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10 Nielsen heuristics

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  • 13 March 2023
10 Nielsen heuristics

Good design consists of nothing more than designing a product with the user experience in mind. This applies to all types of design, including consumer goods and user interfaces.

Would you like to develop an online store that would encourage customers to return? Or perhaps you are attempting to implement an application but are uncertain whether it will satisfy the recipient. In the nineties of the 20th century, Jakob Nielsen and Rolf Molich compiled a list of ten heuristics, or generic design concepts that are recipient-centric. By following these guidelines, you will prevent usability issues caused by the most prevalent design errors. Nielsen’s ten heuristics can be considered a UX design decalogue.

Transparency of system status

Each user should always know where they are when using the website or interface. Whether it’s a website or a mobile app, the user must feel secure, know where they are and be aware of the next actions.

For instance, you purchase goods from an internet retailer. You place it in your shopping cart and go to checkout. You should be aware of how many steps the cash register has completed and what the next step will be (e.g. you are on entering the delivery details and there is still a payment choice waiting).

System compatibility with the actual world

A website or system should “talk” in a clear, comprehensible language so that all users can easily navigate them. Complicated descriptions of actions or language that is only understandable by specialists can frustrate and irritate the audience.

The employment of this heuristic is evident, for instance, in the interfaces of smartphones, where the symbols properly represent the application’s functions. If you wish to switch off the sound during a chat, you will click the microphone, and to play music, you will utilise physical player-style controls.

User autonomy and control

The user should be able to rectify any mistakes, undo or repeat actions, return to the previous page, or terminate the entire procedure.

In the Gmail application, for instance, we can reverse a sent message for several seconds if we accidentally press “send.”

Consistency and criteria

Imagine entering a website where each subpage features a different icon for returning to the homepage. In addition, there are a variety of typefaces and colours, as well as a top and side menu. Not obvious, right?

In a particular system, consistency is crucial. Colours, iconography, and vocabulary should be consistent across the system. This is applicable to both webpages and applications.

Error correction

The fifth of Nielsen’s ten heuristics focuses on the prevention of errors. So that the user is aware of the repercussions of his actions, the system should display a warning before deleting an account, require further confirmations, or offer hints when creating an account.

The usage of suitable forms when placing an order is an excellent example. When you enter your information, such as a postcode, you can see that it must have five digits, whereas the phone number must contain nine.

Error prevention includes, for instance, recognising the term “attachment” in an e-mail message and, if it is not attached, asking if you are certain to send it without an attachment.

Recognition as opposed to recall

As the user navigates through different processes on the website or in the application,they or she is not required to recall the previously selected elements. For instance, when processing an order for a subscription product, the package parameters or options set during configuration should always be accessible. The user should always have immediate access to all the information necessary to effectively finish a procedure, with minimal memory usage.

Adaptability and effectiveness of use

This heuristic’s practical applicability is exemplified by the ability to use keyboard shortcuts, which considerably accelerates computer work. In terms of systems, the ability to add objects to the clipboard or the list of favourites is an example of assuring efficiency.

Imagine searching for shoes at a store without the use of filters. If a person is interested in fashion or has the time for it,they can afford it. However, the ability to select, for instance, size or colour and then save those filters will make purchasing much simpler. Additionally, the ability to sort search results will be crucial.

Aesthetic and minimalist architecture

The aesthetics of a system influence how the user perceives it. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the foremost representative of modernism, was an architect, but his design philosophy, encapsulated in the well-known phrase “less is more,” also applies to developing systems, websites, and applications. The clarity and transparency of a particular website or application will ensure that the user is not overwhelmed by an excessive amount of information, graphics, and decorations, and will thus be able to quickly do the task that we want him to complete -they will convert.

Each interface piece must be carefully considered so as not to detract from the core of the process. For instance, while creating an account on a certain website, no more information will be required other than a well-organized, transparent form.

Assist users in identifying, diagnosing, and recovering from errors.

Occasionally, despite attempts to prevent it, an error message will display. When a user makes a mistake,they should be provided with clear information regarding the error’s causes, how to correct it, and what to do next.

Error messages and screens should be written in a language that is easily understood, free of IT jargon, and clearly show how to return to the correct path.

Guidance and documentation

Even if you adhere to all 10 Nielsen design principles and produce an exceptional website or mobile application, the user may still require assistance (e.g. in a situation where the system is very complex and performs specific functions). It should be easily accessible, such as through online documentation or context-sensitive help, where you may obtain answers to the most crucial queries regarding the system’s operation.

It is also essential to be able to contact the staff directly by chat, e-mail, or phone so that each user can receive the appropriate assistance for their situation.

You are already familiar with Nielsen’s ten heuristics. By adhering to them, you can avoid committing numerous errors and produce a user-friendly website or mobile application. These are fundamental, very generic design ideas you can apply at the outset of your UX journey.

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