What is a heuristic analysis and why is it important?

What do you consider is the most important aspect of a website? Interface design is one of the first options that comes to mind; it should be “aesthetic” and in line with your business, but something that must be kept very in mind is the usability of this digital asset.

What happens when you enter a website and it takes a while to load or has usability issues? Easy, you get out of it and search for another option. In this case, an attractive and very well developed design can be overshadowed because it does not provide a satisfactory user experience.

For this reason, it is essential that in addition to an eye-catching web design, your digital asset is fully functional and provides each user with a clean, satisfactory and problem free experience.

According to a study conducted by Toptal, 88% of users would NOT return to a website where they had a bad user experience; Additionally, this study claims that a proper UX design can achieve a 400% increase in conversion rate. Do you see the importance of taking into account the usability of your website?

This is where heuristic analysis becomes a perfect tool to improve your digital marketing strategy and solve the problems that might be delaying the growth of your digital asset, in this case, your website. I will tell you everything you need to know.


What is a heuristic analysis and what is it for? 

A heuristic analysis is a test that is run on digital assets such as websites or applications, with the objective of identifying usability issues of them. This test can be performed in any stage, as the UX design should always be analyzed constantly to make sure the target audience is having a satisfactory experience.

By performing a heuristic analysis on a website or application common problems can be solved on the user experience that usually stop the success of a digital product. The method used to develop this analysis consists of taking some heuristic principles, for example, those developed by Jakob Nielsen, to use the product and register the usability issues that it has, based on the mentioned principles. In this way, the result can be a digital product that is coherent, efficient and satisfactory for the user.


Heuristic principles of Jakob Nielsen

Although currently there are different types of heuristic analysis, some of the most accepted are those developed by Jakob Nielsen and Rolf Molich in 1990. In this heuristic, 10 principles were developed that establish the parameters for an efficient UX design:

  • Visibility of system status

The website or application must show the user the progress on the executed action and the status of their request. For example, if a user is in an e-commerce and adds a product to the shopping cart, the ideal is for the website to show them – in a coherent period of time – the action and its progress as “You added X product to your shopping cart, do you want to continue shopping or check out?”

  • Match between the system and the real world

UX design should be focused on structuring a website or application in a natural and logical way, which allows the user to feel familiar with the platform. This is achieved through the correct placement of buttons, familiar concepts and words, and information that allows a simple experience.

  • User control and freedom

It is very common that the users make mistakes on a website or application: from an adjustment that they did not like in a photo editing app, to a product that they no longer want to buy in a marketplace.

This is why this principle talks about how easy it should be for users to undo, edit, eliminate or cancel an action in a simple and visible way, which does not force them to carry out the process from scratch.

  • Consistency and standards

Yes, being different and standing out in a world as competitive as the digital one is important, but in the case of UX design it is recommended to adhere to the standards of icons, visual shapes and resources, so that the user knows how to use the platform in a intuitive way by clicking or moving within the virtual environment.

For example, buttons like the shopping cart, log in, return to the previous page, among others, should be kept as we know them, as they will be more identifiable for the user.

  • Error prevention

Errors are always present and the best way to deal with them is through prevention. Therefore, one of the heuristic principles of Nielsen is to help the user to avoid these errors: Have you seen the confirmation messages that appear on different platforms? These types of pop-ups that ask you if you really want to place the order, eliminate your account, request the service, etc. They allow you to prevent an action that the user does not want to perform by sending a confirmation message before executing it.

  • Recognition rather than recall

It is ideal that to create a better UX experience the elements, actions and options are made visible on the different screens of the interface, as the user will be able to navigate the platform in a predictable way thanks to the contextual help offered. A good example of this heuristic is the search terms Google suggests when you type something in the search engine.

  • Flexibility and efficient use

Heuristic analysis is always in favor of facilitating the user experience, which is why it must be taken into account that the final product will be used by people with all types of experiences, so it is ideal to integrate accelerators that allow you to identify related categories, useful links, keyboard shortcuts, etc.

  • Aesthetic and minimalist design

It is fundamental that the website or application design does not “distract” the user with irrelevant information that delays their actions within the platform in an unnecessary way. Think of Google: a website with a white background, its logo and a search bar were enough to make it a technology giant.

  • Help users to recognize their errors

This principle seeks to complement error prevention by helping users to identify the process they performed wrong: for example, when you fill a form and you do not realize that some information was missing, when you click send, a message appears that details the missing information.

Error messages should be simple and clear, in addition to indicating the error and providing guidance to the user to resolve it.

  • Help and documentation

The user must be provided with complementary information that allows them to clarify any type of doubts that arise during the platform navigation. This information must be consolidated in a help service or FAQ page that clearly and precisely details the steps to follow. 


How to perform a heuristic analysis?

As in all types of tactics within a digital marketing strategy, to carry out a heuristic analysis, strategic planning is needed that integrates the design team and the group that will be in charge of evaluating the platform.

It is ideal that as a first step the scope and objectives of the analysis are established, to understand why it will be carried out. Afterwards, a study must be carried out on the target audience, since in this way their needs and pain points will be taken into account.

After having this general understanding, the heuristic principles on which to work must be chosen. At this point you can begin to develop a system to detect and document errors.

Finally, discoveries must be grouped and the necessary improvements made over the digital asset on which we are working.

Remember that although heuristic analysis can be carried out at any stage of development, it is ideal that its principles are taken into account from the initial steps, as this way you will have a more effective workflow that will allow you to achieve your objectives in a more efficient way.

Manuela Villegas CEO Yes Sir Agency
Manuela Villegas
CEO - Founder
Manuela Villegas
CEO - Founder
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