How To Perform Heuristics Evaluation On A Website?


Every User Experience Researcher in the world gets the request of performing a Heuristic Evaluation at least once in their lifetime. But it is not always clear if the requester knows precisely about this process of evaluation. What happens is, they hear a word in trend, and they request it.

But before you dive right into the heuristics evaluation of the website, you need to be aware of what it is and how you can conduct it with precision. Take some time and learn about all the ins and outs of the technique.

What is Heuristics Evaluation?

Heuristic evaluation refers to the review of the user interface of your website. It is the analysis of complete user experience when they visit your site. It helps you identify user problems based on the predetermined design rules known as heuristics. Hence, the name.

Getting Heuristic Evaluation of your website done has many benefits:

  1. The evaluation can be performed at any stage during the design process. However, conducting one at very early stages means you can get feedback very early on.
  • You can conduct them alongside other usability testing methods like tree testing or card sorting.
  • They are easier to conduct than any other research methods, eg. large scale in-person user research or any different kind of field research.
  • The rate of evaluation depends on the factors you are evaluating. So, depending on what you are evaluating, they can be fast to conduct.

There are several benefits of the heuristic evaluation. But the most significant disadvantage of the system is only valid when the evaluators are usability experts. This can affect the budget of your business.

Effective Ways to Perform a Heuristic Evaluation:

Below are all the ways to perform the heuristics evaluation of a website, based on Jakob Nielsen’s principles for interaction design.

●     To Ensure the Visibility of System

You need to make sure that the user knows what’s going on.

The user is not always going to see directly inside the system. So, you need to keep giving them feedback with every step they are taking on your website. They need to know the answers to the questions like how far they are in the signup or payment process. Your website should prompt the user about any delay in the procedure.

You can take the website Amazon as an example. They need to prompt the user on every stage of their procedure about what they are doing like adding a product to cart as well as walk them through every step of buying the product.

The second procedure, for example, can be taken as uploading a picture on Instagram. It usually takes up to 30 to 40 seconds. But, even then Instagram will prompt you through the complete procedure.

●     Your System Should Match the Real Environment

Your system design should be based on simple ideas and concepts which are familiar to you.

You can do this by adding familiar icons like files icon, folder icons, or windows on your website. All these are real-world concepts which can be incorporated in the digital world.

You need to define the type of language you are using to design your website. For eg, a site aimed at teenagers will have a different style, and those proposed for the elderly will have a different language. This can also be differentiated according to the genre of your website.

We can take the example of Spotify language. Spotify uses words like playlists, queue, history, lists which are relevant in the real world as well. These words are used to listen to music offline as well.

●     Freedom to User

Try to put the user in charge of every procedure. They need to have freedom while they are navigating through your website. This system relates to the undo and redo operation.

The user should have the ability to go back and go further in a system.

The best example of this specific procedure is Gmail. Gmail gives you the freedom of undoing a sent message.

●     Consistency of Your Website

There are a few norms which are set while you are designing a website. It’s not always a good idea to break those norms.

For example, users are prone to look at an outbound link, which is highlighted in different colors or are underlined. Also, people are used to seeing the “About Us” page on the website rather than “Know about our Team.”

Your system should be consistent throughout all the pages as well. If your logo is on the top left side of the page, it should be there on every single page.

I think one website which significantly stands out is the BBC iplayer. The menus and logos on the site are set on every page exactly where they are on the home page. They also have large buttons which direct you through the website.

●     Try to Prevent Errors

There are many ways with which you can prevent the errors from occurring. The first is to design everything very clearly. Every navigation icon should be clearly stated. For eg, Your “Delete” button should be completely distinct from your “save.” button.

The second way is to be careful with every consideration. Sometimes it can be a bit annoying to ask the user twice about every action they take. But it prevents the users from taking any steps that they don’t want to do.

Gmail again stands out as a good example. It always prompts a user to add subject and body to an email. It will also give an “attachment reminder.”

●     Prioritize Recognition

It is a lot easier recognizing something when you see it, rather than remembering. Users always prefer choosing something rather than remembering it.

We’ll take the example of any news website. Most of the news websites have the option of choosing the genre you prefer, like sports, politics, entertainment, technology, etc. Rather than making the user type or remember their preference.

●     Flexibility and Efficiency of the Platform

You need to make your design flexible for every kind of user. Some users are going to be experts, while others will be relatively new to your system. Your system needs to have options for both kinds of users. You can analyze what types of tasks a specific group of users perform, and you can design your system accordingly.

For example, consider the windows advanced setting link. You can see that the first options are given in plain sight for the users who are relatively new to the system. Users who want to access advanced settings can do that. But the system is designed so that it won’t scare off the new users.

●     Aesthetic and Minimalist Design

Minimalist design is a term which refers to making sure that every information present on your platform is useful and valuable for the user.

Users may get irritated with your website if you have unnecessary clutter on your website. It is necessary to keep things as simple as you can.

Aesthetics are a big part of your website design. But the functionality should always be considered before aesthetics. You can not design a beautiful website which is difficult to use.

The best example of this is a Google Search Page. The simplicity of the Google search page is impeccable. You’ll never see a website more functional than this.

They change the personality of their logo by celebrating different days. They are adding different aesthetics day by day. While this doesn’t decrease the functionality of their page, it does help in the improvement of their personality as an online platform.

●     Help User Recognise and Recover From Errors:

You cannot avoid all the errors of a system. Sometimes, they are unavoidable. So, your order needs to have error detection and have the capability of solving it.

An error message can be a big turn off for your user. So, you need to be careful about the language you are using. Even though it’s a glitch, it’s a way by which you are communicating with your audience. It is also an opportunity to chat with your user and give them a solution. If you give them the correct way to eliminate that error, it will increase the trust in your brand.

You can see different kinds of 404 error pages nowadays. One of the significant ones which caught our eye is the ISTOCKPHOTOS that prompted a 404 error as “Sorry, we tried hard, but we can’t find the page you are looking for.” They’ve also provided some links which could help you.

●     Help And Documentation

Ideally, all the systems should run without the need for help. But that’s not realistic. So, the help pages on any platform should be accessible, easy to navigate and understand.

One website which has a very functional and straightforward help page is ETSY. The help page is beautifully designed with a large search box at the top. They provide links to the most commonly required resources. The site is organized into different categories and includes an FAQ section as well. The site policies are also listed on the page. At the end, there is a contact list provided.

I hope this article provided you with an overview of how to give a Heuristics Evaluation. You need to understand the flaws in the system. System efficiency is the most crucial aspect of your business.

About the author

Ian Carnaghan

I am a software developer and online educator who likes to keep up with all the latest in technology. I also manage cloud infrastructure, continuous monitoring, DevOps processes, security, and continuous integration and deployment.

About Author

Ian Carnaghan

I am a software developer and online educator who likes to keep up with all the latest in technology. I also manage cloud infrastructure, continuous monitoring, DevOps processes, security, and continuous integration and deployment.

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