Rethink Experience

Heuristics: 10 Rules for Better Usability

By Codazen / August 07, 2019
3 min read

First, what are "Heuristics"?

They’re a set of principles developed by Jakob Nielsen that we use as a guide while designing user interfaces. Following these 10 general rules of thumb will improve the usability of your digital product:

1. Visibility of System Status

The system should always inform the user about what’s going on through appropriate feedback and within a reasonable time.

2. Match Between System and The Real World

The system should speak the user’s language with words, phrases and concepts familiar to the user rather that system oriented terms. Follow real world conventions making information appear in a natural and logical order.

3. User Control and Freedom

Users often choose functions by mistake and we’ll need a clearly marked emergency exit to leave the unwanted state without having to go through an extended dialogue. Support undo and redo.

4. Consistency and Standards

Users should not have to wonder whether different words, situations or actions mean the same thing. Follow platform conventions.

5. Error Prevention

Even better than a good error message is a careful design which prevents a problem from occurring in the first place. Either eliminate error prone conditions or check for them and present users with a confirmation option before they commit to the action.

6. Recognition Rather Than Recall

Minimize the user’s memory load by making objects, actions and options visible. Users should not have to remember information form one part of the dialogue to the other. Instructions for use of the system should be visible or easily retrievable whenever appropriate.

7. Flexibility and Efficiency of Use

Accelerators unseen by the novice user may often speed up the interaction for the expert user so the system can cater to both inexperienced and experienced users. Allow users to tailor frequent actions.

8. Aesthetic and Minimalist Design

Dialogue should not contain information that is irrelevant or rarely needed. Every extra unit of information in a dialogue competes with the relevant units of information and then diminishes their relative visibility.

9. Help Users Recognize, Diagnose and Recover from Errors

Error messages must be expressed in plain language, meaning no codes. Precisely identify the problem and constructively suggest a solution.

10. Help and Documentation

Even thought it’s better if the system can be used without documentation,  it may be necessary to provide help and documentation. Any such information should be easy to search, focused on the user’s task, list concrete steps to be carried out and not be too large.

In conclusion, follow these guidelines for good heuristics and you’ll have happy users!

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