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Previously, we covered the five dimensions of IxD, which are the building blocks for creating interactions. But how do we bring these dimensions to life in a way that supports users?

We can reference guiding principles known as usability heuristics to design effective interactions. These principles provide a solid foundation to work from, though they are not a replacement for usability testing.

10 Usability Heuristics

The ten usability heuristics, developed by Jakob Nielsen and Don Norman, is a set of ten general principles for good interaction design.

These heuristics were created in the 1990s. While some of the language has been updated since then, the ten usability heuristics have stayed the same. In digital product design, these principles are well-established and widely used.

When we design, usability heuristics help us:

  • Focus on usability: These principles center around creating user-friendly interactions that support a smooth user experience. Implementing usability heuristics is one component of designing a usable product.

  • Save time: The usability heuristics have been proven over time and are widely accepted. Therefore, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel when designing interactions! Instead of starting from scratch, we can leverage relevant heuristics to inform our design choices.

  • Evaluate interactions: We can reference heuristics when designing and evaluating interactions. When we evaluate, it’s helpful to have language that allows us to pinpoint specific strengths and weaknesses in the design.

Overall, user-friendly interfaces follow the ten usability heuristics. However, we should think of the heuristics as general guidelines.

While heuristics offer a baseline for meeting user expectations, they can’t tell us what our users need within the specific context of our product. Thus, user research and usability testing are still necessary to ensure that the design meets our users’ needs.

In the upcoming exercises, we will delve into the 10 usability heuristics:

  1. Visibility of system status
  2. Match between system and the real world
  3. User control and freedom
  4. Consistency and standards
  5. Error prevention
  6. Recognition rather than recall
  7. Flexibility and efficiency of use
  8. Aesthetic and minimalist design
  9. Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors
  10. Help and documentation

In addition to defining each heuristic, our mission is to analyze designs that follow and break these heuristics.

Instructions

After reading the information, answer this question to check your understanding.

Why should interaction designers reference usability heuristics?

Usability heuristics provide a foundation for designing user-friendly interactions, based on well-established principles for digital interfaces.

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