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UX Heuristics: What the Heck is a Heuristic, Anyways?

As designers and developers, we are confronted with design problems every day. The solutions we create connect customers with brands or help employees accomplish vital workplace tasks. Each day, we design and develop products for users who have different values, interests and varied levels of technological aptitude. When the stakes are high and users diverse, how do we make sure they all love their digital tools?

This is where UX Heuristics come in.

So, what’s a heuristic?

The origin of the word heuristic lies in curiosity and inquiry. It’s often defined as an approach to problem solving that employs a practical method to reach an immediate goal – in other words, heuristic is a rule of thumb. In user experience design, heuristics are set of general principles used to uncover problems and identify areas for improvement. At DevFacto, we use them to evaluate, facilitate, and in some cases predict the strength, quality, and effectiveness our work.

“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” – Albert Einstein

The set of heuristics we use are based on the well-regarded work of Abbey Covert, whose list was built in consideration of Nielsen & Molich, Peter Morville, Lou Rosenfeld, Ergonomics of Human System Interaction and most recently Resmini & Rosati.

Here are the 10 UX Heuristics that we at DevFacto have developed over the years of working with hundreds of clients on a variety of software, mobile and workplace solutions:

  1. Findable – The ease with which information can be located.
  2. Accessible – The ease of approachability or entry.
  3. Clear – The ease with which a user can understand what is in front of them.
  4. Communicative – The information provided to users throughout their experience.
  5. Useful (Effective) – Helping users produce desirable or intended results.
  6. Credible – The quality of being trusted and believed in.
  7. Controllable – Placing the user in the driver seat.
  8. Valuable – Being of great use, service and importance.
  9. Learnable – Being quickly understood with minimal training.
  10. Delightful – Exceeding expectations and creating “wow” experience.

How to use UX heuristics?

Your first consideration of heuristics should be in how they can drive you to ask the right questions. You can gain value simply by asking questions like “is (some important thing) findable in my current project?” or “does the solution I am building communicate the right things to people using it?”

When you can identify the most applicable heuristics against a particular task or user goal you get closer to achieving meaningful outcomes. Suddenly, you’re honing in on what makes a great interaction for that user, and creating a really valuable piece of work.

Interested in diving deeper into UX Heuristics? Download our Heuristics in UX Design eBook – it’s a great introductory guide to UX Heuristics and how to succeed using them, brought to you by our UX team (best of all, it’s completely free).

UX Heuristics Guide eBook

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Thinking Like a User

It’s More Than Just a Meeting Room

It’s more than just a meeting room.

You may have heard that we’ve been renovating our Edmonton office. Thankfully, the construction is done and we’re finally ready for the big reveal! And while there are plenty of interesting new features in our newly expanded office, there’s one space I’m most excited about: our new Ideation room.

What’s Ideation, you might ask, and why does it require a dedicated space? Come to think of it, why would someone get excited about a meeting room? The answers to these questions lay in the process of great software design.

Over the years of building award-winning software, we came to a realization that there’s a piece missing from a typical application development project. Time and time again, we saw businesses arrive with an established idea of what they needed, only to realize once the project was complete, that their new, beautiful, functional solution didn’t quite propel the organization forward. It became clear to us that standard requirements gathering sessions are rarely enough to really understand the problems any business is facing. All the focus on features, functionality, and technology causes people to overlook what’s really important: user satisfaction and tangible value to the organization. Our customers needed a better way to translate real-world pains into solutions that made a difference. They needed solutions that humans would love to use.

So, instead of gathering requirements we flipped the model and we began hunting for the root causes behind them. We based our approach on our shared experiences and drew inspiration from the Design Thinking and Service Design methodologies. This led us to developing an Ideation workshop, a process that’s become a foundation for our customer’s success.

What is Ideation?

At DevFacto, Ideation is a collaborative process we use to facilitate our customers’ innovative thinking and problem solving. It helps us uncover the ideal solution through a series of exercises that shift the perception of the challenges at hand. Through a mix of convergent and divergent techniques it explores opportunities and reveals the hidden value within any organization. And by bringing cross-functional teams together, it encourages collaboration and idea-sharing without long, drawn out meetings.

As cognitive science proves, humans are hardwired to think convergently. When faced with a challenge, we want to come up with a single, well-established, logical answer. We constantly narrow down the options until we arrive at the right solution. Once we have it, we head straight to executing. Any alternative solutions that were discovered in the process end up discarded.

While that is a great approach for hacking away at day-to-day tasks, it doesn’t encourage meaningful change in an organization nor allow for innovative thinking. When we go straight from the perceived problem to the seemingly obvious solution, we skim over pain points and miss perspectives that can fundamentally alter our vision for the future.

Our ideation process disrupts the typical approach to solving problems by bringing people together and affording them the chance to think collaboratively in different modes while driving alignment around the most powerful ideas.

Over the years, Ideation has helped our clients realize numerous benefits  – from experimenting and testing ideas before setting them in motion, to reimagining user experience, boosting customer satisfaction, and cracking new markets.

Software Ideation Session

Why do we need an Ideation room?

Meetings, deservedly, have a bad rep and the typical conference room design only escalates this problem. Large conference tables lower meeting engagement, while poor flow discourages collaboration – both of which are critical to creativity and innovative thinking. We are creatures of our environments far more often than we think. Which is why a new approach to the space is so powerful. We wanted to create a space that transforms the mindset and inspires fresh ideas. One that changes the expected meeting dynamic and gets everyone active, working, and exploring. By setting the stage for ambitious collaboration, our ideation room does just that.

We’ve built it with creative, brainstorming sessions in mind, so it’s is full of light and bright workable space. Writable surfaces all around the room facilitate idea sharing, while standing-height desks help get people moving and collaborating. Although the typical conference room fare – long conference table and chairs – is gone, we kept some uber-comfortable high stools to maximize accessibility. And because Ideation sessions can get quite intense, we’ve added a lounge area just outside the room so that the participants can recharge when it’s time to take a break.

Just last week, I facilitated my first workshop in the new space with one of our clients that’s looking to deliver a WOW experience to their end-users. Being a part of an Ideation workshop held in a space designed to foster empathy and common understanding among teams was eye-opening to everyone involved. We saw inspiring ideas spring to life but also witnessed a diverse, cross-functional team come together in an unexpected way. For this group, looking at a business problem in a new way, in a completely different type of environment brought results that went beyond what we could anticipate.

Powerful ideas are just around the corner, and sometimes a special kind of meeting in an entirely different space is just what’s needed to find them.

QualityConf 2015

I had an amazing time at QUALITYCONF. I will jump at any chance to sketchnote some great topics from engaging speakers, and QUALITYCONF did not disappoint. This DevFacto event happened from March 27 to 29 at Stone Ridge Mountain Resort in Canmore Alberta. Read more

World Information Architecture Day YEG

Unfamiliar with information architecture? So was I until I attended the IA summit in San Diego last March. It was there that I first learned about World Information Architecture Day.  Read more

ECM Governance – Part Five

In this post, I will finish off the definitions of the different principles and then we can move on from there to venture more in-depth about ECM governance. Read more

The Value in Speaking the Right Language

It can take professionals a few years to find their voice. Younger developers often don’t have the experience or the confidence to speak at a conference, let alone guide a room of stakeholders through the complex process of building an application. Read more

Live Sketchnoting @ UX Camp YEG

I was asked to live sketchnote UX Camp, a day of user experience presentations put on by UX Edmonton. Having sketchnoted UX Camp last year, as well as events like ‘Reimagining Shaw Conference Centre’ recently, my acceptance of invitations like this is pretty quick now. It is fast becoming something I love doing, regardless of the stress involved in drawing at speed in front of a large group of people. Read more

The Art of Sketchnoting

Everyone can do it

I used to take notes in school, but they didn’t look like this. Well, maybe the margins did. Read more

Think Like Google X, Test Like Netflix

Do you test anything in your daily work? I do. I test prototypes with end users to ensure the developed ideas actually work for those using them. There are strong indicators lately that I need to take testing more seriously, especially when another piece of encouragement bubbled to the surface recently. Read more

Customer-First Development

Some things that I’ve come across in the last few weeks have got me thinking…

First, an excellent blog post by Gojko Adzic, “Writing As a User Does Not Make It a User Story”. This post reminds us that too often our user stories are lies. We write stories that misrepresent what the user really wants to do and our stories are biased toward our implementation preferences right from the start. Read more

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