I have seen this usability heuristic checklist from a number of sources with pretty much the same content but some slight variations and no credit to an original source - could anyone please confirm who the original source is?


This version credits 'Making Computers People Literate' By Elaine Weiss as the primary source; I haven't read this book so I'm not sure if that contains the same whole checklist or just some of the content..

The sections are based on Nielsen's 10 heuristics: https://www.nngroup.com/articles/ten-usability-heuristics/ but I haven't found the more detailed checklist on the NN site.

I have found this quite useful so would like to give due credit to the author, thanks!


If you look at the 'Xerox list' you'll see it's actually the same as the headings (different words - same meanings) printed in the Apple Human Interface Guidelines (this version archived on Archive.org from 1996 - But this is the update for Mac OS 8, and I think the guidelines were substantially the same for OS 7, released in 1991. If you go by the latest reference in the bibliography, then these guidelines must have been produced about 1992)


The Guidelines do helpfully have a bibliography so you can see where Apple got its ideas from...


A lot of the 'names' probably haven't been heard of by modern UX people but these were the original academics who built the field. This link contains what Apple considered a 'Key Text', co-editted by one Donald A Norman. Nielsen came a number of years later.


Hutchins, E. L., J. D. Hollan, and D. A. Norman. "Direct Manipulation Interfaces." In User Centered System Design, edited by D.A. Norman and S. Draper. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1986.

And surprisingly still available from Amazon...


Going back in time before this gets us back to the early 80's - and birth of the Apple Lisa and then the Mac with Graphical User Interface.

And so there's some argument that even if Xerox hadn't written down the heuristics, they were incorporated into the design of the Alto interface, which inspired Steve Jobs.



Given the nature of the citations as well as their publication dates relative to the checklist, I would argue that the list made by Xerox is the original. The checklist was made by Deniese Pierotti.

Mar 14, 1994 - Making Computers People Literate

"Making Computers People-Literate is a computer cookbook that offers practical guidelines and techniques for identifying, diagnosing, and curing computer interface problems" - Google Books

To me, this sounds more like a critique of UI / UX in the early 90's than a book that would contain checklists for designers or developers. Furthermore, the author's background does not formally involve design or technology. Although I admit that I have not read this book either, I would assume it offers a layman's view of what made computers difficult for users to interact with at the time.

January 1, 1995 - 10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design

From 1994 to 1998, [Nielsen] was a Sun Microsystems Distinguished Engineer. He was hired to make heavy-duty enterprise software easier to use[.] Dr. Nielsen ended up spending most of his time at Sun defining the emerging field of web usability [...] and has invented several usability methods, including heuristic evaluation. - Wikipedia

Nielsen seems to be the sort of "founding father" of web usability seeing as he almost single-handedly set the standards at Sun Microsystems. 10 Usability Heuristics, though still not a checklist per se, offered a much more structured view of what makes something usable.

1995 - Heuristic Evaluation - A System Checklist

Xerox, a very large technology company, was developing new products with more advanced interfaces and began to target the web. Without any set standards for how user interaction should work, the interfaces were likely inconsistent between products and teams. The solution to this problem would be a checklist that designers and developers could run through to ensure their systems were user-friendly. I can't seem to find any additional information on how the list came to be or the author of the checklist, Deniese Pierotti.

  • Nielsen was fairly early in the field as is illustrated by his book Usability Engineering (1993). However there were a whole raft of academics who published in the 1980s when it was called HCI. Don Norman was publishing HCI papers in the mid 80s so he's my nomination for 'founding father'. I'm not sure when it actually started being called 'usability' - I have a presentation I did in 1989 about 'userbility' so at that point while the word was around, its spelling wasn't finalised !
    – PhillipW
    Apr 21 '17 at 17:01
  • @PhillipW That's very interesting, you've been in the UI / UX field much longer than I. Since you have much more historical experience, does Xerox's checklist resemble anything you remember seeing around those times? I'd like to get a definitive answer to the OP's question as mine is largely speculation. Apr 21 '17 at 17:05
  • I've added more info as An Answer - as I need more characters to respond.
    – PhillipW
    Apr 22 '17 at 10:27

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