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Heuristic evaluation is a usability evaluation method in which a user experience expert analyzes an interface to identify weaknesses and critical points through good design guidelines, called heuristics.

Among the various assessment techniques, this is one of the most economical and quick to perform (one or two days at most) because it provides, in its basic form, the involvement of the expert only without the participation of users (as is the case in tests of usability ).

I can not blame you that the term “heuristic evaluation” sounds objectively too technical and academic and that it is also difficult to remember. Let’s call it a check-up, a simple synonym that communicates the meaning of this technique in an equivalent way.

The expert who conducts the check-up navigates the interface putting himself in the shoes of a typical user of that product and simulating some representative tasks (tasks) in search of everything that could be difficult to understand and use. For example, in the case of an e-commerce, you can simulate the purchase of a product.

The expert evaluates the site by checking the correct application of the main usability rules (navigation, comprehensibility of labels, an organization of contents) and assigning a vote or a judgment to each of them. It is as if a film critic were to write a film review analyzing parameters such as screenplay, photography, editing, etc. Only the usability expert uses a much more schematic format for reporting and a much more actionable language than the film critic!

Every self-respecting expert conducts the check-up by following his own checklist of parameters to be assessed by assigning the assessment to his experience and competence. However, there is an important decalogue of macro-usability guidelines to which all the experts are inspired to make the first skimming of errors: they are the famous “10 heuristic checklist”, which we report below:


Top 10 heuristic checklist

1. Inform the user on the status of the system
2. Provide a simple and natural language
3. Give control and freedom of exit to the user
4. Be consistent and take into account the standards
5. Prevent errors
6. Promote recognition rather than the memory
7. Provide shortcuts for more experienced users
8. Adopt a minimalist aesthetic and design
9. Help the user to recognize, diagnose and recover errors.
10. Provide help and documentation

The original version of Nielsen’s heuristics can be found in English on the site of the famous guru. Among the many imitations of this magical checklist, I would like to point out one of the most recent and most successful in terms of look & feel:

As I mentioned before the report of a check-up is usually rather schematic and oriented to suggest more or less explicitly possible design solutions to the usability problem encountered.

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