How to Conduct Heuristic Evaluation

With free templates for UX specialist

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If you are a sophisticated UX designer, feel free to skip. I’m writing a hands-on story for junior-level UX designer.

In short, heuristic evaluation is a method for helping UX specialist to evaluate user interface design.

And why heuristic? Heuristic is often used in Psychology and means any approach to problem solving or self-discovery that employs a practical method, not guaranteed to be optimal, perfect, or rational, but instead sufficient for reaching an immediate goal (defined by Wikipedia). I would like to point out, yes, heuristic evaluation is a practical method and for reaching an immediate goal.

1. Visibility of system status

The system should always keep users informed about what is going on, through appropriate feedback within reasonable time.

2. Match between system and the real world

The system should speak the users’ language, with words, phrases and concepts familiar to the user, rather than system-oriented terms. Follow real-world conventions, making information appear in a natural and logical order.

3. User control and freedom

Users often choose system functions by mistake and will need a clearly marked “emergency exit” to leave the unwanted state without having to go through an extended dialogue. Support undo and redo.

4. Consistency and standards

Users should not have to wonder whether different words, situations, or actions mean the same thing.

5. Error prevention

Even better than good error messages is a careful design which prevents a problem from occurring in the first place. Either eliminate error-prone conditions or check for them and present users with a confirmation option before they commit to the action.

6. Recognition rather than recall

Minimize the user’s memory load by making objects, actions, and options visible. The user should not have to remember information from one part of the dialogue to another. Instructions for use of the system should be visible or easily retrievable whenever appropriate.

7. Flexibility and efficiency of use

Accelerators — unseen by the novice user — may often speed up the interaction for the expert user such that the system can cater to both inexperienced and experienced users. Allow users to tailor frequent actions.

8. Aesthetic and minimalist design

Dialogues should not contain information which is irrelevant or rarely needed. Every extra unit of information in a dialogue competes with the relevant units of information and diminishes their relative visibility.

9. Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors

Error messages should be expressed in plain language (no codes), precisely indicate the problem, and constructively suggest a solution.

10. Help and documentation

Even though it is better if the system can be used without documentation, it may be necessary to provide help and documentation. Any such information should be easy to search, focused on the user’s task, list concrete steps to be carried out, and not be too large.

Full article can be found here.

For people who are interested in applications in real context, you can read 10 Usability Heuristics Applied to Video Games by NNgroup, or The User Experience of Chatbot by me.

It can be performed at any stage during the design process. It is good for iteration, which means you’ll get more feedback when you conduct earlier.

The evaluators must be user experience experts. In Neilsen’s research, he stated that about 75% problems will be found by 5 evaluators. In most articles, it suggested to include at least 3–5 evaluators.

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What you are evaluating

Is it a feature on your website or app? Or is it a whole page or user task across different pages? Figure out first. After you identified the tasks, any type of wireframes/mockups/prototypes can be your materials for evaluation.


In my experience, there are two ways to conduct. First, recruit a group of participants to perform the tasks you assigned. The evaluators play the role as observers, and fill the sheet. Second, ask the evaluators to run the tasks and score the severity, describe the issues they faced, and provide their recommendations.

Remember always keep your users in mind.


The severity here I used the definition by Nielsen. It includes three main factors into consideration:

  • Frequency: Is it common or not?
  • Impact: Will it be easy or difficult for the users to overcome?
  • Persistence: Is it a one-time problem or a repeated one?

And the rating can be various. It depend on your needs. Here I followed what Nielsen explained on the article.

0 = I don’t agree that this is a usability problem at all
1 = Cosmetic problem only: need not be fixed unless extra time is available on project
2 = Minor usability problem: fixing this should be given low priority
3 = Major usability problem: important to fix, so should be given high priority
4 = Usability catastrophe: imperative to fix this before product can be released

Analyze the evaluation results

In this part, you are going to prioritize the severity. Remember to talk with the evaluators about their recommended solutions. You have to ensure that you are on the same page. And then arrange a meeting with the project manager, list out your findings and split into different iteration stage.

Face your design and start iteration

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