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I have to perform an heuristic evaluation of a website. I found in internet several guidelines on which the evaluation is based. I found also this article from Smashing Magazine (http://uxdesign.smashingmagazine.com/2011/12/16/guide-heuristic-website-reviews/) in which the evaluation is performed on several aspects like Home page, IA, Feedback and error tolerance and so on. Maybe I don't know enough the Nielsen's heuristic but they seems different from the ones on this articles. So, my question is : which set of heuristic an evaluation has to follow? I think that such a division like that on Smashing Magazine's article could be very useful to better assess usability problem for each area.

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A heuristic evaluation does not have to follow any specific set of heuristics. You can use a well-known set of heuristics such as Nielsen's usability heuristics. You can use a lesser-known set of heuristics, or you can devise your own heuristics that are most relevant to what you are evaluating. If you have been asked to do a heuristic evaluation, it is worthwhile to ask whether they had a specific set of heuristics in mind when they asked you to do the evaluation.

A heuristic evaluation does need to specify what set of heuristics are being used in the evaluation, and those heuristics need to be clear enough such that those who are consuming your heuristic evaluation can understand the criteria that you are using for the evaluation and the importance of the issues that are revealed in the evaluation. If you and someone else are conducting the heuristic evaluation together, you need to ensure that you are both using the same heuristics and interpreting them in the same way. In any case, you should be prepared to explain what the heuristics are, how they apply to your application, why you chose to use those heuristics, and what steps to take to address the issues that are exposed in your heuristic evaluation. You should also specify where the application is doing well with regards to the heuristics to ensure that these strengths continue to exist and be built upon.

If you have never done a heuristic evaluation before, Nielsen's heuristics are valuable for several reasons. They are widely used, which reduces the need for explaining the heuristics that you are using. There is a body of research which supports those heuristics, which can help you in explaining the importance of violations of the heuristics to others. It is also a small number of heuristics, which reduces the complexity in trying to determine which heuristic a given issue violates. There are many examples of the application of Nielsen's heuristics, which can help you understand how to conduct your own heuristic evaluation.

The most important thing is not the specific heuristics that you use in a heuristic evaluation. The heuristics that you use are a tool to accomplish the evaluation; it's your analysis in the evaluation that is of value.

  • Thanks a lot for your comment. I have to evaluate an interface for my thesis degree. My teacher told me using 10 nielsen's heuristic and Benyon's extension of these. I found in internet some checkpoints to follow for each heuristic to ensure a broad coverage. Do you have some other docs or something like this? The interface that I have to evaluate is a my design, so since I am too involved in this project, I'm scared to be not so unbiased. Maybe, follow a list of checkpoint for each heuristic could help me to be more unbiased – Matteo Vacca Mar 25 '14 at 23:01
  • If you haven't done a heuristic evaluation before, I recommend starting with Nielsen's article about how to conduct one: nngroup.com/articles/how-to-conduct-a-heuristic-evaluation Note that it recommends having multiple people evaluate the design, which should ameliorate your concern about biasing the results. Since your teacher has told you which heuristics to use, and presumably knows that you designed it, your teacher should be able to give you advice on how to avoid your own bias. – nadyne Mar 26 '14 at 1:16
  • More experienced heuristic evaluators might consider adding heuristics that address each client's specific needs. At my last workplace we added a heuristic for Branding, which evaluated how well each page supported the client's brand. – Ken Mohnkern May 8 '14 at 13:23

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