10 Usability heuristics explained

Eranga Liyanage
Oct 2, 2016 · 4 min read
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A heuristic evaluation is a usability inspection method mainly used to identify any design issues associated with the user interface.

Jakob Nielsen’s heuristics are probably the most-used usability heuristics for user interface design.

They are called “heuristics” because they are broad rules of thumb and not specific usability guidelines.

Let’s have a look into them one by one.

01. Visibility of system status

The system should always keep users informed about what is going on, through appropriate feedback within reasonable time.

When you do some action or referring to a continuing process, the status should be clearly mentioned until it’s completion. Let’s look in some examples.

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When you login to Gmail, it shows you what’s happening in the background and the progress.

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Button with Progress

When you upload something, the progress should be clearly visible unless you don’t know what happens in the background and gets confused.

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When you check flight details on google, it clearly shows you the status in an appealing way. Colour represents that it’s on time and the location of the icon indicates the progress of the journey.

02. Match between system and the real world

The system should speak the users’ language, with words, phrases and concepts familiar to the user, rather than system-oriented terms. Follow real-world conventions, making information appear in a natural and logical order.

Basically, it’s making the designs, interactions labelling and conversations more familiar to the real world.

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iBooks application using the appearance of a wooden bookshelf.

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Recycle bin icon is similar to a real bin, and the icon itself shows weather it has files in it or not.

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Payment proceeding (by Ramakrishna)

Requested credit card details are matched with a real credit card.

03. User control and freedom

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. Support undo and redo.

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If you attached a large file in Gmail by mistakenly, you can cancel it before its fully uploaded.

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When you trigger an action accidentally, and you want to get out of there without going through any of the details, the small cross is there to rescue you.

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If you make a simple mistake, you can always undo and recover from it, and if you want to go deeper medium has revision history that you can restore to a previous state.

04. Consistency and standards

Users should not have to wonder whether different words, situations, or actions mean the same thing. Follow platform conventions.

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You will always find sign-in, profile details and shopping cart information at the top right corner.

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Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint all use the same style toolbar with the same primary menu options: Home, Insert, Page Layout… Consistency results in efficiency and perceived intuitiveness

05. Error prevention

Even better than good error messages is a careful design which prevents a problem from occurring in the first place. Either eliminate error-prone conditions or check for them and present users with a confirmation option before they commit to the action.

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When you try to send an attachment through Gmail and forgets to attach it, Gmail smartly detects that you haven’t attached the file and warn you before you send the mail.

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When you choose password tips are provided to prevent errors and password strength is calculated and displayed as you type.

Continue to part 2

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