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Heuristic Principles for Usability

Heuristic Evaluation is the process by which an expert examines your system or User Interface against a set of accepted usability standards. The most used and accepted principles for a heuristic evaluation is that of Jakob Nielsen’s. They are:

  • Visibility of system status: Users must be aware of what is happening in the system. When an action is carried out, the user must receive an appropriate response as a feedback. Example, the colour of the ‘like’ icon changes when you like a post.
  • Similarity between system & real world: The system should speak to the user in a language that is understandable and that matches with the real world.
  • User Control & freedom: Users feel comfortable when they know that they have the option of controlling their actions in a system. Users must be given the freedom to undo or redo their actions.
  • Consistency of standards: Words or call-to-action buttons must have similar use all across the interface. Users should not be confused by different layouts in different pages. A similar environment across the whole system will help the users be comfortable.
  • Error prevention: The best way is to design a system that is less prone to errors. Even then, users must be asked for confirmation messages while carrying out important actions so that they are aware of what will result from it.
  • Recognition rather than recall: Try to design the system so that users can carry out tasks from memory. If every time they enter your system, they have to recall how to use it, chances are they will stop using it.
  • Flexibility & Efficiency of use: Not all users are trained on how to use each and every system or interface. Make the use of your system flexible so that it is usable by both novice and expert level users.
  • Aesthetic & minimalist: The design must have an aesthetic feel to it. Provide only necessary information to avoid clutter.
  • Help users to recognize, diagnose and recover from issues: Ensure that users are provided with error messages in plain and simple language. If possible, suggest a possible solution to fix the error. Example, When a user enters a wrong password, they get an error message stating the obvious. The “Forgot Password” option is an alternate solution to the error.
  • Help & Documentation: Although systems should be easy to use, it is often helpful if a “Help and Documentation” section is available to users. Make sure that the help required is easy to find, focused on the user’s task, is listed step by step and is provided in a concise manner.
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