Heuristic Evaluation as A Usability Engineering Method

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The term “heuristics” has been widely used in different aspects of computer science to refer to a set of predefined and recognized principles upon which comparisons and evaluation of systems can be held. These principles are usually obtained from historical data of previously conducted projects or experiments and typically are agreed on by a group of scientists or experts in the field. In human computer interaction, Jacob Nielsen introduced the concept of heuristic evaluation as a discount usability method that best suits those extremely time constrained and budget limited projects. According to [1], heuristic evaluation is categorized under the informal methodologies of usability evaluation. A number of evaluators are given the set of predefined principles “heuristics” and asked to analyze a user interface using these heuristics as a standard. Although there are no restrictions on the number of the evaluators, there are some heuristics that define standards for how many evaluators are needed to increase the effectiveness and reliability of this method. It is stated by [2] that heuristic evaluation better be a group effort, simply because no one individual can inspect all the usability issues, but rather “different people find different usability problems.” Heuristic evaluation can be applied very early in the design cycle even before any implementation starts, particularly if prototypes are used for evaluation. It can also be applied during the actual implementation phase, especially in iterative development models, where usability inspection can be applied to ready-to-use interfaces. The following sections discuss this method in detail and give general guidelines on how to apply it. Moreover, the benefits and shortcomings of heuristic evaluation are also explained. At the end of this document, a fully detailed example is provided.
Usability Engineering