# Heuristics and heuristic evaluation

## The origin of heuristics

Heuristics, a form of cognitive strategy, have been studied in discplines such as cognitive psychology, social psychology and social cognition. Heuristics are rules of thumb for reasoning, a simplification, or educated guess that reduces or limits the search for solutions in domains that are difficult and poorly understood. Unlike formal structures like algorithms, heuristics do not guarantee optimal, or even feasible, solutions and are often used with no theoretical guarantee.

The use of heuristics is often contrasted with probalistic, statistical, or rationalistic reasoning, according to which people use rationalistic and systematic ways to solve problems and generally seek the optimal results. As suggested by the definition of heuristics, this is not always the case. Herbert Simon, whose primary object of research was problem solving, has shown that we operate within what he calls bounded rationality. He coined the term 'to satisfice', which denotes the situation where people seek solutions or accept choices or judgments that are 'good enough' for their purposes, but could be optimised (Simon 1957; see the encyclopedia entry 'satisfice').

## Heuristics in interaction design

The use of the term is widespread in the HCI and interaction design community and has become particularly visible in the HCI or interaction design community because of Jakob Nielsen's 'Heuristic Evaluation' method (Nielsen 1994). In its simplicity, the method involves a few usability literate persons that evaluate a given design (in the case of Nielsen's method, a web page) on the basis of a set of heuristics. They do this by judging the webpage's compliance with the heuristics. An example of such a (usability) heuristic is as follows:

Visibility of system status:
The system should always keep users informed about what is going on, through appropriate feedback within reasonable time.

The advantages of heuristic evaluation is that it is cheap, intuitive (since you are applying a set of predefined rules/heuristics), it hardly requires any planning, and it can be used early in the design process (it does not require a nearly finished user interface). The disadvantage is that there is a focus on problems rather than solutions.

A good place to read more about research in heuristics in psychology is Kunda (1999). For further reading on heuristic evaluation, see Nielsen (1994) or simply his website, useit.com

# User-contributed notes

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Mike Bailey (mikebailey_177(at)hotmail(dot)com) says:
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Dec 8

An excellent, succinct explanation that will help my BSc (Hons) dissertation on DVD Menu Design. In particular, it has prompted me to carefully consider the comparisons with rationalistic reasoning and the role of the artistic designer when trying to construct a usable solution.

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# References

what's this?

(ed.) (1985): The Penguin Dictionary of Psychology. USA, Penguin

Kunda, Ziva (1999): Social cognition: Making sense of people. Cambridge, MA, MIT Press

Nielsen, Jakob (1994): Heuristic evaluation. In: Nielsen, Jakob and Mack, Robert L. (eds.). "Usability Inspection Methods". New York: John Wiley and Sons

Simon, Herbert A. (1957): Models of man - social and rational. New York, John Wiley and Sons

08 Dec 2008: Commented
28 Apr 2006: Modified

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If we provide links or pointers to other websites, no inference or assumption should be made that The Interaction Design Foundation operates, controls, or is otherwise connected with these websites. When you click on a link within Interaction-Design.org, we will not warn you that you have left a Site and are subject to the terms and conditions (including privacy policies) of the destination website. In some cases it may be less obvious than others that you have left a Site and reached another website. Please be careful to read the terms of use and privacy policy of any website before you provide any confidential information or engage in any transactions. You should not rely on these Terms for another website. The Interaction Design Foundation is not responsible for the content or practices of any other website. By using Interaction-Design.org, you acknowledge and agree that The Interaction Design Foundation is not responsible or liable to you for any content or other materials hosted and served from any third party website.

# 12. Email communication: Confidential and proprietary information notice

Email messages sent from members of The Interaction Design Foundation, including emails generated from the use of the interaction-design.org website, are proprietary to The Interaction Design Foundation, and are intended solely for the use of the individual to whom they are addressed. Such messages may contain privileged or confidential information and should not be circulated or used for any purpose other than for what they are intended. If you receive a message from a member of The Interaction Design Foundation in error, please notify the sender immediately. If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that you are strictly prohibited from using, copying, altering, or disclosing the contents of the message. The Interaction Design Foundation accepts no responsibility for loss or damage arising from the use of the information transmitted by email message including damage from virus.

# 13. Usage conditions

Please make sure that you understand that the information provided by The Interaction Design Foundation is being provided freely, and that no kind of agreement or contract is created between you and the owners, partners, users, or authors of this site, the owners of the servers upon which it is housed, the individual contributors of the The Interaction Design Foundation, any project administrators, sysops or anyone else who is in any way connected with this project. If you choose to use or copy anything from from this site it does not create or imply any contractual or extracontractual liability on the part of The Interaction Design Foundation or any of its members, partners, sponsors, contributors or other users. Your use of any such or similar incorporeal property is at your own risk.

# 14. Termination

The Interaction Design Foundation will have the right to terminate your access to the Web Site if it reasonably believes you have breached any of the terms and conditions of these Terms. Following termination, you will not be permitted to use the Web Site. If your access to the Web Site is terminated, The Interaction Design Foundation reserves the right to exercise whatever means it deems necessary to prevent unauthorized access to the Web Site, including, but not limited to, technological barriers, IP mapping, and direct contact with your Internet Service Provider. These Terms will survive indefinitely unless and until The Interaction Design Foundation chooses to terminate them, regardless of whether any account you open is terminated by you or The Interaction Design Foundation or if you have the right to access or use the Web Site.

# 15. Force Majeure, website downtime, and service outages

The Interaction Design Foundation will not be liable for failing to perform under these Terms because of any event beyond its reasonable control, including, without limitation, a labor disturbance, an Internet outage or interruption of service, a communications outage, failure by a service provider to The Interaction Design Foundation to perform, fire, terrorism, natural disaster, or war.

# 16. Limitation of Actions

You acknowledge and agree that, regardless of any statute or law to the contrary, any claim or cause of action you may have arising out of, relating to, or connected with your use of the Web Site, must be filed within one calendar year after such claim or cause of action arises, or forever be barred.

# 17. Payments

Online payment is accepted by Paypal. The Interaction Design Foundation does not process credit card payments directly or ever see, retain, or use your credit card information.

# 18. Taxes and VAT

In the name of Simplicity for our members/clients and the online User Experience, our prices always include VAT when applicable. The Interaction Design Foundation is based in Denmark so we pay 25% VAT of payments - depending on which originating country the member or customer is from.

# 19. Ownership of Interaction-Design.org, The Interaction Design Foundation, and its services

Interaction-Design.org is owned and operated by The Interaction Design Foundation, a privately held corporation incorporated under the laws of Denmark, with office in Aarhus, Denmark.

The Interaction Design Foundation
Chr. Molbechs Vej 4
DK-8000 Aarhus C.
Denmark

# 20. Changes to the Web Site

The Interaction Design Foundation may, in its sole discretion, change, modify, suspend, make improvements to, or discontinue any aspect of the Web Site, temporarily or permanently, at any time without notice to you, and The Interaction Design Foundation will not be liable for doing so.

These Terms contain the entire understanding of you and The Interaction Design Foundation regarding the use of the Web Site and the services of The Interaction Design Foundation, and supersedes all prior and contemporaneous agreements and understandings between you and The Interaction Design Foundation relating thereto. These Terms will be binding upon each party hereto and its successors and permitted assigns. These Terms and all of your rights and obligations under them may not be assignable or transferable by you without the prior written consent of The Interaction Design Foundation. No failure or delay by a party in exercising any right, power, or privilege under these Terms will operate as a waiver thereof, nor will any single or partial exercise of any right, power or privilege preclude any other or further exercise thereof or the exercise of any other right, power, or privilege under these Terms. You and The Interaction Design Foundation are independent contractors, and no agency, partnership, joint venture, employee-employer relationship is intended or created by these Terms. The invalidity or unenforceability of any provision of these Terms will not affect the validity or enforceability of any other provision of these Terms, all of which will remain in full force and effect.

# 22. Legal Disputes

Any dispute arising from the use of Interaction-Design.org or the interpretation of the terms is governed by the laws of Denmark, and shall be settled by the courts of Denmark. All communications regarding legal matters must be made in writing to

The Interaction Design Foundation
Chr. Molbechs Vej 4
DK-8000 Aarhus C.
Denmark

# 1. Summary

The Interaction Design Foundation collects no more data about you than most other websites.

Any membership information you provide to us will be used by us in order to maintain a register of members and supply you with any goods and services you have requested from our web site.

Edits, comments, commentaries and other contributions are published, and except in very limited circumstances, will be a permanent part of this site. If you decide contribute, you must keep this in mind. Your contributions will be subject to the Site Terms and Conditions and our Site IP/Copyright policy.

Under "The Act on Processing of Personal Data", incorporated under Danish law, you may request a copy of the information we hold on you (for which we may charge a fee to offset our administration costs) by writing to us .

This privacy policy will be reviewed, and may be revised, from time to time. You may wish to revisit it regularly.

# 2. No selling of information

We do not share or sell email addresses, obtained via communication with visitors, with anyone. Neither will any identifying data be disclosed or sold to any third party for any purpose. Data we collect through logging visits to our site (orginating IP, referral data, browser and platform type, traffic flows, geographical area of request, etc.) is only used in an aggregated form, which means we will not make any effort to identify users of Interaction-Design.org. The data is only used for server administration, fault finding, site improvement, etc. - as is done on most websites.

Aggregate (and thus completely non-identifying) statistics generated from these logs may be reported as part of research results or may be published on this site as a curiosity.

Our sites may use cookies. This is often as a convenience for you to enable certain site features.

You may wish to clear these cookies and the browser cache if you wish to refrain from revealing any identifying information, especially if you are using a public or shared computer. You may also wish to disable your browser from accepting cookies.

# 4. Private logging

Any time you visit a page on the internet, you send quite a bit of information to the server. The webservers that host this site maintain access logs with the information that you send. This information is used to provide site statistics and to get an idea of popular pages and what sites link here. We do not intend to use these logs to identify legitimate users.

The data logged may be used by us to solve technical problems with the site and, in cases of abuse of this site, to investigate the abuse.

We also use web analytics services to get a general idea of the kinds of traffic our websites get in order to provide better services and to set benchmarks for how we are doing in meeting the OKFN's goals.

Again, if you are concerned about attempts to match your IP address to your identity, you may wish to use an anonymous browsing service or attempt some means to obfuscate your real IP address.

# 5. Data release policy

Our policy is only to release the data we collect in the following circumstances:

• As required by law, such as in response to a valid request from law enforcement.
• To designated third parties to resolve or investigate abuse complaints.
• When the information is related to spiders or bots, usually when investigating technical issues.
• For abusive users, we may release information to assist in attempting to block the abusive user or to complain to that user's Internet Service Provider.
• If necessary to defend legal claims against us by third parties.
• When we deem it necessary to protect the property or rights of the user community, or this website.

# 6. Public data and publishing

Browsing this site doesn't reveal your identity publicly, though see Private Logging later in this document for more information.

# 7. Author identification

When making contributions to this site (e.g. posting a comment, commentaries, editing a page in the wiki, etc), a name and email address may be required. You do not have to select your real name or use your regular email address. If you are concerned, you may wish to get a free email account or attempt to use a remail service.

Your activity on our website may be identified by your IP address. These numbers could potentially be traceable to identifying information about you, whether it is your home ISP or the University or Work account where the IP address is registered. Your IP address could potentially be used in conjunction with other data to identify you.

If so, you might like to try Tor, an anonymous browsing service.

# 8. Information security

We make no guarantee that the information that you provide us will be secure.

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