Apps for Appalachia: Reading - Heuristic Evaluation

Reading - Heuristic Evaluation

We’ve practiced testing our low-fidelity apps, but you can actually do a lot of usability work without even doing a single test.


We’ll start with a definition from the Wiki:

A heuristic evaluation is a usability inspection method for computer software that helps to identify usability problems in the user interface (UI) design. It specifically involves evaluators examining the interface and judging its compliance with recognized usability principles (the "heuristics"). These evaluation methods are now widely taught and practiced in the new media sector, where UIs are often designed in a short space of time on a budget that may restrict the amount of money available to provide for other types of interface testing.

OK. So, it’s rules-of-thumb (but, informed by research) that we can apply to our designs.

Now, read Nielsen’s heuristics.

As you read them, think about how these might appear in interfaces you are familiar with: Outlook, InstaFaceTweet, or whatever app is popular with hip cats these days.

The Challenge

Next, consider the following prompt. It’s a bit old, but I’d like you to try it anyway.

Note that this is a text-only interface from an era before the Internet. Users would connect, using a modem (that’s an acoustical device that delivers zeros and ones using bleeps and bloops) connecting over telephone lines, to a computer that would interact with the user through textual screens and interfaces like the one above.

There were no graphical interfaces. There was no mobile Internet. The tablets we use in this course were the province of science fiction. However, there were still user interfaces, and there were problems with them.

The Output

Bring to class a document (printed or neatly hand-written) that discusses all of the usability problems you found when applying Nielsen’s heuristics. For each usability problem you identify, include your reasoning as to why it is a problem.


You will submit your work in class.