Ten Usability Heuristics

According to Nielsen, these are the ten Usability Heuristics problems that evaluators should use when conducting a heuristic evaluation.

Visibility of system status

Users should also be aware as to what is going on in the system and also know their location in your interface. By location I mean that the interface should have a navigation bar telling users exactly where they are.

Match between system and the real world
Let you program follow real world examples and follow the conventions of what users are use to.

User control and freedom
Make it easy for user to exit the system at will. I have used many programs where I had to use the “Windows Task Manager” to exit a program because a close or exit button was not provided. This is a major usability problem and in most cases I tried my best to avoid the program and sometimes abandoned it altogether.

Consistency and standards
Follow platform conventions and use terms that users have already connected to a certain action. Your program will not be the only one that the user will try and if terms in your program do not have the same meaning as that of other programs then it will cause the user confusion.

Error prevention
A loud beep from an error message is sure to cause the user negative emotions no matter how subtle it may be, so if possible organize your interface in such a way that will prevent the user from committing as errors as possible.

Recognition rather than recall
Keep the information that the user require together as much as possible. A user should not be forced to remember a term or press the back button to access that information. As subtle as these may seem, they take away from the user experience and make your product less usable.

Flexibility and efficiency of use
Structure your interface to allow users of varied experience to use you product with as much ease as possible. A good software with this feature is Adobe Dreamweaver which as the user for her level of experience after installation. The program will then present an interface based on the users experience with the program.

Aesthetic and minimalist design
Avoid providing irrelevant information and keep your dialogues to a minimum since users did not get your product for reading research papers.

Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors
Use words that are familiar to the user. Too often I will encounter an error message while using a program using some term that I’ve never seen or heard. How do they expect me to avoid the action which caused the error if I don’t know what the error was?

Help and documentation
In most cases it is impossible to create a new product or large program without documentation. Do ensure that the documentation can clearly address the users concerns.

Characteristics of Usability Problems Found by Heuristic Evaluation

According to Jakob Nielsen “heuristic evaluation is a good method for finding both major and minor problems in a user interface.” As one might have expected major problem are more easily discovered though this does not mean that the minor ones can be ignored. Six case studies (Nielsen 1992), resulted in the discovery of 152 minor usability problems compared to only 59 major ones. Although they may not be too apparent, ignoring these minor problems will surely take away from the usability of your product and consequently your user experience.

Nielsen argued that these problems can be found in four ways which include:

  • At a single location in the interface,
  • At two or more locations that have to be compared to find the problem,
  • As a problem with the overall structure of the interface,
  • As something that ought to be included in the interface but is currently missing.

Nielsen also recommended the idea of user testing and combining this technique with heuristic evaluation to find all problems in an interface.


2 responses to “Ten Usability Heuristics

  1. I like seeing your understanding of each heuristic! Good reading notes.

    Now, make them yours. What do you think? Are they useful to you? Why? How? When?

  2. When I read this initially, I was surprised that help and documentation made the list. I realized that is needed, but not always available. What do you think?

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