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Heuristic evaluation

"let the expert have a say"

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Briefly

Heuristic evaluation is a form of usability inspection where usability specialists judge whether each element of a user interface follows a list of established usability heuristics.

Synonyms

Expert evaluation

Elaboration

Heuristic evaluation - also known as expert evaluation - usually involves two or more analysts evaluating a system with reference to established heuristics (i.e. user-centred guidelines and principles), noting down their observations and often ranking them in order of severity.

The analysts are usually experts in usability, user experience or HCI, but less experienced analysts have also been shown to report valid problems. A heuristic or expert evaluation can be conducted at various stages of the development lifecycle, although it is preferable to have already performed some form of context analysis to help the experts focus on the circumstances of actual or intended product usage.

Heuristic evaluation provides quick and relatively cheap feedback to system designers and developers. Usability problems found are normally restricted to aspects of the interface that are reasonably easy to demonstrate: use of colours, layout and information structuring, consistency of the terminology, consistency of the interaction mechanisms.

  • Test early for best results - on early prototypes before actual users are brought in to help with further testing
  • Beware pejorative criticism - because its not normally used for the identification of the "good" aspects of design, the method can seem overly critical as designers may only get feedback on the problematic aspects of the interface

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