A quick way to find common, large usability problems on a website.
To quickly identify common design problems that make websites hard to use without conducting more involved user research.
How to do it
- 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.
- 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.
- Ask each person to evaluate the website against their list and write down possible problems.
- After individual evaluations, gather people to discuss what they found and prioritize potential problems.
- “10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design.” Jakob Nielsen.
- “How to Conduct a Heuristic Evaluation.” Jakob Nielsen.
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.