How to Evaluate User Experience by Conducting a Heuristic Evaluation
A heuristic evaluation can help determine if your website or digital experience is properly optimized for UX and if it meets the needs of today’s financial services users.
A heuristic evaluation, also commonly known as a UX audit, is a simple and affordable way to evaluate your site and determine if users are experiencing UX issues, or if challenges with your site lie elsewhere. While a heuristic evaluation can be conducted by an in-house team member, it’s often most effective to bring in someone from the outside with a high level of expertise. Using an outside resource also offers a fresh perspective – and critical eye – on how to evaluate user experience in a way that improves your site’s effectiveness. Heuristic evaluations are particularly helpful for businesses with small teams or less experienced designers onboard.
What is a Heuristic Evaluation?
We define heuristic evaluation as the process by which a designer reviews a product website workflow to see how it functions. A heuristic evaluation is often referred to as a UX audit.
Heuristic evaluations are rooted in logic, and serve to identify gaps in experience to identify areas for improvement. The heuristic evaluation process can provide definition around what you don’t know about a site experience, which in turn guides what you can improve. Heuristic evaluations are conducted using a list of best practices, which then inform decisions about a site. They often encompass user experience, accessibility, and aesthetics, although aesthetics is not the primary focus.
What is the Result of a Heuristic Evaluation?
As a deliverable, a heuristic evaluation defines priorities in a list of items to work on, and identifies where an experience is broken or critically challenging. It can also reveal cosmetic areas for improvement, and areas of friction for users of the site. These revelations can guide your business to help inform budget and priorities.
How to Conduct a Heuristic Evaluation
Heuristic evaluations are conducted using industry best practices. At Praxent, our heuristic evaluation process starts with a list of 10 criteria, or standards, then runs through various elements that may be problematic on a site. We evaluate the site experience to determine if they are issues in the following groupings.
- Visibility of system status
- Match between system and the real world
- User control and freedom
- Consistency and standards
- Error prevention
- Recognition rather than recall
- Flexibility and efficiency of use
- Aesthetic and minimalist design
- Help users recognize, diagnose and recover from errors
- Help and documentation
An experienced firm that knows how to do a heuristic evaluation will rank site elements on a scale of 0-5, with 0 being positive and 5 indicating a bad or severe problem. At Praxent, we then produce a report which includes findings and severity, which are looked at individually as well as collectively to reveal the overall strength of the site. When we complete a UX assessment, we deliver our clients a report of the audit which reviews a high-level approach of the heuristics and an objective assessment of critical functions. This final heuristic evaluation report can help define next steps, or highlight areas to focus on for improvement.
Common Elements Discovered During the Heuristic Evaluation Process
Users spend most of their time on other people’s sites, and as such create assumptions about how things work or should work. Brands often don’t know what the user wants nor have they considered how to talk about it internally, much less how to evaluate UX design or user experience as a whole. The goal of the heuristic evaluation, then, is to demystify and reveal some of this. Some common issues discovered during the heuristic evaluation process include:
- Information Architecture: Brands often build software with an excess of features but give little (if any) thought to how to group and label these features, or where they’ll go on the site. This leads to poor user experience, with overcrowded menus stuffed full of options. This creates friction for a user, making navigation complex.
- Progress Bar: On sites with long, complex progress, a lack of a visible way to track your progress or system status is problematic.
- Buttons: When buttons are broken, and the experience is wrong.
- Inconsistency in UI: Style or aesthetic switches from page to page, leading to an inconsistent or untrustworthy experience.
Why Heuristic Evaluation is So Important for FinServ
Trust is of paramount importance in the FinServ industry, with products and offerings relating to financials and personal details. If a site or experience has too many inconsistencies, consumers lose trust in that site over time. An outdated UI, for example, can make prospects or clients distrustful of a product — even if the product itself is exceptional. Users and customers inherently don’t know how to relate to functionality, features, or code. Instead, they relate to what they see; if it’s inconsistent or ugly, it can create assumptions in their mind which extend to trustworthiness.
Signs Your Firm May Benefit from a Heuristic Evaluation
While there is no one single indicator that you should decide how to do a UX audit for your site, there are a few indicators you can use to gauge your readiness. If you experience any of the following, conducting a heuristic evaluation may do you some good:
- End user complaints
- Volume of support calls above industry benchmark
- Abandonment rate
- Feature usage can be measured using software tools
- Reports from outside stakeholders (other departments, friends)
- Failure of new feature to gain traction
- No new customers, customers leaving
Ready to Learn More?
If you’re ready to take a step towards conducting a heuristic evaluation and defining your top design priorities, Praxent can help. Our talented team of designers will objectively assess a key workflow within your system (e.g. applying for a loan or searching for a home) and provide you with actionable recommendations to improve your user experience. Schedule a consultation now.
* Average time required for evaluation completion is 1-2 weeks, you should budget $4,500 for this engagement.