A Quick and Dirty Heuristic Evaluation

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One of the fastest (& incidentally cheapest) “bang for your buck” type of User Experience techniques is the good old trusty heuristic evaluation.  Essentially, a heuristic evaluation (aka expert review, usability audit, site audit) is a discount usability method that evaluates a product based on a set of usability and design principles/guidelines.  It’s excellent for those who already have a good understanding of their end users or for non-breakthrough products and helps to quickly uncover the most critical usability issues.

I won’t go into the details of what comprises the standard ten heuristics, but Jakob Nielson can get you going on it.  Despite its reputation for being fast, a thorough heuristic review can actually take quite a long time (around a week), and generating the report usually chews up a good chunk of time.

Curious to see how I might be able to speed it up the whole process, I decided to experiment in my class by cross-pollinating it with affinity mapping.  The folks at David Suzuki Foundation were kind enough to volunteer a recent microsite, Spring Breakup, to put the technique to the test.

Here’s what I did:

1. Assigned one heuristic per expert (i.e. 10 people).

2. Each expert goes crazy uncovering everything potentially problematic that falls under that heuristic and puts each issue on one sticky note. You could give each expert a set amount of time to do this, such as one or two hours.


3. The expert then posts sticky notes to a community wall, taking care to cluster related issues. Subsequent experts cluster their notes as well.  Any expert is welcome to rearrange clusters as s/he sees fit.


4. Experts can also casually create/self-organize categories to pull out overarching themes.


5. Team comes in to review the wall (instead of long boring report) and can reorganize themes in order of priority.

I was surprised to see how quick this whole process went.  It lacks the complete detail of a report, but for a team who’s interested in actioning things quickly and figuring out low-hanging fruit issues to solve for, this would be ideal.


Interested in the User Experience course I’m teaching? Here are more posts:

>The First Class: UX for the Real World

>The Second Class: Merchandizing in the Real World

>The Third Class: Learning from Whole Foods

>The Fourth Class: Usability Testing Tips

>The Fifth Class: Usability Audit/Report

>The Sixth Class: Lean Prototyping

>The Seventh Class: Prototyping as Storytelling

>The Eighth Class: Gamification prototypeMobile prototypeScrapbook prototype,  Kiosk prototype.

>The Ninth Class: Empathy & User-Centered Design

>The Tenth & Eleventh Class: King Edward Village Observation, Bucket Radio exhibit

>The Twelfth Class: Science World Museum Kiosk Observation


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