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UX in Design Part 1: Heuristic Analysis   

User experience design (UX) enhances the way we can create digital experience to engage, delight and make a digital experience more effortless and enjoyable for users. Creating and curating engaging user experiences involves Design Thinking. It draws upon empathy, heuristics, intuition and systemic reasoning to explore concepts and create valuable solutions. It questions our assumptions and challenges perspectives that are deeply engrained in our thinking.

At the beginning and end of a website project, we use heuristics analysis to conduct a cognitive walkthrough and evaluate the usability: will the user try to achieve the right outcome? Will the user associate the correct action with the outcome they expect to achieve? Will the user see the progress that they are making made towards their intended outcome?

Heuristic analysis is a useful way to assess the strengths and weaknesses of a website and calculate the level of engagement with the targeted user. It gives a comprehensive assessment of the user interface's application and is great for highlighting issues before finalising the design.

One of the most widely used heuristics came from Jacob Nielson and Rolf Molich. In 1994, they released a set of 10 principles used to identify the common problems with user interfaces. The following methodology demonstrates how we have incorporated some of these principles within our work at Aamplify, and what to look out for when assessing your own website (Nielsen, J, Mack, R.L, 1994, Usability Inspection Methods):

1. Visibility of system status

The system should always keep users informed about what’s going on, through appropriate feedback mechanisms within a reasonable timeframe. Thoughtful navigation and interactive displays of information will help assist the user to engage more with the interface, and extend the time they spend on the site.

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2.  Match between system and the real world

The system should speak the user’s language: words, phrases and concepts should be familiar to the user, rather than using ‘foreign’ system orientated terms that they may not understand. Following real-world conventions, and making information appear in a natural and logical order will all help the user to follow the logical UX path.

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3. User control and freedom

A user will often choose system functions by mistake and will need a clearly marked “emergency exit” to leave the unwanted state without having to go through an extended dialogue. The website should support undoing and redoing actions without a ‘total failure’ that will drive them from the site or create a negative perception of the UX.

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4. Consistency and standards

Users should not be confused over different words, situations, or actions meaning the same thing. Consistency across the website’s theme, pages and, where possible content, help to create a cohesive user experience.

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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 the user with a confirmation option before they commit to the action.

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6. Recognition rather than recall

Minimise the user's memory load by making objects, actions, and options visible. The user should not have to remember information from one part of the dialogue to another. Instructions on how to use the system should be visible or easily retrievable whenever the user requires it. Prompts, recommendations and dialogue boxes all assist the user to move forward.

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7. Flexibility and efficiency of use

Accelerators — unseen by a novice user — may help speed up the interaction of an expert user. This way, the system can cater to both inexperienced and experienced users. This allows users to tailor frequent actions, based on their experience using the system, and ‘shortcut’ as they become more adept at using it.

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8. Aesthetic and minimalist design

Dialogue displays should not contain information which is irrelevant to the user experience or only rarely needed. Every extra unit of information in a dialogue competes with the relevant units of information and diminishes their relative visibility and perceived importance to the user.

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9. Help users recognise, diagnose, and recover from errors

Error messages should be expressed in plain language, not codes. If there an error, the dialogue box should indicate the nature of the problem precisely, and suggest a constructive solution.

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10. Help and documentation

A website system should iteratively be able to be used without documentation, however it may be necessary to provide user assistance and documented methods of use. 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.

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These principles are a general guideline for a valuable User Experience. Adoption of these principles will vary depending on the website or mobile application. Use your best judgement when implementing these principles and other UX practices by thinking through the lens of your users.

For more information around implementing a valuable UX on your website, contact Aamplify on newzealand@aamplify.partners  

Jenny Yan

Design-thinking sits at the heart of what Jenny does day to day. Her ability to embrace context and technicality ensures a seamless experience for the end users, transforming a concept into reality.