Heuristic analysis

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What it is

A quick way to find common, large usability problems on a website.

Reasons to use it:

To quickly identify common design problems that make websites hard to use without conducting more involved user research.

Time required

Small: 1–2 hours

How to do it

  1. Recruit a group of three to five people familiar with evaluation methods. These people are not necessarily designers, but are familiar with common usability best practices. They are usually not users.

  2. Ask each person to individually create a list of “heuristics” or general usability best practices. Examples of heuristics from Nielsen’s “10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design” include:

    • The website should keep users informed about what is going on, through appropriate feedback within reasonable time.
    • The system should speak the user's language, with words, phrases and concepts familiar to the user, rather than system-oriented terms.
    • 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.
  3. Ask each person to evaluate the website against their list and write down possible problems.

  4. After individual evaluations, gather people to discuss what they found and prioritize potential problems.

Applied in government research

No PRA Implications, as heuristic evaluations usually include a small number of evaluators. If conducted with nine or fewer members of the public, the PRA does not apply, 5 CFR 1320.5(c)4. If participants are employees, the PRA does not apply. See the methods for Recruiting and Privacy for more tips on taking input from the public.

Additional resources