Heuristic evaluation is a discount usability engineering method for quick, cheap, and easy evaluation of a user interface design.
The technique developed by Jakob Nielsen is a systematic inspection of a user interface against usability principles. Evaluation involves having a small set of evaluators examine the interface and judge its compliance with recognized usability principles (the "heuristics”) with the goal of find attending to problems as part of an iterative design process.
Source: "Heuristic Evaluation." By Jakob Nielsen. useit.
Nielsen's 10 Usability Heuristics
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. Follow platform conventions.
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.
Source: "http://www.useit.com/papers/heuristic/heuristic_list.html." By Jakob Nielsen. useit.
Extended Heuristic List by OCLC
Does the user understand what the text/graphic will do before they activate it?
12. Use chunking
Write material so that documents are short and contain exactly one topic. Do not force the user to access multiple documents to complete a single thought.
13. Provide progressive levels of detail
Organize information hierarchically, with more general information appearing before more specific detail. Encourage the user to delve as deeply as needed, but to stop whenever sufficient information has been received.
14. Don't lie to the user
Eliminate erroneous or misleading links. Do not refer to missing information.
Source: "Fourteen heuristics used in OCLC heuristic evaluations." OCLC.
Information Architecture Heuristics
- "Information Architecture Heuristics." By Louis Rosenfeld. bLoug.
Articles on Conducting Heuristic Evaluation
- "How to Conduct a Heuristic Evaluation." By Jakob Nielsen. useit.
- "Heuristic Evaluation." Usability Body of Knowledge.
- "Heuristic Evaluation." usability.gov.
Checklists, Templates, and Example Documents
- "Heuristic Evaluation - A System Checklist." By Deniese Pierotti, Xerox Corporation. Society for Technical Communication.
- "A Heuristic Evaluation of a World Wide Web Prototype ." By Michael D. Levi and Frederick G. Conrad. U.S. Department of Labor.
- UX Walkthrough Protocols and Checklists and Usability Evaluation Checklist, by Fluid Project