7 Trade-offs for doing a Heuristic Evaluation

The Heuristic Evaluation is only one method that we can use to evaluate the usability of an interface. Here are a few advantages and disadvantages of using a heuristic evaluation.

Pros of using a heuristic evaluation:

  • Heuristics can help the evaluators focus their attention on certain issues

  • Heuristic evaluation does not carry the ethical and practical issues/problems associated with inspection methods involving real users.

  • Evaluating designs using a set of heuristics can help identify usability problems with individual elements and how they impact the overall user experience.

Cons of using a heuristic evaluation:

  • Choosing appropriate heuristics is extremely important; if the wrong set of heuristics is employed, certain usability problems may be overlooked.

  • Heuristic evaluation might be relatively time-consuming when compared to other ‘quick and dirty’ inspection methods, such as simple walkthroughs with a small sample of users. Training evaluators takes about a week on average, not including the time it takes to conduct the evaluations and debriefing sessions.

  • Unlike cognitive walkthroughs, heuristic evaluation is based on preconceived notions of what makes ‘good’ usability. However, this need not be seen as a negative point, as heuristics are often based on the experiences of real users with hundreds of designs.

  • Problems identified by evaluators can often be false alarms.

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