Nielsen heuristics - what you should know before starting the UX design

Oliwer Kotecki

5 minutes of reading

12 lutego 2020

In many webinars and podcasts, the topic of saving on user experience appears . It is mostly due to quite expensive research. Is designing information architecture, drawing f mockups and traversing user paths at all necessary, especially if we assume that research on respondents will not take place at all? Yes, if we want at least one person to stay on our website. Of course we do not mean viewing the landing page and stopping there to find the needed button. If you are an online shop owner, you obviously care about increasing purchases and conversions. Similarly, if you do not sell anything directly, but you want, for example, for visitors to sign up for a newsletter - what counts are people and their positive experiences with a given website. And that is when Nielsen heuristics come in handy. By using them in the user experience design process, you will ensure that users will like the created Interface. And instead of spending thousands on it, you just need to remember a few rules.

Firstly: Show system status

Showing current system status is nothing else, but staying in constant touch with the customer. There is nothing worse than lack of any interaction once we click the button or attempt to open the page. You probably have seen the bar at the website address that shows the loading process- it is mentioned system status. It can be rotating circle or the line that changes its colour: everything is dependent on the system and design. What is most important, is the fact that we show to the customer that something is going on. It is especially important on the so called “heavy” web pages with a lot of sophisticated animations and multiple pictures. It is worth for the user to wait and admire the effect of the work of the UI department and others.

Secondly: Relate to reality

One of the tasks of UX is to guide the user through the website as intuitively as possible. How to do it? It is enough to refer to the language that is used on a daily basis and is well known to the user. If in a stationary store we put products into a cart, why not use this symbol in an online store? If before buying a phone, you first want to collect the models that somehow interest you and leave the selection for later, it is worth using the product comparison option in e-commerce. Shapes, words, signs and other elements with which the user interacts should be clear and understandable. The use of symbols found in the real world is of great help here.

What is next? Give the full control to the user

Everyone feels more comfortable with the ability to spot and correct any potential mistakes. In case of contact with the website, you should not worry about making a mistake before pressing any of the buttons or filling out the form. Interface users should therefore be able to correct what they typed, go back a step or a few, or even leave the page without consequences.

Stick to the standards and be consistent, that is, systematise the processes

Webpage which you created or visited does not exist in the vacuum. Almost everyone has already used the portal with similar functions, built on the same platform or with the use of a specific operating system. It is worth making use of what is known and working well. Once you choose your way of communication, stick to it. Let the buttons lead to the same place, and the words refer to the established functionalities.

Prevent mistakes

Heuristics may seem quite complicated, but there is nothing simpler, let's not complicate designing, for example, information architecture or selecting components. If the word used on the button leads to its meaning, we can be sure that it will reduce the risk of an error. This rule is worth remembering when creating elements in which the user should enter something. It can be a password or a complete form. If we want a specific format, inform about it in advance - e.g. above the field that needs to be completed, specify that Polish characters need to be used or a password must contain special characters.

Let to choose, instead of forcing to remember

Elements that illustrate the meaning of Nielsen's heuristics well are, for example: search history or hints to recently searched phrases that appear in the search field. Do not overburden your user, especially if, while using other websites, he has got used to the fact that in similar situations he can support himself with hints appearing on his screen during and before taking an action.

Ensure flexibility and effectiveness

Do not let the user lose his temper. For those who use the site for the first time, guarantee a friendly leading through the path, and provide regular users with shortcuts. Adapt the interface to different groups: remember that people may use a mouse, touch screen or keyboard shortcuts. For some basic search options are enough while others need a wider range of filters.

Take care of aesthetics and harmony

Nie chodzi tu wcale o ładne kolory i ciekawe zdjęcia. Heurystyka ta odnosi się głównie do eksponowanej treści. Na ekranie użytkowników powinno znaleźć się to, co w danym momencie ich interesuje. Jeśli chcą coś kupić, nie dodawajmy na siłę pięciu ekranów odwracających uwagę od zapełnionego już koszyka. Nie obciążaj już przeładowanych bodźcami userów kolejnymi zbędnymi informacjami.

Zapewnij skuteczną obsługę błędów

It is not about vibrant colours and interesting pictures. Heuristics is mostly about content exposition. At a given moment users should see what they are currently interested in. If they want to buy something, do not add screens that will distract them from the already full basket. Do not burden the already overwhelmed users with further unnecessary information.

Provide effective error handling

There are no problems that can't be fixed - or at least that's the way it should be, on users' part. When a bug occurs, everyone should be able to fix it. And it's not about developers. First of all, in order for the user to undertake the repair, he needs to understand the problem. So it's important to write the explanation clearly. Error codes that are not understandable to a non-technical person are useless.

Take care of help and documentation

Everyone likes to feel safe, and such a feeling can be provided with tabs such as FAQ or Help. Thanks to them, users feel that they are able to solve problems, find the information they need or make sure of their actions on the website themselves . Thanks to such elements, we will reduce frustration as well as the amount of phone calls and e-mails to the customer service department.

Of course, the list of ten rules created by Jakob Nielsen is only the basis for website content creation, user flow or the visual elements. Heuristics are so universal that they can be used in many industries, but do not be afraid to supplement them with your experiences, especially ones learned from research.

Dominika Muszyńska

Oliwer Kotecki

His creativity gives wings to our products. But he himself is not on the clouds. He builds products using the potential of analytics, solid data, User Experience (UX), technical marketing and SEO / ASO / PPC. He adheres to the principle "Less is more in design. More data is better in the decision".