The Power of Heuristics

UX Designers Can Save Your App by Identifying Usability Problems Before You Hit the Market

By Jeff LeBlanc

The software industry is moving at a faster pace every day and the bar for quality has never been higher. When I graduated from college in 1989 a guy working in his garage could create a best-selling game. Today, that would take as many people working together as to create the average summer blockbuster movie. Why? Because expectations are so much higher.

Today’s savvy consumer will quickly become dissatisfied with poor usability and move onto a competitor’s application. So you need to develop rapidly while maintaining the superior level of quality your customers expect.

How do you achieve this? With clever, well-planned UX design and careful analysis.

One of the many skills that UX designers bring to the table is the ability to perform a heuristic analysis — an inspection to identify usability problems in the user interface (UI) design on an existing piece of software. Conducting this type of analysis, and addressing the resulting recommendations, can essentially save an underperforming project.

About Heuristic Analysis

The practice is very straight forward: review the system against an established set of heuristics and see how it rates. The result is a report detailing issues the designer found and recommendations on how the developers can fix the proverbial low-hanging fruit. Doing so can mean the difference between a smooth launch and happy customers, or many calls to your tech support team.

There are several sets of industry standard heuristics that exist for evaluating software systems, the most common ones coming from Ben Schneiderman and Jakob Nielsen. An effective UX designer knows these inside and out and can quickly apply them to a system that is already in production.

Even simple design mistakes, for instance the ordering of common controls being different between screens, or the misuse of red and green, can have far-reaching, negative consequences once the system gets out in the field. A thorough heuristic analysis can identify these issues early so you can address them prior to release.

While your developers make your application work, with an assist from QA engineers, it takes a proficient and eagle-eyed UX designer to ensure things work well for the user.

ICS Excels at UX Design

ICS has been focused on heuristics for years and has applied them on many projects on behalf of our clients. Personally, I’ve written at length about the subject — check out Eight Golden Rules for UX Designers — and in January gave a webinar entitled UX Design for Software Engineers, which detailed a set of actionable heuristics. In other words, we know what we’re talking about.

To ensure your application is free of significant bloopers that can be fixed quickly prior to release, apply the principles of heuristics. Better yet, call the experts. ICS will identify issues and make recommendations to help you deliver the high-quality software your customers expect. Contact us today.