Heuristics are a quick evaluations that find problems for improvement.
- Testing doesn't have to be statistical or slow. Testing provides a valuable approach, but it can take time. Time for development, or waiting for enough users to participate. In addition, there is the additional cost to develop each element or version. To speed up the optimization process, you can use a heuristic approach. A heuristic approach is a shortcut. A faster approach that doesn't provide the accuracy of a test, but finds an effective solution.
A heuristic evaluation is a way of reviewing a website based on usability principles. An effective way of doing this is through the development of personas. A persona is a fictitious person that's created based on your customer data. They are developed with a background, a picture, and a description of their work and home life. Importantly, they are also developed with specific needs and goals. For one company selling fitness trackers, they developed a persona for an athletic woman.
They created Abby, who is 32, running her own business, and a mother. She needed a fitness tracker that would look nice in meetings with clients but not be obtrusive. However, it also needed to be tough enough to be in the gym for her crossfit workout. Then, using the persona you evaluate your website through the mindset of this specific customer. This helps you evaluate the design and function of your site from different perspectives.
By giving personas a real-world scenario you'll gain a better understanding of people's different needs and preferences. For our persona, Abby, she needs something attractive, but tough. Now we can look through the website, product selection, and descriptions, to see what would fit that need. This also works when developing the content of your website. You can evaluate your value propositions through the eyes of your personas and get a different perspective on how effective or persuasive it is.
While largely intuitive, using personas provides a structure for evaluation. When I was working on a large booking website the persona evaluation found that booking with three kids would break the website. None of the quality assurance or developers found the issue, but evaluating with a persona found a major issue with a specific function. Another simpler heuristic is observation. Just bringing in a third party to use your website or app can uncover issues you may have never seen or thought about.
An observation starts by giving users a scenario-based objective, like buying a blue T-shirt. Then you, your team, sit back, listen, and observe. This is a quick way of seeing how real people will use your website or app, and you can have them test by using different devices. When I worked in development I called this the mom test. If my mother could use it, then it was good. Whatever way you choose to do it, observation is effective and you'll learn something valuable, or find issues, right away.
Testing doesn't have to be extensive development and long periods of waiting for statistical data. It can also be done quickly and effectively through heuristics.
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