Elevate Your Customer Experience with Heuristic Analysis

Eoghan Shanley
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“The next big thing is the one that makes the last big thing usable.”
- Blake Ross, Co-creator of Mozilla Firefox

It is difficult to get users to adopt new or modify existing behaviours. Instead by improving your User Experience (UX) based off of existing user behaviours, we can also directly improve the customer experience and this will positively affect the company’s ROI because good UX investments enhance customer satisfaction.

What is a Heuristic Analysis

A Heuristic Analysis is essentially a method for a UX designer to test a site’s usability, ensuring that it is adequately user-friendly and allows for issues with the user experience to be flagged. It is normally conducted using 10 guidelines which were established by prominent usability experts Jakob Nielsen, and Rolf Molich.  

So what are these 10 guidelines? 

  1. Visibility of system status - The user shouldn’t have to ask “what the hell is happening?” They should be able to just understand it. 
  2. Match between system and the real world - speak the users’ language. If your target market is teenage Americans don’t call a store a shop - they won’t understand.
  3. User control and freedom - Have an emergency exit plan for users at all times - they shouldn’t have to rely on the browsers back button.
  4. Consistency and standards - Follow conventions - not every wheel needs to be reinvented.
  5. Error prevention - users will make mistakes, so ensure that your design works to prevent as many of these mistakes from being made as possible - and at least help guide them back when they do occur.
  6. Recognition rather than recall - We can’t solely rely on our users’ memories. So just make actions and buttons visible and obvious.
  7. Flexibility and efficiency of use - Allow frequent actions to be achieved more efficiently, this is especially important for returning users
  8. Aesthetic and minimalist design - Leave out bits of irrelevant information to your users. Always ask yourself, does the user care? Or does this provide value to them? -  if not it goes. 
  9. Help users recognise, diagnose and recover from errors - Display error messages in plain English - we’re not all developers or bilinguists 
  10. Help and documentation - Unfortunately some systems are complex, if instructions are needed, make it easy to find them.

As nice as these 10 guidelines are, they aren’t all always relevant. And then sometimes your site may have one of them perfect. And other times you may need specific or new categories - mobile responsiveness may be one for example. Don’t sweat it. Pick and choose what’s relevant and create new ones if needed. You can also google examples of these.

How do I do a Heuristic Analysis?

Start by having a UX designer go through the site from start to finish as a user would. The designer should record their experiences, what gave them joy, what caused them some mild agitation; and any major issues they’ve noticed. Compile these experiences, and review them and the website against each of the chosen guidelines. If possible, have a second UX designer complete an analysis; or at the very least review the document from the first designer. If you have a third designer - and the budget - use them. The more designers that carry out the analysis, the more errors that will be caught. There is strength in numbers!

Designer conducting some UX exercises on an appplication

Should I do a Heuristic Analysis?

Yes! However, let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of doing such an analysis.

Pros:

  • A heuristic analysis is a fantastic way to get a UX expert to review your site, and catch issues. Some of these can lead to quick-win solutions that allow for greater conversions.
  • They are also a great way for a designer to get used to your site, before conducting any design changes/redesigns. 
  • This type of evaluation removes any potential practical or ethical issues that could arise through user research. 
  • (LH) It’s an inexpensive way to uncover obvious usability issues.

Cons:

  • The designer carrying out the analysis could miss some issues, as well as approach it with a biased perception where they apply personal opinions rather than objective analysis  - but then that’s when using multiple designers comes in handy. 
  • Heuristic analysis’ are done based off of a preconceived idea of what is ‘good’ usability (although these ideas tend to be rigorously tested before widely being accepted - so this can be seen as a bit of a null issue)
  • Sometimes problems identified may be ‘false alarms’. Yes occasionally even professionals overestimate the impact of certain elements 

From my point of view, the pros and cons tend to point to one answer. And that is to do it. When these analyses are combined with user testing there are absolutely no negatives to doing it. The question mark arises only when this is the only form of testing being done. But then that’s the risk of not doing user testing.

And yes, you read that right, this is not user testing.

How is this not user testing?

Put simply, UX designers are likely not your target market. And even when they fall under this category - they are often too cynical and tech-savvy to be your average user. They are also biased - i.e. we always want better for the user, even when the user doesn’t think they have any problems with the system. 

User testing also tends to be more expensive and requires greater logistical planning. That’s why combining it with a heuristic analysis is perfect. The analysis finds the glaring, and often subtle, issues, which can be corrected before being put in front of the user for testing. This way more minute and pertinent obstacles for the users can be found and highlighted. Rather than having these glaring issues take up their time and attention.

Conclusion

So that’s it. As daunting as they may seem, heuristic analysis’ aren’t overly complicated - however, I beg you. Leave it to the Professionals. This is one of those things that you just don’t DIY. 

Combined with one-on-one testing with your target audience (virtually or in-person) the return on investment could be significant, helping to increase conversion rates and customer satisfaction. Talk to our UX Team today about a solution that suits your business.

Eoghan Shanley Profile Picture

Eoghan Shanley,

Junior UI/UX Designer