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Even though testing a product with users is the ultimate discipline in product development, there are quick and inexpensive methods that are also suitable for identifying serious usability problems even without user involvement.
One of these methods is heuristic evaluation.
How does a heuristic evaluation work?
In this method, a product is examined by several usability and user experience experts with regard to compliance with common usability rules. To do this, each expert goes through the product individually and notes any violations of usability rules. In a first step, the focus of the method is only to uncover usability problems and then – in the round of experts – to weight the usability violations found according to severity.
Eliminating the problems is not the primary goal of this method, since otherwise experts may only note down the problems for which they already have a solution in mind.
However, it is of course possible and useful to extend the method to include recommendations for action afterwards.
In contrast to methods with direct user participation, heuristic evaluation can be used at very early stages of product development, when users sometimes still find it difficult to imagine the later product. By using the method at a very early stage, heuristic evaluation can help to reduce costs in the long term.
However, the method cannot replace an evaluation from the user’s point of view in order to capture the emotional evaluation of the product.
These questions are answered by the heuristic evaluation:
- Where should I arrange elements (e.g. buttons, menu, menu sub-items) in my interface?
- What general usability problems does my product have?
- Where do problems (e.g. errors, waiting times, getting “lost”) occur when using my product?
How does a heuristic evaluation work for us?
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