Usability Heuristics as collective design experience

Cup of tea?

You don’t need to do Interaction Design from scratch.

Expert designers’ shared experience can be used to increase the quality of the User Interfaces that you design: collect, review, and apply the most useful Usability Heuristics to design your software better. 

What is a heuristic?

Heuristics are general practical rules based on practice and experience rather than formal theory. A heuristic is an approach to problem-solving that works in practice but is not guaranteed to be perfect. You derive a heuristic from your experience with similar problems, you can’t be sure it will always work, but it worked so far.

Try (and learn) it until it works.

Trial-and-error is the most common heuristic when trying to solve a problem. Making several different attempts from different angles and alternative approaches should allow you to make errors leading to the eventual solution.

Heuristics and design: Usability heuristics

In Interaction Design, a usability heuristic principle guides how to design software products to make them usable.

Heuristics aim at giving directions to design more usable software tools rather than dictating prescriptions.

‘“Rule of thumb”: a man may beat his wife with a stick no wider than his thumb’.
The embarrassing origin of a popular expression.)

How to design usable solutions using usability heuristics

Since they come from experience and are not prescriptive, the most popular usability heuristics originate from different schools of thought. Still, anybody tapping from their personal experience can create and adapt their set of heuristics.

Some of the most famous usability heuristics are the ones created by Nielsen Norman Group. They published the first version 15 years ago, and a few days ago, they updated that seminal article:  10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design.

The Nielsen Norman Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design

It’s advantageous to keep these in mind when designing a User Interface, but I find it even more useful to collect real-life examples showing how they are used or violated.

For now, let’s have an entirely useless list of Usability Heuristics you could find at the source:

  1. Visibility of system status
  2. Match between system and the real world
  3. User control and freedom
  4. Consistency and standards
  5. Error prevention
  6. Recognition rather than recall
  7. Flexibility and efficiency of use
  8. Aesthetic and minimalist design
  9. Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors
  10. Help and documentation

Let’s see if I will ever dare to go deeper in each of them to link my elucubrations in the previous list. I like risk.

You can improve your User Interface Design by checking it against usability heuristics carefully selected, adapted, and integrated according to the context of use.

Cup of tea?
Cup of tea?