Understanding and Implementing Heuristic Evaluation in UX Design

The first thought that comes to one's mind about product design is its look and feel. However, an appealing design has to be functional as well. So, how do designers go that extra mile in achieving this for an exceptional user experience? More excellent usability is a significant determinant of a design's quality. In addition, the better the usability, the more users will engage with the product. Today, companies perform a variety of usability tests to evaluate their products. Heuristic Evaluation is an effective and proven method backed by engineering concepts to test for user-centricity and compliance with established usability principles (the "heuristics"). Read on to understand Heuristic Evaluation and how to perform it better.

What is Heuristic Evaluation?

Heuristic evaluation is a detailed assessment of a product's UI, where it helps perceive usability issues and identify ways to resolve them based on severity. This approach to problem-solving or self-discovery is practical to reach an immediate design goal. Evaluators use proven heuristics (e.g., Nielsen-Molich's) to reveal actionable insights to design teams who want to enhance product usability sooner than later.

The Ten Guiding Principles of Heuristic Evaluation:

A "Heuristic" is a generic design guideline that applies to a wide range of designs. However, many experts follow Jacob Nielsen's 10 Usability Heuristics for UI Design for the direction that can be summarized as follows.

  1. Visibility of System Status:  Keep users informed appropriately and promptly with appropriate feedback.
  2. Match between system and the natural world: Show information logically and organically related to the real world and the users' language.
  3. User control and freedom: Provide users control and undo errors by using "emergency exits" without navigating an extended process.
  4. Consistency and Standards: Maintain design consistency and reduce ambiguity over what different words, icons, and actions mean. Follow industry and platform conventions.
  5. Prevent Errors: A system should let users bypass error-prone conditions or notify them with a message for consequences/further actions (example, "Are you sure you want to do this?").
  6. Recognition over Recall: Add information visibility elements like instructions or menu labeling/positioning to indicate options, actions, etc., and minimize the user's memory recall.
  7. Flexibility and Efficiency of use: Experienced and even inexperienced users find faster and efficient ways to achieve goals.
  8. Aesthetic and Minimalist Design: Avoid clutter and irrelevant information to improve user visibility towards designated tasks.
  9. Help users identify, diagnose, and resolve errors: Easily using content and information in plain language (no codes).
  10. Help Documentation: Document the straightforward steps in a lean and searchable format to overcome problems and execute tasks.

When to Conduct Heuristic Evaluation? You can do it at any stage during the design process in an iterative manner. This means you'll get more feedback when you conduct earlier.

How to Effectively Conduct a Heuristic Evaluation? An accurate heuristic evaluation calls for careful preparation and requires you to follow a predefined sequence. Any errors may deem your test results invalid.

You can conduct a Heuristic Evaluation by following these steps.

  • Know what to evaluate and how – Clearly define the tasks, testing goals, and the usability parameters for the entire product, a feature, or procedure. Wireframes, mock-ups, or prototypes can be used along with usability parameters like:
    • Registration 
    •  Login/out 
    • Navigation 
    • Checkout                                                                                                                                                                           
  • Know your users to clearly define their behaviors, expectations, contexts, motivations, etc. User personas help look at functionalities, features, and results from the users' perspective based on demographics, personal preferences, skillsets, etc.
  • Select 3–5 usability experts from different domains for design review. This will give a holistic picture of your design based on different perspectives and experiences based on the defined principles.
  • Select a set of standard heuristics (around 5–10) that evaluators will use depending on the system/product/design's nature. Consider adopting/adapting the Nielsen-Molich heuristics or define your own for reliability and consistency.
  • Set up an evaluation system, identify issues, and brief evaluators on what testing system you're following. Use severity ratings like critical, regular, minor, and good practice to flag (using color codes), track, and address issues. 
  • First Walk-through – Have evaluators use the product flexibly to discover the elements to analyze.
  • Second Walk-through – Evaluators delve deeper to test individual elements based on the heuristics against the overall design while recording all the issues encountered. 
  • Debrief the evaluators to gather, compare, and summarize results for analysis and suggestions based on the severity rating of each issue. Then, they can remove duplicates and prioritize workflows. 

Determining Severity Ratings:

Three main factors determine the usability severity:

  1. Frequency: Is it common or not?
  2. Impact: Will it affect the end-users, and to what extent?
  3. Persistence: Is it a one-time or recurring problem?

Usability experts will map a Severity Rating to each usability issue and rate the issues from '0 to 4' where '4' will be resolved using the most resources and efforts, '1' the least, and '0' will need no resolution.

Nielsen's ratings are as follows:

  • This is not a usability problem.
  • The problem need not be fixed unless additional time is available.
  • Minor usability problem, fixing which should be a low priority.
  • Major usability problem that is important to fix with high priority.
  • Usability catastrophe that is imperative to fix before releasing the product.

Sample Severity Evaluation Template.

You can find more samples here, or you can contact us for customized templates.

Getting an Expert to Perform Heuristic Evaluation

Many companies can't decide if they should pay for a heuristic analysis or use their in-house UX designers since Heuristic Evaluation is expensive. They are willing to pay so their product will benefit from expert analysis in the long run, and designer bias is avoided. However, the overall heuristic evaluation process can be overwhelming and needs additional eyes and a fresh perspective to identify the weak spots. If you're launching your product sooner, undergoing a heuristic analysis from a UX design professional is a brilliant idea. 

Performing Heuristic Evaluation by Yourself

In her book The User Experience Team of One, Leah Buley details an informal and handy Heuristics Evaluation method called Heuristic Markup. Here, you do a product walk-through from beginning to end for hours. Leah also suggests capturing a screenshot of each step in the journey, pasting it into a presentation, and noting your observations from your user's perspective. Finally, share your findings with your team.

Heuristic Evaluation and User Testing – The Difference

Heuristic Evaluation

Performer: System Expert.

Action: Comparing usability to predefined heuristics.

Purpose: 

  • To check the compatibility of the digital product with the user's needs.
  • Detect errors and correct complex problems.
  • Check alignment to heuristic principles.

 User Testing

  •  Performer: The end-user.
  •  Action: Uses the digital product in real situations.
  •  Purpose: To understand how end-users will complete typical tasks in real-life situations in both successful and erroneous scenarios.

Here are some tips to ensure your Heuristic Evaluation is practical and beneficial.

  • Collect accurate info on user behavior, needs, and demographics before the evaluation.
  • Define the user tasks and use cases.
  • Include more than one evaluator for a broader perspective on product usage.
  • Once the evaluators test the product and collect the results, present it to your designers and stakeholders for feedback.

The Bottom Line

Performing a heuristics analysis with user testing is enough to identify and fix significant UX design issues. As soon as you fix these issues, you'll notice the difference in user engagement, retention, and sales. 

Radiant Digital's evaluation experts have a sharp eye to detect and fix design flaws. So call us today to engage the best design brains in your project.


Designing for Personalized Experiences as one size does not fit all

Today, a personalized customer experience is at the heart of every business communication strategy and customer experience. This growth mantra helps acquire customers, engage, and retain them in a competitive market.UX designers and researchers are often in the driver's seat, defining the course of customer interactions and product design. A flexible design that promotes personalization adds so much value and satisfaction to customer-product interactions.

So, what exactly is personalization?

"Personalization is not a trend; it's a marketing tsunami" - Avi Dan. Personalization is identifying various user types and their needs to deliver relevant content and functionality to them. It focuses on UX enhancement by anticipating and meeting unique user needs that translate to customer conversions.

UX Design and Personalization:

According to Forrester's research, personalization offers crucial customer centricity and engagement that marketers can leverage. Thus, delivering user experience personalization has become a critical approach for CMOs to attract and convert potential customers.UX personalization helps anticipate and tailor customer journeys and experiences based on varied customer needs, contexts, and preferences instead of making them irrelevant and one-size-fits-all. This article delineates the importance of UX Personalization for designers and how it can add value to end-users.

Why Personalization?

Channelize Information and Reduce Overload: Personalization helps customers focus more on your offerings than on the excessive information flooding their pages. It reduces the amount of info and the options by guiding users through a customized funnel designed for them and their individual needs.

Helps Build Brand Affinity: Personalizing provides innovative customer interactions to strengthen their brand trust and loyalty. This is useful in planning effective UX design strategies across marketing and sales channels. UX Personalization also increases the Customer Lifetime Value when customers resonate with your brand. Studies show that 15% of a brand's loyal customers account for up to 70% of sales, and not personalizing can kill a significant opportunity to make your customers feel appreciated.

Increases Conversions: With personalization, users get better, more relevant, and individualized experiences. This ultimately translates into increased conversion rates through improved KPIs like page views, hit rates, interactions per session, etc. According to Evergage, 74% of marketers believe that personalization increases customer engagement.

Increases Lead Generation: Personalization increases users' chances to read and engage in a message, then perform the intended action. Leads relay to your product if you personalize a design by understanding each user's pain points.

Cross-Selling & Upselling: UX design personalization provides the ability to segregate customer segments and understand them better. Marketers can then plan the type of offers, design, and content they'd like to cross-sell or upsell to various customers (existing or new).

Increases User Engagement: Personalization creates a profound connection between a user and a brand through effective engagement. Also, when users find a personalized product, it reinforces a sense of identity, uniqueness, and relevance to increase preference and usage.

 In summary, UX design Personalization is beneficial in the following ways, according to

How to Start Personalizing UX?

Begin by defining your strategy and the why, who, where and what of personalizing an experience.

"Why" defines the reason for personalizing UX design to achieve

  • Increased conversions or decreased bounce/drop-off rates.
  • Improved user engagement.
  • More lead generation.
  • Increased customer retention.

Answering "Why" will outline the high-level and specific goals of UX personalization.

"Who"  defines the target groups you want to cater to differently and meaningfully. These may include:

  • Prospects and customers.
  • First-time users.
  • Users from different demographics or locations.

UX designers should define and map the differences between various users precisely based on their brand, category, interaction, and price preferences.

"Where" defines the areas in your design or the customer channels where you want to introduce personalization. These may include:

  • Websites
  • Mobile apps
  • Emails
  • Ads

Any channel where regular customer interactions take place qualifies for different levels of personalization. At this point, mapping the personalized customer journeys coherently and consistently for each target user comes in handy. To know exactly how, please read this article we wrote on customer journey mapping.

"What" defines the message you want to convey to each user group or the intent of UX personalization within the identified channels to achieve a defined goal or deliver a specific experience. This may include:

  • Recommendations.
  • Indicate different value proposition headlines based on geolocation.
  • Navigation or search results' personalization.
  • Promotional messages to specific geolocations, user roles, or interest groups.

When it comes to personalization, adding value to the visitor's experience is paramount. Providing potential customers with a better sense and understanding of your brand (through UX design) will make them feel comfortable with your brand while improving conversions.

Recommended Personalization Methods

Having rolled out many customer-centric UX designs successfully, Radiant Digital recommends the following personalization methods to UX designers.

Navigational Personalization: This method builds on a customer's browsing behavior and purchase history. You can customize how you want the user to navigate your website. For example, you could highlight a previous purchase for the customer on an eCommerce website to repeat the order or display a pop-up page for discounts and offers before the home page is displayed. This will increase the chances of a user clicking and performing a positive action on the website.

Predictive Recommendation: Recommendation engines can accurately analyze relevant buying behavior from similar users and recommend products or actions that a person might be interested in. This method is helpful for email campaigns, e-commerce sites, or transactional apps. For example, this method has been beneficial for Amazon, where 30% of their sales are generated via predictive recommendations.

Contextual Messaging: Using this personalization method, you can personalize messages for users based on their location, behavior, or device type. This helps design apps and deliver content more relevantly, which adds value to the customer interaction. For example, Amazon uses geolocation messaging to display if a user can ship the item to their location, along with the estimated delivery time.

Will Common Designs Work Hereafter?

Based on the following factors, the UX design should change and serve the user's intent.

  • Geolocation
  • Traffic source
  • The browser or device type
  • Number of site visits, logins, pages/screens viewed
  • Active time spent
  • The time of the last visit, email read, etc.
  • Purchases made, articles read, videos viewed, etc.
  • Mouse movement (scrolling, hovering, inactivity)

Standard designs will slowly fade soon, while competitive applications will use personalization to engage more customers through their interests and preferences to shape user-centric and design-led UX. Machines Learning will intelligently understand the story behind the user's interactions to adapt to contextual factors continuously. This will allow companies to implement real-time personalization in their designs.

Wrapping up

Who doesn't say 'Yes' to a personalized experience? Businesses can succeed in today's digital era by planning and aligning their customer empathy and UX enrichment strategies.

Want to connect better with your customers through personalized and empowering designs? Radiant Digital can help you get there. Call us today!


Radiant Digital Solutions and Bowie State University announce partnership

Vienna, VA -- Radiant and Bowie State University have joined forces to explore novel applications of emerging technologies in a new public-private partnership intended to invigorate entrepreneurship, moving technology innovation out of the laboratory and into the marketplace.

As digital transformation accelerates, emerging technologies play an increasingly critical role in differentiating businesses and providing a competitive edge. This partnership demonstrates Radiant and Bowie State’s commitment to providing opportunities by applying innovative research towards solving practical problems.

The two organizations will work together on Radiant-funded research projects and collaborate to pursue key research opportunities at institutions such as NCI, NIHM, NSF, and others.

“The Radiant and Bowie State partnership is a powerful combination. Bowie State will bring a multifaceted set of resources, skills, and talent from its faculty and students. Radiant’s experience in delivering digital transformation solutions in public and private sectors will allow us to collaborate on creativity, design thinking, and execution in building the next generation of transformative enterprise and digital products and platforms. Together we will help produce groundbreaking research and innovation that solves complex problems while helping to create opportunity for a diverse group of students,” said Dr. Shankar Rachakonda, Radiant Digital Chief Executive Officer.

"Bowie State University is very excited about this partnership with Radiant. It's going to connect our students who are doing groundbreaking research with the researchers who are working to shape the future of tech innovations. Bowie State University has talented students who are a product of our strong doctoral program, and Radiant has skilled engineers. As a result, we can work together to produce a trained workforce that will answer today's most pressing challenges and create technology to improve lives. This strong relationship is symbolic of this new partnership,” said Dr. Shumba, Chair of BSU Department of Computer Science.

About Radiant

Radiant, a Woman-Owned Small Business, delivers digital transformation and digital experience solutions for private and public sector customers. To learn more about Radiant, please visit: www.radiant.digital

About Bowie State University

Bowie State University, the first historically black public university in the State of Maryland, empowers a diverse population of students to reach their potential by providing innovative academic programs and transformational experiences as they prepare for careers, lifelong learning, and civic responsibility. To learn more about Bowie State University, please visit: https://www.bowiestate.edu/


Leading Digital Transformation & Change Management

Digital transformation is no longer a buzzword; instead, it reshapes how organizations do business, train employees, and interact with customers. The digital transformation took flight at the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic and continues to take heightened importance as organizations accelerate digital solutions to meet the needs of flexible work schedules, hybrid teams, learning development trends, and how customers receive products or services. The McKinsey Global Survey suggests that the adoption of digital technologies has sped up by three to seven years in a span of months. The results below show this acceleration occurring across key areas of the business model and provide a reason to prepare the workforce for digital transformation.

Consider digital transformation as a catchall term for describing the implementation of new technologies, talent, and processes to improve business operations and customer satisfaction. Although digital transformation replaces traditional workflows with new technologies, it is not all about digitizing the business; instead, it is about employees and leading them through change. At the core of digital transformation is the organizations’ ability to effectively upskill and motivate employees and managers to adapt to new technologies. So, whether your organization is staying above the curve, lagging, or barely keeping up with digital transformational solutions, the secret for successful implementation is focusing on employee training and strategies that prepare the workforce for the transformation.

This article will explore why digital transformation fails, how to avoid pitfalls, and effective change management strategies to execute the transformation.

Why employees play a pivotal role in your digital transformation

Whether you are implementing a new HR system, customer management system, or a cloud-based solution, the reality is that such software provides frequent incremental releases, and to keep up with ever-changing software, change, and learning leaders will be tasked with creating innovative communications and learning programs that inform employees what the new technology means for their role and responsibilities. McKinsey & Company also estimates that 70% of transformations fail due to lack of support from employees and effective communication from leadership, so it is imperative to engage employees in the transformation from conception through implementation.

Obstacles to digital transformation and how to avoid pitfalls

As previously stated, lack of communication from leadership and the organization is one of the biggest deterrents to digital transformation and is the reason such initiatives fail. To limit communication missteps, Widen Director of Customer Success Michael Shattuck recommends forming a “digital transformation committee” made up of team members from different levels within the business, and I could not agree more. The committee's purpose is to identify barriers across the company’s culture, technology, and process. The development of the committee will aid in the organization or team-specific communication needed to facilitate the transformation.

In addition to managing communication, missteps consider the following when developing your organization's transformation strategy.

  1. Start from the top: Change that starts at the top reflects a committed, invested, and unified leadership. During mergers, research around leadership has found that the leader's presence, guidance, and support alleviated employee fears, reduced anxiety, and helped employees feel more confident about the transformation.
  2. Develop a suite of learning resources: One of the most overlooked segments of the office ecosystem when discussing digital transformations is the employees themselves, both new hires and ongoing professionals. If an organization fails to keep up with its employees’ training and development needs, it will fail in its digital transformation efforts. The goal is to make employees active learners in the transformation process. Blended learning solutions such as microlearning, virtual led training, or online webinars are effective ways to train employees on the tools and platforms they will work with daily. Radiant Digital can assess your training needs and develop learning programs that have longevity if you seek to learn solutions that support you during digital transformation initiatives.
  3. Minimize disruption: Changing existing processes within an organization can be a headache; however, mitigating the effects of those changes on employees is vital. Although leadership may see the introduction of automation into core business functions to save time and money, employees who were previously tasked with these roles may feel replaced, threatened with obsolescence, or lacking direction.

In addition, digital transformation initiatives requiring organizational restructuring may cause employees who are moved to another position to feel indignant, confused or wonder what was wrong with the previous structure. To minimize this disruption and associated resistance among the workforce, the following may be considered:

  • Plan for some disruption/resistance and create awareness around the transformation early.
  • Fostering a culture that supports change or transformation.
  • Empowering champions such as project managers or team leaders to provide clarity and context for changes.

Here at Radiant Digital, we are ready to support your overall digital transformation strategy by guiding you through the key phases of change management. Reach out to our team to learn more about our learning and change solutions.


Designing for the Next Billion Users (NBU)

The pandemic has inevitably brought a seismic change to new internet users, including senior citizens and those from less privileged communities who were previously technologically "disconnected. “Around 40 percent of the world's population now has access to the internet. Interestingly, however, only 36% of those in the low-income communities have access to mobile technology Whereas, there is a startling 40% gender gap in how men and women have access to the internet and other technology devices due to pay gaps and cultural mandates in some of the developing countries.

The 3 P's impacting the digital divide among internet users include:

The increased adoption of smartphones, improved digital infrastructure, and a supportive regulatory environment fuel the rapid growth of mobile technologies worldwide. Tech companies are widening their gazes beyond developed countries for their next growth ventures. Ubiquitous, affordable mobile devices and plans such as Jio in India are helping another billion users join the internet. Why are these users joining the internet bandwagon, and how are they the same or different from the current internet users? The key phrase is "Global expansion through inclusivity. “Google’s technology defines the principles behind building globally accessible products and offering practical resources, especially in emerging markets such as India, Indonesia, Brazil, and Nigeria. However, mobile and technological affordability is lower than in countries like the US.

Next Billion Users Overview

The top 10 countries with the highest numbers of people not connected to the web are given below.

You can view other essential statistics on internet usage here.

UX designers today need to optimize websites and apps differently for those not digital natives, have no digital experience footprint and use low-cost devices. It also means that they must consider having internet access via an older or low-end phone, varied environments for users with disabilities, and when the network is slow and unreliable. Therefore, a pertinent question to ask is, "What would it be like to use digital interfaces in such conditions?"The following factors will influence app designs as a part of the global accessibility framework under the NBU technology.

At Radiant Digital, we design in a device and environment-agnostic way where the Next Billion users benefit from affordable technology accessibility. This blog discusses the key design considerations for the Next Billion Users.

Why design for the NBU?

We talked to Rachel Simpson, senior designer on Google's Chrome UX team, to determine why designing for the NBU is crucial. Rachel was instrumental in making Chrome work well for the NBU and has primarily focused on India. She said that in India's emerging market, technology companies promote inclusivity and develop solutions by considering:

  • The number and growth rate of the internet-connected population.
  • The shared characteristics of those users.

The opportunity is massive since the growth rate of global technology users has flattened out at 9 percent annually, and the bottoms-up innovation has led to the creative remix of technology usage. Moreover, this growth rate is accelerating and poising developing economies to adopt internet technologies and devices faster and economically. According to Mary Meeker's Internet Trends reports in 2016, India surpassed the US to become the second-largest internet usage market globally, after China, in 2016. Still, it also leaped from 277 million users in 2016 to 355 million in 2017. IAMAI-Kantar Cube reported that India's number of active internet users is likely to hit 900 million by 2025 compared to 622 million in 2020. Moreover, by 2025, this number in rural India would surpass urban India. Given the growing digital ecosystem, UX design will need to evolve to address the specific needs of this emerging demography. With NBU, removing the following barriers will be the top priority for designers.

  • Technological
  • Accessibility
  • Affordability

UX designers need to factor in the following when they design and test for progressive applications.

  • No installation or update costs.
  • No Storage issues.
  • Support for PUSH notifications and offline functionality.
  • Default support for Maps, YouTube, and other useful apps in entry-level devices.
  • Accessibility for users with situational, temporary, and permanent disabilities (vision, hearing, motor, cognitive, speech).

The Three C's that influence UX for NBU

Cost: Low specification devices standard in emerging markets have less built-in storage available at higher data costs. Therefore, designers need to collaborate with engineers in building lightweight and agile apps that consume lesser data.

Connectivity: Users in emerging markets experience more connection errors, interruptions, and low speed. Building progressive web apps that consume less storage and load fast even over 2G connections and offline modes. In addition, designers must create graceful degradations for users who don't have a stable network connection.

 Complexity: Keyboard UI complexity is more for mobile users compared to desktop users. Language and OS barriers also add to the complexity. It is crucial to design for simple text strings and pair culture-oriented iconography with text to promote comprehension. Progressive enhancement and performant CSS are game-changers in designing for less complexity.

NBU Design Best Practices

Here are some design guidelines to help build apps for a huge population untouched by technology and can be the potential users among the NBU.

Use Permanent Object Positioning: For new users, it is essential to allocate spaces within the screens for certain types of actions. Assigning specific screen locations for positive actions like Save, Submit, and Confirm and negative actions like Delete, Cancel, Reject, etc., is essential.

This standardization helps build muscle memory for specific actions, and using new apps or devices becomes more effortless.

Avoid Scrolling: Scrolling would not be intuitive for new users. It is recommended to place all the information on multiple screens and provide navigation buttons instead. Thus, providing scroll hints and ensuring that the data is not "cut" exactly where the physical screen ends.

Use Elegant Screen Transitions: Using transition animation when switching between screens will help users understand that a new set of information uses the same space. However, designing a quick switch between screens doesn't allow users to switch contexts seamlessly and confuses a new user. Here are different transition types that you can use.

Use Skeuomorphism: This means that the interface should use real-world object depictions like icons for delete, erase, draw, etc., instead of using vague names or references like "x."

Build User Confidence: This is important for novice digital users, especially on finance or monetary apps. A design should let them know how to use an app to perform and complete a task and its steps. For example, messages, notifications, or conversational text like encouragement or help questions will help users make decisions and take actions more confidently on an app.

Wrapping up

Are you designing with emerging markets in mind? Radiant Digital's stellar UX design team can help you explore and tap into the new opportunities offered by the NBU. So let's connect and get talking!