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Jakob Nielsen’s 
10 Usability Heuristics 
Explained 
August 2014.
Visibility of system status 
“I know what’s going on” 
1 
The system should always keep users informed about what is going on, through 
appropriate feedback within reasonable time.
Visibility of system status 
“I know what’s going on” 
1 
Like how Twitter tells you when it’s publishing a tweet 
and makes a chirp sound when it’s done 
Or how the colour and position of the plane changes on 
Google search results to indicate if a flight is on time
Visibility of system status 
“I know what’s going on” 
1 
Don’t keep your users guessing. 
Would it be better if the system told you how much space you have on your drive 
before you begin a file transfer? 
?
Match between system and the real world 
“I know what you’re talking about” 
2 
The system should speak the users' language, with words, phrases and concepts familiar 
to the user, rather than system-oriented terms. Follow real-world conventions, making 
information appear in a natural and logical order.
Match between system and the real world 
“I know what you’re talking about” 
2 
Buttons can be like real world conversations 
instead of labels. 
Clearer and more effective than“FAQs”
Match between system and the real world 
“I know what you’re talking about” 
2 
Refrain from confusing people with system oriented 
language and design.
User control and freedom 
“Oops, let me outta here” 
3 
Users often choose system functions by mistake and will need a clearly marked 
"emergency exit" to leave the unwanted state without having to go through an extended 
dialogue. Support undo and redo.
User control and freedom 
“Oops, let me outta here” 
3 
Allow people to change or delete items in a shopping cart as 
seen in this example from Inkling. It’s also useful to allow 
them to continue shopping. 
Ever felt the need for an undo 
button after sending an email to 
the wrong person? 
It’s a good thing Gmail allows 
that.
User control and freedom 
“Oops, let me outta here” 
3 
There is no way to undo a text edit on Android! 
Avoid pissing the user off by giving him no choice to revert to an earlier state. 
Love the“shake to undo” 
feature on iOS
Consistency and standards 
“Seems familiar, makes sense” 
4 
Users should not have to wonder whether different words, situations, or actions mean the 
same thing. Follow platform conventions.
Consistency and standards 
“Seems familiar, makes sense” 
4 
As a convention, people expect call to actions like Sign In to be at the top right on any website
Consistency and standards 
“Seems familiar, makes sense” 
4 
One would expect the knob to be the volume control, 
but it’s not. 
Similar functions have different shortcuts in 
Adobe’s various software.
Error prevention 
“Glad I didn’t do that!” 
5 
Even better than good error messages is a careful design which prevents a problem from 
occurring in the first place. Either eliminate error-prone conditions or check for them and 
present users with a confirmation option before they commit to the action.
Error prevention 
“Glad I didn’t do that!” 
5 
Gmail prompts you when you forget to insert an 
attachment 
On Google Ads, if you input a budget much larger 
than your previous one, the system checks with you if 
you really meant to do so.
Error prevention 
“Glad I didn’t do that!” 
5 
Facebook does not try and prevent you from posting an ad that is against its 
guidelines. e.g. There is no way for a first time user to assume that his ad might get 
pulled off mid-campaign because Facebook might later find it inappropriate.
Recognition rather than recall 
“I know what I need to do here” 
6 
Minimise 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.
Recognition rather than recall 
“I know what I need to do here” 
6 
Clear proposition 
Instructions 
prompting the 
user to explore 
A single bold call to action leaves no room 
for distraction
Recognition rather than recall 
“I know what I need to do here” 
6 
Important actions should be easy to access and identify. 
In an earlier version of Windows 8, it was almost impossible to shut down 
the computer without googling how to do it.
Flexibility and efficiency of use 
“Allow me to do more or less” 
7 
Accelerators - unseen by the novice user - may often speed up the interaction for the expert 
user such that the system can cater to both inexperienced and experienced users. Allow users 
to tailor frequent actions.
Flexibility and efficiency of use 
“Allow me to do more or less” 
7 
When you share a 
file on Dropbox, 
you can simply 
copy the link, or set 
advanced options. 
Advanced users can use filters on Google Images to narrow down 
their search results.
Flexibility and efficiency of use 
“Allow me to do more or less” 
7 
This feature request highlights the frustration of an advanced user not 
being able to customise default features.
Aesthetic and minimalist design 
“Looks good, works beautifully” 
8 
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.
Aesthetic and minimalist design 
“Looks good, works beautifully” 
8 
Dieter Ram’s designs reflect this principle. “Less, but better – because it concentrates 
on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials.” 
The iA Writer app is a clean typing sheet with no distractions in the interface. It 
allows you to focus on what you’re writing and hides everything else.
Aesthetic and minimalist design 
“Looks good, works beautifully” 
8 
Avoid overloading the interface with features . Examine every element and ask 
- is this really needed?
Help users recognise, diagnose, and recover from 
errors “I know what went wrong, I can fix it” 
9 
Error messages should be expressed in plain language (no codes), precisely indicate the 
problem, and constructively suggest a solution.
Help users recognise, diagnose, and recover from 
errors “I know what went wrong, I can fix it” 
9 
An assuring error message on Dropbox 
A funny message keeps the audience 
engaged, while relevant links make sure 
they stay on your website.
Help users recognise, diagnose, and recover from 
errors “I know what went wrong, I can fix it” 
9 
Don’t tell people that something’s broken and can’t be fixed.
Help and documentation 
“Okay, I need help” 
10 
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.
Help and documentation 
“Okay, I need help” 
10 
The Kindle comes with an instruction card tucked 
inside the box flap, instead of a long boring manual 
Contextual help on AirBnB provides 
explanations where they are needed 
most frequently
Help and documentation 
“Okay, I need help” 
10 
If only diapers came with an easy tutorial!
That’s all, folks. 
Compiled by Krupali @ Craft 
buildwithcraft.co

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10 Usability Heuristics explained

  • 1. Jakob Nielsen’s 10 Usability Heuristics Explained August 2014.
  • 2. Visibility of system status “I know what’s going on” 1 The system should always keep users informed about what is going on, through appropriate feedback within reasonable time.
  • 3. Visibility of system status “I know what’s going on” 1 Like how Twitter tells you when it’s publishing a tweet and makes a chirp sound when it’s done Or how the colour and position of the plane changes on Google search results to indicate if a flight is on time
  • 4. Visibility of system status “I know what’s going on” 1 Don’t keep your users guessing. Would it be better if the system told you how much space you have on your drive before you begin a file transfer? ?
  • 5. Match between system and the real world “I know what you’re talking about” 2 The system should speak the users' language, with words, phrases and concepts familiar to the user, rather than system-oriented terms. Follow real-world conventions, making information appear in a natural and logical order.
  • 6. Match between system and the real world “I know what you’re talking about” 2 Buttons can be like real world conversations instead of labels. Clearer and more effective than“FAQs”
  • 7. Match between system and the real world “I know what you’re talking about” 2 Refrain from confusing people with system oriented language and design.
  • 8. User control and freedom “Oops, let me outta here” 3 Users often choose system functions by mistake and will need a clearly marked "emergency exit" to leave the unwanted state without having to go through an extended dialogue. Support undo and redo.
  • 9. User control and freedom “Oops, let me outta here” 3 Allow people to change or delete items in a shopping cart as seen in this example from Inkling. It’s also useful to allow them to continue shopping. Ever felt the need for an undo button after sending an email to the wrong person? It’s a good thing Gmail allows that.
  • 10. User control and freedom “Oops, let me outta here” 3 There is no way to undo a text edit on Android! Avoid pissing the user off by giving him no choice to revert to an earlier state. Love the“shake to undo” feature on iOS
  • 11. Consistency and standards “Seems familiar, makes sense” 4 Users should not have to wonder whether different words, situations, or actions mean the same thing. Follow platform conventions.
  • 12. Consistency and standards “Seems familiar, makes sense” 4 As a convention, people expect call to actions like Sign In to be at the top right on any website
  • 13. Consistency and standards “Seems familiar, makes sense” 4 One would expect the knob to be the volume control, but it’s not. Similar functions have different shortcuts in Adobe’s various software.
  • 14. Error prevention “Glad I didn’t do that!” 5 Even better than good error messages is a careful design which prevents a problem from occurring in the first place. Either eliminate error-prone conditions or check for them and present users with a confirmation option before they commit to the action.
  • 15. Error prevention “Glad I didn’t do that!” 5 Gmail prompts you when you forget to insert an attachment On Google Ads, if you input a budget much larger than your previous one, the system checks with you if you really meant to do so.
  • 16. Error prevention “Glad I didn’t do that!” 5 Facebook does not try and prevent you from posting an ad that is against its guidelines. e.g. There is no way for a first time user to assume that his ad might get pulled off mid-campaign because Facebook might later find it inappropriate.
  • 17. Recognition rather than recall “I know what I need to do here” 6 Minimise 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.
  • 18. Recognition rather than recall “I know what I need to do here” 6 Clear proposition Instructions prompting the user to explore A single bold call to action leaves no room for distraction
  • 19. Recognition rather than recall “I know what I need to do here” 6 Important actions should be easy to access and identify. In an earlier version of Windows 8, it was almost impossible to shut down the computer without googling how to do it.
  • 20. Flexibility and efficiency of use “Allow me to do more or less” 7 Accelerators - unseen by the novice user - may often speed up the interaction for the expert user such that the system can cater to both inexperienced and experienced users. Allow users to tailor frequent actions.
  • 21. Flexibility and efficiency of use “Allow me to do more or less” 7 When you share a file on Dropbox, you can simply copy the link, or set advanced options. Advanced users can use filters on Google Images to narrow down their search results.
  • 22. Flexibility and efficiency of use “Allow me to do more or less” 7 This feature request highlights the frustration of an advanced user not being able to customise default features.
  • 23. Aesthetic and minimalist design “Looks good, works beautifully” 8 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.
  • 24. Aesthetic and minimalist design “Looks good, works beautifully” 8 Dieter Ram’s designs reflect this principle. “Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials.” The iA Writer app is a clean typing sheet with no distractions in the interface. It allows you to focus on what you’re writing and hides everything else.
  • 25. Aesthetic and minimalist design “Looks good, works beautifully” 8 Avoid overloading the interface with features . Examine every element and ask - is this really needed?
  • 26. Help users recognise, diagnose, and recover from errors “I know what went wrong, I can fix it” 9 Error messages should be expressed in plain language (no codes), precisely indicate the problem, and constructively suggest a solution.
  • 27. Help users recognise, diagnose, and recover from errors “I know what went wrong, I can fix it” 9 An assuring error message on Dropbox A funny message keeps the audience engaged, while relevant links make sure they stay on your website.
  • 28. Help users recognise, diagnose, and recover from errors “I know what went wrong, I can fix it” 9 Don’t tell people that something’s broken and can’t be fixed.
  • 29. Help and documentation “Okay, I need help” 10 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.
  • 30. Help and documentation “Okay, I need help” 10 The Kindle comes with an instruction card tucked inside the box flap, instead of a long boring manual Contextual help on AirBnB provides explanations where they are needed most frequently
  • 31. Help and documentation “Okay, I need help” 10 If only diapers came with an easy tutorial!
  • 32. That’s all, folks. Compiled by Krupali @ Craft buildwithcraft.co