12 Usability Heuristics for User Interface design

Rohit Verma
4 min readMar 18, 2021

It’s crucial for PMs to make themselves comfortable about the commonly used usability principles . Jakob Nielsen’s general principles are called heuristics because they are broad rules of thumb to be followed for User interface design.

  • Visibility of system status : The system should always keep users informed about what is going on, through appropriate feedback within a reasonable time.
  • Match between system and the real world: The system should speak the users’ language, with words, phrases, and concepts familiar to the user, rather than system-oriented terms.
Recycle bin on MacOS
  • User control and freedom: Users often choose system functions by mistake and will need a marked “emergency exit” to leave the unwanted state without having to go through an extended dialogue. Support undo and redo.
  • Consistency and standards: Users should not have to wonder whether different words, situations, or actions mean the same thing.
Consistent floating action button on WhatsApp
  • Error prevention: Eliminate error-prone conditions or check for them and present users with a confirmation option before they commit to the action.
  • Recognition rather than recall: Minimize the user’s memory load by making objects, actions, and options visible. The user should not have to remember information from one part of the dialogue to another. Instructions for use of the system should be visible or easily retrievable whenever appropriate.
  • Flexibility and efficiency of use: The design should be easier to use for all the user groups. Even though we have only one set of a user group, then there would be novice users and experienced ones.
Adobe Photoshop Keyboard Shortcuts
  • Aesthetic and minimalist design: Dialogues should not contain information which is irrelevant or rarely needed. Every extra unit of information in a dialogue competes with the relevant units of information and diminishes their relative visibility.
  • Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors: Error messages should be expressed in plain language (no codes), precisely indicate the problem, and constructively suggest a solution.
  • Help and documentation: Even though it is better if the system can be used without documentation, it may be necessary to provide help and documentation. Any such information should be easy to search, focused on the user’s task, list concrete steps to be carried out, and not be too large.
  • Accessibility and inclusion: The aim of designing for accessibility is to ensure that users are not excluded on the basis of their abilities — whether physical, emotional, or cognitive. Close to accessible design is inclusive design, which really just takes the goals of accessibility and applies them to people of various cultural backgrounds, ethnicities, body types, and gender identities.
  • Scarce attention span : If one is proponent of digital well being of the users in the current times , then it is easy to understand that attention span of the user is quite limited & intentionally attempts are being made to limited the screen usage. Furthermore users are being frequently interrupted & distracted as well. As a results , if the CTA is not evident , the chances are that the user is going to drop off.

The Heuristic list is the common way of evaluating whether the product is usable or not. Conducting usability heuristic evaluations of existing products will throw light on the poor user engagement metrics.

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Rohit Verma

Senior Product Manager @AngelOne, ex-@Flipkart, @Cleartrip @IIM Bangalore. Interests: Product, Technology, Strategy, Startups, Fintech & E-commerce!