Nielsen's 10 Usability Heuristics

Introduction to Usability

Usability, in simple terms, refers to the measure of how easy, efficient, and effective a product or service is for its users. On a more precise note, as defined by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in the international standard ISO 9241-11, it is the "extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specified context of use."

Usability is not a vague notion but rather consists of the following five distinct quality components.

Usability Components

Learnability

Learnability is concerned with how easily users can accomplish basic tasks when using a product for the first time.

Efficiency

Efficiency asks how quickly users can perform important tasks after an initial learning period.

Memorability

Memorability refers to how easily users can re-establish proficiency when returning to a design after a period of not using it. This is especially important for products that are used infrequently.

Errors

Errors refer to how many errors users make, how severe those errors are, and how easily they can recover from them. In a product with high usability, few errors and easy recovery are expected.

Satisfaction

Satisfaction refers to just how pleasant a thing is to use. A product needs to be user-friendly and effective, ensuring that users experience minimal stress or frustration while accomplishing tasks.

The Jakob Nielsen's Ten Usability Heuristics

Jakob Nielsen, a web usability expert from Denmark, introduced "Ten Usability Heuristics" in his book "Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity," published in 1999.

Nielsen's heuristics are general principles, meaning that they do not prescribe specific usability rules. Instead, they serve as general rules of thumb that can guide the creation of more accessible, user-friendly, and intuitive digital products.

Heuristics

1: Visibility of System Status

The design should always effectively communicate the user's current status, providing clear feedback within a reasonable timeframe. This includes features such as loading indicators or progress bars. By clearly conveying what is happening and the user's current state, it helps alleviate anxiety and instills confidence in the user. Additionally, it can suggest what actions the user has taken and what actions they should consider next.

2: Match Between the System and the Real World

The design should speak the users' language that is easy for users to understand when interacting with the product. When a design follows real-world conventions, users find it easier to learn and remember how the interface operates.

3: User Control and Freedom

It is important to make it easy for users to back out of a process or undo an action. By appropriately placing features such as undo functions, cancel buttons, or back buttons, we can provide an environment where users can smoothly navigate. When people can easily back out of a process or undo an action, it fosters a sense of freedom and confidence.

4: Consistency and Standards

By following platform and industry conventions, users can navigate seamlessly without hesitation and reduce the cognitive load associated with learning new concepts. Considering that people spend most of their time using digital products other than your own, consistency with standards is important.

5: Error Prevention

Good design prevents or minimizes the possibility of user errors. Either eliminate error-prone conditions or check for them and present users with a confirmation option before they commit to the action.

6: Recognition Rather than Recall

Elements, actions, and options must be displayed appropriately so that users can use your product without using their short-term memory. The information needed to use your design, such as field labels and menu items, should be visible or easily retrieved when you need it.

7: Flexibility and Efficiency of Use

Products should be designed to be easy to use for a wide range of users, from beginners to experts. Provide novice users with enhanced operational guidance and help functions, while providing advanced users with shortcuts and customization features. Ideally, this allows users of different skill levels to effectively utilize the same system.

8: Aesthetic and Minimalist Design

Avoid placing unnecessary information in the user interface as much as possible. It's crucial to ensure that the content and visual design focus on the essentials. Verify that the visual elements of the interface support the user's primary objectives.

9: Help Users Recognize, Diagnose, and Recover from Errors

In case of an error, it's crucial to clearly communicate the cause and resolution steps. For instance, on screens with input forms, displaying an error message along with enabling smooth transition or scrolling to the location of the error would be convenient.

10: Help and Documentation

Help and documentation content should be easy to search and focused on the user's tasks. Keep it concise, and list concrete steps that need to be carried out.

Conclusion

By following the heuristics outlined above in the process of UI design, you can enhance user satisfaction and convenience, leading to the development of more user-friendly products.

As a UI/UX designer, it's essential to always be mindful of these heuristics and strive to design from the user's perspective. This approach will significantly improve the user experience and pave the way for success.