Heuristic Evaluation

In a heuristic evaluation, an expert tests a product or service against a set of guidelines. Heuristics are broad, but agreed-upon rules of thumb.

Jakob Nielsen’s Usability Heuristics

Probably the most-used list of heuristics is the one first put together by Jakob Nielsen in 1994.

Visibility of System Status

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

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.

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.

Consistency and Standards

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

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.

Recognition rather than Recall

Minimize the user’s memory load by making objects, actions, and options visible. The user should not have to remember information from one part of the dialogue to another. Instructions for use of the system should be visible or easily retrievable whenever appropriate.

Flexibility and Efficiency of Use

Accelerators — unseen by the novice user — may often speed up the interaction for the expert user such that the system can cater to both inexperienced and experienced users. Allow users to tailor frequent actions.

Aesthetic and Minimalist Design

Dialogues should not contain information which is irrelevant or rarely needed. Every extra unit of information in a dialogue competes with the relevant units of information and diminishes their relative visibility.

Help Users recognize, diagnose, and recover from Errors

Error messages should be expressed in plain language (no codes), precisely indicate the problem, and constructively suggest a solution.

Help and Documentation

Even though it is better if the system can be used without documentation, it may be necessary to provide help and documentation. Any such information should be easy to search, focused on the user’s task, list concrete steps to be carried out, and not be too large.

Rating Findings

Common scales focus on the severity of findings. While this is the most important part of heuristic evaluation, I prefer using a scale that includes positive aspects.











-1 Cosmetic Problem

-2 Minor Problem

-3 Serious Problem

-4 Catastrophic Problem


0 Neither positive nor negative


+1 Cosmetic Positive

+2 Minor Positive

+3 Major Positive

+4 Extremely Positive

Storing Findings

One way to store findings is in a table. I suggest using a tool like Notion to do so.

DescriptionFileNotesImpacted HeuristicsRating
Example #1ScreenshotLorem ipsum dolor …Consistency and Standards-3
Example #2ScreenvideoError Prevention0
Example #3Aesthetic and Minimalist Design1

This article is neither painting a complete picture of the topic nor is it trying to. It serves as a mnemonic and notebook for Marvin.

If you found a mistake, want to add something or found the article helpful, please get in touch.