How to Apply Heuristic Analysis for Your UX Design


March 19, 2021

As an experienced user experience (UX) designer or web developer, you have probably undergone dozens of user interface design and evaluation processes in your line of work. So you’ve most likely come across the term “heuristics analysis” in UX design by now but probably didn’t get the chance to take a deep dive on the topic, until now.

If you’ve ever been curious about heuristic analysis, or heuristic evaluation, you’ll be surprised to learn that the concept behind it is simple. In UX design, heuristic evaluation refers to the process wherein subject matter experts (SMEs) evaluate the usability of your interface. Simply put, it’s an expert review of your UX design to make sure it’s as user-friendly as possible.

As an experienced UX design agency, we highly recommend incorporating this evaluation technique in your development workflow doesn’t just benefit your end-users, too. In fact, the heuristic evaluation of user interfaces is an SEO best practice as it precedes the off-page SEO tweaks you do to ensure that your websites and pages are error-free and are loading at optimal speeds.

Through optimizing websites based on errors identified during heuristic evaluation, you get instant plus points not just from your customers but from search engine masters, too!

Heuristic Evaluation vs. User Testing

Now we know the next question in your mind is: how does heuristic evaluation differ from user testing? What is heuristic evaluation in comparison to this tried-and-tested technique? Does heuristic evaluation offer any additional value that user testing doesn’t provide?

The answer to that last question is yes. But to find out why let’s first discuss exactly how the two UX design testing techniques differ.

First of all, heuristic evaluation is unique from user testing because it is done by SMEs. These SMEs will generate qualitative insights on your design based on their understanding of established industry standards. This, in turn, arms you with reliable data which you can instantly apply to your infrastructure.

User testing, on the other hand, collects qualitative data from the end user’s perspective. This evaluation process recruits the help of the users to test your model. From there, you get an insight into the actual, true-to-life applications and impact of your design output.

Viewing their applications in the context of the entire design process, it’s best practice that both evaluation techniques be done; where a heuristic review of your UX can and should be done at the beginning, or any stage of your site’s development, user testing is mostly performed near the end of the process.

Should you use both for business?

Yes, you definitely should. This is because apart from the fact that these evaluation techniques are beneficial, they are also practical and the execution is sustainable.

No matter which stage of the process you choose to do heuristic evaluations on your website, the data you collect will help form a foundation that you can layer new insights on top of later on. This data can then be combined with the insights you gained after you conduct your user testing – providing you with a holistic understanding of how well or badly your websites are running.

How to Do a Heuristic Review of Your UX

Given that user testing is already part of the basic blueprint of UX design projects, let’s now talk about how you can begin to apply heuristic evaluations for your next builds.

Here are a few quick and easy steps you can take to get the ball rolling:

  1. Establish your own heuristics.
  2. Choose experienced SMEs and brief them.
  3. Conduct at least two evaluation stages.
  4. Score and validate based on the criteria.
  5. Collect additional feedback.

1. Establish your own heuristics.

Before starting any review, make sure you set an appropriate list of heuristics in line with your website design guidelines and market research. If it helps, read up on preexisting sets of heuristic evaluations to get inspired for your own list.

Here at Propelrr, we regularly combine any or all of the following evaluation techniques for evaluating our website and those of our clients:

  • 7 Levers of Conversion. To evaluate how optimized conversion-specific pages are.
  • Product messaging. To check if copies on the page are clear, coherent, and help lead visitors further down the pages and compel them to meet page goals.
  • Usability. To assess pages for clarity and usability.

2. Choose experienced SMEs and brief them.

Make sure to select between three to five usability experts in your target field to conduct the evaluation. These SMEs shouldn’t be your end users, as well. They should be evaluators who are skilled in website development and any other fields of expertise relevant to your business.

After choosing them, you’ll need to brief these SMEs on your heuristics so they know what to check for. Establish clear standards and metrics to guide how they assess and rate these pages. This is to standardize and get accurate and bias-free data collection.

3. Conduct at least two evaluation stages.

As you can see, our method in Propelrr combines data from three different kinds of heuristics.

To ensure that you’re getting a holistic perspective of the optimization needs of your websites, we highly advise that you have your SMEs conduct multi-stage evaluations.

In doing so, your SMEs can also make sure that their assessment is as thorough as possible, and that’s crucial for distilling the most accurate insight for your design projects.

After that, you’ll all move on to the scoring and validation stage of the assessment.

4. Score and validate based on the criteria.

Based on your predetermined criteria, record each SMEs’ score for your new interface. Then, validate the credibility of each evaluation by performing a Fleiss’ Kappa on their scores.

The Fleiss’ Kappa is a statistical measure of validity that determines the level of agreement between your SMEs. It helps to prove that your SMEs’ scores are consistent and reliable across the board.

5. Collect additional feedback.

After all the assessments are completed, have a quick debriefing session with your SMEs to collect additional feedback. Give them the space to share any additional insights they may have regarding your interface. Any expert advice is good advice when it comes to optimizing a website design for all your end-users.

Key Takeaways

If you’re an expert web developer looking to improve your UX design, then you should put heuristic evaluation on your essential web design checklist. Don’t forget these key takeaways when you apply heuristics analysis for your next UX design evaluation:

  1. While it sounds complex, heuristics analysis for UX design is actually pretty simple. It’s just an expert review of your interface to make it as user-friendly as possible.
  2. A heuristic evaluation arms you with reliable and qualitative insights from actual subject matter experts (SMEs), prior to any lengthy user testing stages.
  3. Since you’re setting the heuristics for review, credibility is key. Get the best SMEs possible to evaluate your website, and perform a Fleiss’ Kappa to ensure reliability.

Need more tips on heuristic evaluation for your UX design? Drop the Propelrr team a note over at our Facebook, X or LinkedIn today for helpful advice and further information.