introduction to Heuristic Evaluation
was developed by Nielsen and Molich in 1989 as a cheap and cost-effective
evaluation method of evaluating the user interfaces of computer systems. It
is essentially an informal and somewhat subjective method of usability analysis.
Typically it involves a set of evaluators examining the user interface of
an interactive product and using their knowledge of the intended users and
tasks to predict problems. The evaluators judge the compliance of the interface
with recognized usability principles (known as heuristics).
Heuristic evaluation can be applied at any stage in the development lifecycle
once the user interface of a system has been designed, as long as there is
describes the user interface - from a storyboard or prototype to a fully working
Essentially a heuristic is a guideline (eg "is feedback provided at all
stages?") to be used as part of a checklist, when assessing an interface.
For example I would say "yes, feedback is usually provided for the action
of submitting a form on an ecommerce website". In contract feedback is
often not provided for certain cell phones that are running out of credit
(on Pay-as-you-go systems); the result being that you are cut off before you
can do anything about it.
Our use of the
term heuristic on this website is as a specific application of
a principle and takes the form of a question to be applied when evaluating
an electronic product. As there are so many of them (about a hundred), we
have placed them into various categories of like-minded heuristics (eg those
related to "system status").
Heuristic evaluation is very cost-effective. It is quick, intuitive and simple
to administer and requires only a small number of evaluators (5 should be
It does not involve real users and is not repeatable (you never get the same
set of problems twice). It is subject to evaluator bias and is also extremely
dependent on the skill of the evaluator.
For more details please refer to Chapter 13 of the book "Interaction
Design: Beyond Human-Computer Interaction".
When would I
Heuristic evaluation is useful for doing a first pass at assessing the usability
of a new product. Suppose you were developing a novel application for a palm
device. Before exposing your design to real users, you could identify many
potential problems with the interface, by first conducting a quick heuristic
evaluation. However, there are hundreds of heuristics you could use to evaluate
an interface, so how do you decide which ones to use?
Why use this
The aim of this tool is to help you with the dilemma of choosing appropriate
heuristics. We provide you with a 'hands-on' exercise to think about which
heuristics are appropriate for different devices. We also provide you with
immediate feedback to enable you to compare your suggestions with the previous
selections of experts. At the end we hope you reflect on how and why your
selections differ (if they do).