate time (i.e. displaying password requirements next to the password field). Do you require the user to reenter information unnecessarily?

9. Flexibility & Customization

Do you allow the user to save common actions, settings, or other personalizations?

10. Pleasant Simplicity

Is extra information being displayed (or requested) that could be put elsewhere or in the case of user input be determined in a simpler fashion? (i.e. on a mobile device using GPS instead of asking for a zip code).

Obviously you might want to expand on these for your specific application or business need, but this list get you started!

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