Individual Heuristic Evaluation

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The Heuristic Evaluation Assignment is worth 20 points, with no extra credit points.

Due Date: Feb 22, 11:59pm.


This is an individual assignment that you should complete on your own. You will get an individual grade.

In this assignment, you will perform a heuristic evaluation of a user interface. You can select the application to review.


You read Nielsen's notes on Heuristic Evaluation for class. Now it is time to apply these principles to a concrete user interface.

Find a smart phone application that you wish to evaluate. There are two paths:

  1. Install an application on your personal phone - any platform is fine. Make sure you know how to take screenshots on your phone (iOS: menu+power/lock button; Android: [ instructions).
  1. Having a device is by no means necessary for this assignment. If you don't have a smartphone, you can also install applications and run them in the Android emulator. If you are using an emulator, the easiest way to do this is to find free apk files from sites like or android freeware. Download the apk file for the application you wish to evaluate, and install it on your emulator (which has to be running) using the following command line in your platform-tools directory of your Android SDK installation:

android/platform-tools> adb install {filename}.apk

Games may be hard to evaluate using our heuristics - we recommend that you stick to other types of applications. You are free to choose the kind of app you study, but make sure you describe it in your report. Remember that you can use any version of Android in the Emulator you wish. Refer back to the Tips and Tricks section on how to make Emulator profiles.

Your submission document should contain separate sections for each major part of the application (e.g., home screen, create event, filter events, etc for calendar apps -- these will differ somewhat between applications). In each section, describe which heuristics the interface violated. For each problem, state:

  1. Which of the Ten Usability Heuristics is violated.
  2. Argue why the interface violates the heuristic (1-3 sentences).
  3. Rate the severity of the violation and explain your rating in one sentence (by referring to frequency, impact, and persistence of the problem as suggested by Nielsen).

Include screenshots in your description as evidence of the problem - you can grab these with the screen capture function on PCs (Print Screen) or Macs ( or screen capture functions on your phone. Annotating screenshots with arrows or callouts can be especially effective.


For examples how these heuristics apply to mobile applications, you may want to look at Suzanne Ginsburg's iPhone App Usability Heuristics.


Here is an example of a single violation in an interface - the BART Planner Widget for OS X.

Main Screen

Bart planner he.png

Heuristic: Consistency and Standards


The interface offers inconsistent ways to change different trip options. While a dropdown box to choose departure time and a button to reverse stations are available on the main screen, the origin and destination stations cannot be changed on this screen. To change these options, the user must click on the "i" icon in the top bar (which only becomes visible on mouse rollover).


3 = Major usability problem: important to fix, so should be given high priority
I rank this problem as major because it occurs frequently - every time the user wants to change stations; and because it is persistent - there is no way for the user to change application behavior to put all controls on the same page.

Grading Rubric

Criterion Great solution
Acceptable solution
Poor solution
Is your evaluation based on Nielsen's list of heuristics?
Yes, evaluation clearly grounded in Nielsen's heuristics Evaluation applies heuristics sometimes. No, evaluation not tied to Nielsens heuristics.
Do your arguments make sense?
Yes, correct application of heuristics. Arguments are sometimes unclear. No arguments, or totally off base.
How many heuristics did you discuss?
>=5 violations 3-4 violations 0-2 violations
Did you give the found problems severity ratings?
5 pts
Yes Sometimes; or unclear rationale. No severity ratings.


Creating a Wiki Page for this assignment

Begin by creating a new wiki page for this assignment. Edit your user page to add a link to a new wiki page for this assignment. The wiki syntax should look like this:

[[HeuristicEvaluation-FirstNameLastName|Heuristic Evaluation]]

Again replace FirstName and LastName with your name. Look at my user page for an example. Then click on the link and enter the information about your assignment. Be sure to clearly address everything mentioned in the writing guidelines above.

Uploading Images

To upload images to the wiki, first create a link for the image of the form [[Image:image_name.jpg]] (replacing image_name.jpg with a unique image name for use by the server). This will create a link you can follow that will then allow you to upload the image. Alternatively, you can use the "Upload file" link in the toolbox to upload the image first, and then subsequently create a link to it on your wiki page.

Add Link to Your Finished Assignment

Once you are finished editing the page, add a link to it here with your full name as the link text. The wiki syntax will look like this: *[[HeuristicEvaluation-FirstName_LastName|FirstName LastName]]. Hit the edit button for this section to see how I created the link for my name.