About This Assignment: Heuristic Evaluation
This assignment is done while preparing for the cognitive walkthrough in project assignment 3.
The purpose of the heuristic evaluation is to identify general usability concerns with an app. We will employ heuristic evaluation as an early-stage step in a design or re-design process that provides important information for app development teams.
A heuristic evaluation (sometimes called an expert review) is performed by evaluating a design, interface, or other product against a list of usability principles or heuristics specific to the domain or genre of the user interface design. A heuristic evaluation results in
- a list of potential usability concerns
- a list of critical design concerns
HU 4628 students will perform heuristic evaluations on their teams’ preliminary designs, with the goal of identifying usability concerns and critical design concerns that suggest where instructional and other documentation could be required. Heuristic evaluations may be conducted on other apps from the same or related domains.
The results of the heuristic evaluation will be summarized in a heuristic evaluation report, and presented during the team’s Cognitive Walkthrough. The heuristic evaluation report is aimed at your teammates, the scientist with whom you’re working, your classmates, and the instructors of the classes.
Assignment Details and Definitions
A User Interface (UI) domain is a general category that the app or system belongs to. For example a word processor design would belong to the UI domain for text document generation, which is different from the domain of drawing software. You should derive your heuristics by consulting the design’s nominal interaction diagram, HTA and other design documents.
Reporting the Results of a Heuristic Evaluation
The heuristic evaluation form need not be long, perhaps 2 or 3 pages. The document may contain tables and bullets, but all bullet lists, figures, and tables should be supported with full sentence explanations in the text.
Your document is not an outline. The document must be edited and proofread carefully, must be formatted for ease of reading and skimmability, and must communicate clearly.
By the due date, submit the report to Canvas and add it to the Cognitive Walkthrough section of your team’s website.
It should include the following clearly labeled sections.
Introduction and Methods
- Brief description of the app (including the rhetorical situation–who will use it, when/under what conditions, and why/for what purpose or goal).
- The purpose and process of conducting the heuristic evaluation.
- The heuristics employed.
- The rationale for selecting those heuristics.
- Potential usability problems are UI usability problems that you discover during the heuristic evaluation. These may be general problems or problems that would affect a specific target audience. Be sure to name the heuristic or principle that each identified usability problem violates.
- Critical design concerns are potential usability problem that would prevent the user from performing essential tasks. Not all potential usability problems are critical design concerns. Be sure to name the heuristic or principle that each critical design concern violates.
- What adjustments should be made or have been made to the design based on the results of the heuristic evaluation?
- What instructional or other documentation is needed to mitigate the effects of potential usability problems and critical design concerns?
- How should this documentation be deployed (print, Website, online help, video training modules, glossaries, etc.)?
Resources for conducting Heuristic Evaluations
Although this article is about usability concerns more generally, it includes good information on the importance of identifying potential usability problems and suggests the importance of being alert to them during heuristic evaluation and subsequent development. The article also notes that different evaluators tend to find different problems, so it’s a good idea to have each HU4628 team member perform the heuristic evaluation individually before consolidating findings in the report (see format below).
The following blog post contains detailed information about Heuristic Evaluation and includes a table of 20 heuristics for interface design; you may wish to adapt a selection of these heuristics for your evaluation.
You will find the following nuts-and-bolts article on usability.gov
This short video delineates the differences between Cognitive Walkthrough, Heuristic Evaluation, and Usability Testing. We will be using the terms in slightly different ways, but the distinctions identified in this video are useful. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3EWa_ybGyCM
Example of Using a Heuristic
Probably the most commonly used heuristic for user-interface design is Jakob Nielsen’s 10 Heuristics for User Interface Design. Nielsen’s list of heuristics was written for the Web and has been adapted for broader use with UI designs. The following hypothetical list of potential usability problems for a GPS UI was generated using Nielsen’s heuristics:
- On the opening form the function of the right arrow in the upper left is not clear. This violates the visibility principle.
- On the confirmation screen the save and delete button are adjacent to each other; what if the user hit the delete button by mistake? This violates the error prevention principle.
- There is not a cancel button on the form for saving. This violates the user control principle.
Critical design concern: No cancel button on the Save form is critical because it may cause excess work. For example: After entering the save form, Jane recalls that she wants to enter one more waypoint, but now she can only save. To do so, she must enter a name for the path. After the path is saved she must select that path from the list of saved paths and open it in the editor. This is a lot more work compared to canceling the save and adding the waypoint.
Email Me and Your Team
Email Robert Pastel (pastel at mtu.edu) and Karla Kitalong (kitalong at mtu.edu) when your website is up-to-date, so that we may view your Heuristic Evaluations. The subject line of the email should be
hu4628 – Heuristic Evaluation
Your email should NOT attach the documents. Rather, we will read them on your website or on Canvas.
Also you should email your team that you posted the evaluation on your website.