Importance of Usability Heuristics for a Product Success

As a product person, you would always want your product to stand out in the market and be the best compare to all your competitor products. One of the vital reasons for a product’s success is user experience. How the user can use the product with ease to its best.

To ensure we give the best experience to our valuable customers we should definitely follow the heuristic review method for our product.

What is Heuristic Review?

In 1994, Jakob Nielsen provided the world of technology with ten great heuristics to help us create easy-to-use interfaces for any kind of application which users use. These 10 guideposts are applied to almost every user interface.

In this blog, I am writing in simple terms what I have understood from “Jakob Nielsen’s 10 Usability Heuristics”.

Have you ever imagine waiting in front of a 15 storage building’s elevator, where the lift doesn’t give any status response to your lift call, you don’t see where the lift is and you are clueless waiting for the lift to open for you.

How will be your experience? I am sure it will not be great as you don't even know whether the lift is working, where the lift is at the moment so that you know how long you need to wait?

In the same way, it is very important to provide feedback that acts as acknowledgement for the user request and helps them understand what’s happening with the system.

The system should avoid using “system-oriented terms” and jargon and try as much as possible to use terms that are familiar to your target audience.

Let's take the desktop calculator app as an example. The interface of the calculator app is inspired by the physical calculator. In system calculator feature could have been in any fancy app form, but it is kept as near to the real physical calculator so that users are familiar with interactions that make it easier for the users to use it without the need for any training.

Your product should support undo and redo for user operations, like closing an application immediately without having to go through multiple dialogues and screens gives users the freedom they crave and need.

For example, the user wants to update a profile in a job portal and once the user fills in all the details a success message pops up for publishing a profile. It is not just only a success message popup. The undo button in that popup helps the user to go back and set up the profile again if they have done any mistake.

The application should have consistent design. There are two types of consistency, Internal and External.

Internal Consistency is of individual design decisions in a application.

External Consistency is consistency with platform standards

Keepig consistent design helps the user to easily recognise patterns and symbols in the application as they are already familiar with that.

Example of Internal Consistency is like in a e retail application like Myntra, to show different categories they use similar design

Example of External Consistency is like, if you take any e retail application the cart symbol remains same.

This heuristic principle is to make sure application is trying to eliminate user errors and prevent them from occuring at all. How do we do that ?

We can do that by giving appropriate confirmation/hints/popup/undo message on the application before the user confirms any action.

We should remember users are humans and humans are prone to do mistakes. So we should always keep try to avoid those possible mistakes by giving appropriate suggestions and notifications when needed in the application.

Provide all required suggestions when users need them in your application, don't let the user think or recall more about your application features.

Minimize the user’s memory load by making objects, actions, and options visible. The user should not have to remember information from one part of the dialogue to another.

Instructions and suggestions for use of the application should be visible or easily retrievable whenever appropriate.

In this example of Google page, this is called contextual recommendation. Google search typing suggestion is an excellent example of contextual recommendations. As the user starts typing, Google Search suggests the relevant query, and this helps users find the relevant query in less time.

another example of this heuristic approach is showing recently viewed documents to assist users to quickly access a document.

Offer shortcuts that allow users for more efficient interaction with your product.

Flexible processes can be carried out in different ways and the user can use it in any way they want to use it.

For example if you want to send almost same content email with slight changes to different group of people, would you prefer writing the same content with the slight changes again and again?

Im sure No, you would want the flexibility to copy the content of one of the email and send it to different receipent multiple time with the slight changes you need to make in the content.

This heuristic approach is to make sure the application is focused to do the essentials and have minimalist design, that doesn't mean that doesn't mean it should be a basic flat design, it means grab users attention towards the action need to be done there. Or give exact data that they want to see. Don’t put irrelevant data and elements to confuse the users.

Google.com is a perfect example of aesthetic and minimalist design. The have kept it simple to communicate and not done much on decoreting the page.

Help the users to identify what is the exact error and suggest a way to get rid of that. If the user is not getting a helping hand on an error, they will definitely move away from the product.

If a screen ends up with an error message, express the problem in plain language and suggest a solution. Don’t use numbers or codes and always offer advice on how to fix the problem or how to proceed.

Provide help and documentation to your user about your application, It is true that users won’t read documentations, except when they’re in trouble and they want to find the solution to that.

You can provide the possible error messages and details in the documentation. You should also provide an intelligent search so that users don’t have to browse through the whole documentation to find a solution to their problem.

Conclusion

It is very important to keep in mind that all these above mentioned heurestic principle of usability must be in place to experience customer succeed which in turn will be Product Sucess.

Even though “Jakob Nielsen’s 10 Usability Heuristics”date back to 90s, it’s still relevant and useful.

Heuristic Principles are great, easy, and cheap to conduct in comparison to other usability methodologies.

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Sonia Dey

Product Manager in PowerSchool, Passionate about product, product management and singing.