What are the 10 usability heuristics

10 Usability heuristics according to Nielsen - evaluate systems without swearing

We have all had experience with lousy software. A few adjectives go through our heads ... But if we want to solve the specific problem, subjective impressions are of little help.

The method of Heuristic evaluation allows us to make approximately objective statements about the usability of a system with little time and effort.

This series of articles first explains the term and introduces the 10 heuristics by Jakob Nielsen. We then learn how to use them in evaluating interactive systems.


Heuristics comes from the ancient Greek εὑρίσκειν (heurískein), which means something like "find" or "discover". In behavioral psychology, heuristics means a procedure with which we can make statements and decisions despite incomplete knowledge and limited time. Trial and error or that Elimination process are prominent examples that we use every day. Colloquially it comes Rule of thumb closest to meaning.

Jakob Nielsen developed these ten general principles for good in 1995 Interaction design. According to his own statement, he uses the term heuristics, since these are “broad rules of thumb and not specific ones Usability guidelines”Acts.

So what are the rules of thumb for usability?

The ten heuristics

  1. System status visibility
    The system always informs the user about what is happening - in good time and through appropriate feedback.

  2. Correspondence between system and reality
    The system speaks the language of the user - with familiar words, phrases and concepts. Borrowed from the real world, information appears in its natural and logical order.

  3. User control and freedom
    Users often take actions unintentionally. Ways like “Undo”, “Redo” and “ESC” are therefore always possible and visible.

  4. Consistency and standards
    Users don't have to think about whether different words, situations and actions mean the same thing. The conventions of the operating system are adhered to.

  5. Avoidance of Errors
    Better than any good error message is a careful design that prevents errors from occurring in the first place. The system avoids error-prone situations or warns the user and lets him confirm the action.

  6. Recognition instead of memory
    With visible objects, actions and options, the user has to remember less. Instructions for using the system are visible or easily accessible.

  7. Flexibility and efficiency
    Shortcuts and other abbreviations - invisible to newbies - speed up the operation for advanced users. In addition, frequent actions can be individually adapted.

  8. Aesthetic and minimalist design
    Dialog windows do not contain any superfluous or rarely used information. Because each additional information competes with the relevant Information and reduces its visibility.

  9. Assistance in recognizing, evaluating and correcting errors
    Error messages should be formulated in clear language (no code), describe the problem precisely and suggest a constructive solution.

  10. Help and documentation
    Although it is better if the user can use a system without assistance, it is sometimes necessary to provide documentation. In this case, the information is easy to find and focuses on the user's task. The documentation contains concrete steps for implementation and is limited to the essentials.

Based on Jakob Nielsen's article, I have freely translated the points in order to be able to reproduce their content in the most precise and simple language possible.

In the second part of this series of articles, you will learn how we evaluate systems as objectively as possible with the help of these heuristics.

Johannes Borchard

I am studying human-computer systems at the JMU Würzburg and would like to Usability & UX consultant become. I share experiences and findings on this blog.