Saul Greenberg

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Heuristic Evaluation

Usability heuristics are 'rules of thumb' that broadly describe characteristics of effective interfaces. Heuristics serve two purposes. First, they can be applied to actual interface design. Second, they can be used as part of an evaluation process, where a designer can inspect the interface to see if it complies with each heuristic.

Powerpoint lectures

  • Usability Heuristics lists, describes and illustrates the original usability heuristics offered by Jacob Nielsen.

Suggested Readings

  1. Improving a Human-Computer Dialogue, Molich and Nielsen March, Communications of the ACM 33(3), ACM Press. (1990)
  2. Usability heuristics. Chapter 5 in Nielsen, J. Usability Engineering, p115-163, Academic Press. (1993),

In-Class Activities

As I teach each guideline, I and the students perform a heuristic evaluation of an interface. I ask the student to analyze the interface in class against that heuristic, where they identify where it complies and where it does not, thus revealing potential problems.

Additional Readings

  1. Enhancing the explanatory power of usability heuristics. Nielsen, J. In Proceedings of the CHI'94 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, p152-158. (1994)
    • This article takes usability guidelines developed by different sources and sees which ones contribute most the the explanation of actual usability problems drawn from a database.
  2. Heuristic evaluation by Nielsen, J. In J. Nielsen and R. Mack (eds) Usability Inspection Methods, p25-62, Wiley and Sons. (1994)
    • A more in depth discussion of how heuristic evaluation works and its reliability
  3. Human Computer Interaction: Towards the Year 2000 by R. Baecker, J. Grudin, B. Buxton and S. Greenberg, Morgan Kaufmann Press.(1995). Excerpts.
    • Human error and the design of computer systems / Human error and the search for blame, p. 681-685, is background for the Dealing with Errors guideline. The two papers talks about human error and why design should account for it.
    • Designing for error, p686-697, is also background for the Dealing with Errors guideline. Gives specific recommendations of how design should deal with human error.
    • Learning to use a word processor, p. 698-717, is background for the Provide Help guideline. The article talks about how people learn to use software, and lays the background to minimalist manuals (as discussed in the Chapter 10 introduction)
    • Building user-centered on-line help, p. 718-723, is background for the Provide Help guideline. The article talks about how to build on-line help.
    • Consistency, various excerpts, p. 59-61, 66, 426-27, 434, gives examples related to the consistency guideline.
    • Feedback, excerpt, p. 18 gives examples related to the feedback guideline.
    • Usability inspection methods, p. 170-181, gives a summary of a variety of ways to inspect interfaces without the user, including heuristic evaluation. It also discusses their effectiveness.