# Heuristic Evaluation

# Phase: 🔎 Problem seeking
Focus: Landscape


Time commitment: Varies by size of site, but relatively time-intensive
Difficulty: Low
Materials needed: Website/app to audit, qualitative/quantitative information about your users such as personas and usage metrics, spreadsheet
Who should participate: User experience designers, visual designers, project/product owners, developers
Best for: Gaining an initial view of a product's overall usability in order to assess needs and next steps

# About this tool

Heuristic evaluation can be an excellent first-step analysis of an existing artifact because it's relatively simple: Gather a small group of diverse evaluators to examine whether the product stacks up to recognized usability principles (heuristics). If you've got a site, app or other artifact that already exists and is heading for its next version, this can be a good place to start, often in conjunction with creating a sitemap and doing a content audit in order to assemble a complete picture of current state.

While different types of products or areas of focus may lend themselves to "specialty" heuristics, the UX community generally agrees that Nielsen Norman Group's 10 usability heuristics (opens new window) are a good place to start.

  • Gather a small group of reviewers (3-8 people or so); they can be internal, but take care to make sure they're not too close to the product, and that they represent a diverse group of viewpoints and areas of expertise.
  • Give them a list of usability heuristics (perhaps NN's canonical ones, personalized and augmented by anything suggested by your qual/quant knowledge of your users) and ask them to note down in a central spreadsheet or other convenient location how the product does or does not meet these principles.
  • Group their responses by principle and look for patterns or clusters that may indicate relative importance/severity or prioritization of work needed. Summarize your findings in a format that can help others take action upon your next steps.

Be aware that while heuristic review can provide a substantial amount of insight with a minimum of effort and expense, it shouldn't be considered a replacement for interview-based moderated usability testing; a heuristic review is limited to a fixed set of criteria, and will fail to surface the nuanced insights that usability testing will provide.