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“Heuristic” is an old Greek word that means to find or invent. The etymology is this: From gr. εὑρίσκεινheurískein, ‘find’, ‘invent’
10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design

Heuristic Evaluation & Usability in Digital Design

“Heuristic” is an old Greek word that means to find or invent. The etymology is this:
From gr. εὑρίσκεινheurískein, ‘find’, ‘invent’

Cambridge dictionary also provides us with an interesting definition, Heuristics: “A method of learning or solving problems that allow people to discover things themselves and learn from their own experiences”

At this point, you are probably wondering what an ancient Greek method has to do with usability in digital products. Right? Well, the person who found a connection between the Greek method and digital products is Jakob Nielsen, Ph.D. in human-computer interaction in the Technical University of Copenhagen, Dinamarca and former VP of research in Apple Computer.

Jakob Nielsen describes for the first time in 1994 in his book “Usability Inspection Methods” – the Heuristic evaluation methodology. This fundamentally verifies whether a product contains a set of rules that allow the users to learn by themselves everything they need to know to use the product comfortably and without friction.

There are various sets of rules we can use for the purpose of conducting a heuristic Evaluation like the “20 Usability Heuristics” (Weinschenk and Barker, 2000) or the “6 Design Principles for Usability” (Don Norman, 1988). Today, the most widespread set of rules that we focus on are the “10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design” (Jakob Nielsen, 1994).

Also read: Designing UX for the Color Blind

10 UI Heuristics and Altimetrik’s Usability Approach

1. Visibility of system status

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

We at Altimetrik use proper components to show the system status at a given moment. The correct use of loading bars or layout placeholders, and success and error messages just to name a few, help the users to understand what the system is doing or if their actions were successfully done or not.

Visibility of system status

2. Match between the 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.

We strive to use natural language to communicate errors in the products. Also using icons that depict real-world objects that perform actions equivalent to the actions the user will perform in the product (like the camera icon to take a picture in an app with your phone) result in a better understanding of the products from the users who already know what the real-life counterparts do.

Match between the system and the real world

3. 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.

 In the products we create at Altimetrik, we try to use not only undo and redo buttons, but another way to provide the user more control over their actions is also by the use of back and cancel buttons every time a user wants to change something in the system, that way they can leave the screen they pretended to change the status without applying the changes if they want to.

User control and freedom

4. Consistency and standards

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

 The use of design systems (following “Brad Frost, Atomic Design” like guidelines) is a common practice in Altimetrik designed products, this allows us to maintain a visual consistency that helps the users create mental models on how to use our products and predict for instance what a button will do based on previous experiences with the product.

Consistency and standards

5. Error prevention

Even better than a good error message 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.

 All of the products we design at Altimetrik have very conscious use of confirmation dialogues for destructive actions that a user may regret, we don’t want a miss to click to ruin anyone’s day! Also showing in real-time as the user is typing if it meets the requirements for a specific field, let’s say a password, may avoid the user entering an incorrect format value, and receive an error message.

Error prevention

6. 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.

 Display descriptions along with the components, provide radio buttons or checkboxes with options instead of text input fields whenever possible and use visible navigation instead of hidden navigation just to name a few. These are all good practices to reduce the cognitive load of users.

Recognition rather than recall

7. 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.

 Providing a certain degree of customization in the UI helps the users to speed up their workflows by allowing them to organize the information according to their own needs. The inexperience of designing several data visualization dashboards, we have enabled users to reorganize the tiles that allow defining an information architecture that is always tailored for them.

Flexibility and efficiency of use

8. Aesthetic and minimalistic 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.

We always strive for minimalistic design at Altimetrik, making sure that the important pieces of information don’t get lost in crowded screens. The use of multiple-step wizards instead of long forms or dividing complex flows along multiple but clean screens instead of having few screens with too many actions is always preferred. In today’s design, the number of clicks is not as important as how easy (or hard) is it to find the button that will allow me to move in the direction I want.

Aesthetic and minimalistic design

9. 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.

There is nothing more frustrating than an error you don’t know how to recover from. That’s why we pay special attention to the error messages that range from error screens, alerts, toasts, etc. Even if each one of them has specific goals, all of them speak to the user in natural language with an appropriate tone that is decided by our UX writers.

Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors

10. 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.

It is very important to incorporate this vital aspect to offer the best possible help to the users. From properly designed help sections to step by step tutorials for newcomers, our products always provide enough documentation to help the users dissipate any doubt they may have about the product or how to use it.

Help and documentation

These guidelines are extremely helpful for UX teams to create products that are easy to use and can increase user stickiness. UX has a crucial role in defining the success of ideas and concepts, especially in these changing times of Covid-19.

Would you like to get a Heuristics evaluation of your product? Connect here.

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Camilo Mejias

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Vikas Krishan

Chief Digital Business Officer and Head of the EMEA region

Vikas (Vik) Krishan serves as the Chief Digital Business Officer and Head of the EMEA region for Altimetrik. He is responsible for leading and growing the company’s presence across new and existing client relationships within the region.

Vik is a seasoned executive and brings over 25 years of global experience in Financial Services, Digital, Management Consulting, Pre- and Post-deal services and large/ strategic transformational programmes, gained in a variety of senior global leadership roles at firms such as Globant, HCL, Wipro, Logica and EDS and started his career within Investment Banking. He has developed significant cross industry experience across a wide variety of verticals, with a particular focus on working with and advising the C-Suite of Financial Institutions, Private Equity firms and FinTech’s on strategy and growth, operational excellence, performance improvement and digital adoption.

He has served as the engagement lead on multiple global transactions to enable the orchestration of business, technology, and operational change to drive growth and client retention.

Vik, who is based in London, serves as a trustee for the Burma Star Memorial Fund, is a keen photographer and an avid sportsman.

Megan Farrell Herrmanns

Chief Digital Officer, US Central

Megan is a senior business executive with a passion for empowering customers to reach their highest potential. She has depth and breadth of experience working across large enterprise and commercial customers, and across technical and industry domains. With a track record of driving measurable results, she develops trusted relationships with client executives to drive organizational growth, unlock business value, and internalize the use of digital business as a differentiator.

At Altimetrik, Megan is responsible for expanding client relationships and developing new business opportunities in the US Central region. Her focus is on digital business and utilizing her experience to create high growth opportunities for clients. Moreover, she leads the company’s efforts in cultivating and enhancing our partnership with Salesforce, strategically positioning our business to capitalize on new business opportunities.

Prior to Altimetrik, Megan spent 10 years leading Customer Success at Salesforce, helping customers maximize the value of their investments across their technology stack. Prior to Salesforce, Megan spent over 15 years with Accenture, leading large transformational projects for enterprise customers.

Megan earned a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Marquette University. Beyond work, Megan enjoys playing sand volleyball, traveling, watching her kids soccer games, and is actively involved in a philanthropy (Advisory Council for Cradles to Crayons).

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