Heuristic evaluation is a great tool for developing an eye for design and understanding best practices. This set of guidelines helps you to notice important details and discover patterns
- Define what you want to accomplish. (Example: I want to create a mind map and share it with my colleagues)
- Go through the usability check list. You can use Jakob Nielsen’s Heuristics for User Interface Design or this extended list* of usability guidelines. This list is action oriented. It follows a user’s flow.
Usability check list
- There is no unnecessary registration.
- The value and benefits of the product / service are clear.
- You know where to start and what to do first.
- The site is free from irrelevant information.
- Meaningful images and illustrations.
- Good readability (font size, color, whitespace).
- Pages are quick to scan, with clear hierarchy.
- The site speaks the users’ language, and uses everyday terms.
- Large sites have search.
- The content is up-to-date. Something indicates the site is living.
- Credibility: there is name of the company and contact information.
- Prices are stated clearly.
- The items on a page are focused on users’ key tasks.
- Button names are obvious.
- You can “undo” unwanted actions.
- Error messages actually help and contain clear instructions on what to do next.
- The interface provides feedback (“saved”, “sent”, show system notifications).
- The site saves work automatically and ensures you don’t lose your work.
- The site supports learning, contains help, provides step-by-step instructions or FAQ.
- Forms on the web include only necessary fields.
Labels are clear.
Fields contain hints or example data.
The site automatically enters field formatting data.
Let’s look at www.mindmeister.com and analyse it step-by-step.
Two things caught attention:
1. Not clear primary call to actions. I‘ve been using mindmeister.com for several month but every time I have to look for “create a new map” button.
2. Not obvious buttons. I wanted to change the theme of the map but wasn’t able to find a proper button. It was hiding under i-button. Without usability testing or analytics we can’t know if it’s right place for this action.
Looking for sites to practice heuristic evaluation?
Critical thinking, common sense and understanding user behavior are the most important skills for UX designers. Usability evaluation can be a great tool to further improve them.