Alternative frameworks for heuristic reviews

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Dear UXer,

Being able to conduct a heuristic review of an application, portal, app, or a website is an important skill that you should acquire as a UX professional.

A heuristic review is an assessment of a portal, application or website to see how it measures up against established principles of usability. These reviews are also known as current state audit, expert review or heuristic evaluation among other names.

Heuristic reviews are usually conducted by trained usability specialists who go over the portal under review and uncover any usability problems at various levels, list and categorise them, explain why they are problems and which usability principles they violate. Following these, are recommendations that can help improve the usability of the portal.

Typically 2-3 experts work independently on the portal being evaluated and then come together to compare their findings and aggregate them. This helps reduce the gaps in observations significantly as well as confirm the more important findings.

The most commonly used principles

The most commonly used set of usability principles to evaluate portals is the one by Jakob Nielsen which was first published in 1990, then updated in 1994 and finally in 2005. However they are not the only set of guidelines available. Take a look at the following alternative frameworks you could use for your heuristic evaluations:

  1. There is one very comprehensive booklet published by the US government on their website which I have found to be a treasure. It is a PDF more than 200 pages long and makes a very informative read as well as a solid although tedious set of guidelines to compare the portal against. This too has been last updated probably in 2005. This can be downloaded by following the link
  2. Then there are guidelines by Susan Weinschenk and Dean Barker published in 2000, which is another comprehensive list to refer to here
  3. Ben Shneiderman published his 8 Golden rules of Interface Design in his book “Designing the User Interface: Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction” in 1986. The same can be found here –
  4. Gerhardt-Powals’ cognitive engineering principles is a less known set of principles but it reportedly, they are more effective in finding more problems in less time than the commonly used Nielsen’s. I didn’t find the link to the original guidelines but they are listed on this wikipedia page –

You may use any of the above frameworks as they are or create your own by combining elements that you find relevant to your case, from these.

When to use heuristic evaluation and when to avoid? How effective is heuristic evaluation? These are questions that we will tackle in future posts.

Happy learning!

Yours Sincerely
Fellow UXer

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