Last time I talked about five usability heuristic guidelines that have been around for many years. I had planned on having this ready earlier, but my family grew, and boy is she a handful. Meet Fyos Media’s newest employee, Willow. At nine weeks old, she made sure sleep was in short supply and our pockets were full of training treats. She is so cute. So thank you for your patience with the last five heuristic principles.
6. Error Prevention
We all have had moments when we make mistakes when interacting with something. As a designer, your goal is to properly design an interface or site to eliminate or decrease mistakes. Not all errors are the same. Some are slips and are caused by the user’s mental model and the design being mismatched. When looking to eliminate the mistakes, start by preventing high-cost ones first. If users cannot reach you from your site, fixing the contact form would be a top priority. Then as you take care of those significant errors, focus on the user’s frustrations.
To prevent slips, you need to find where you can put guide rails on your site. Find where the mistakes are happening by looking at SEO data. Maybe your new product on a slider is not getting attention because it fades out too fast. You could set the slides to stop on mouse-over or slow down the slides altogether. Maybe users are visiting your site but not generating any leads. Your contact form could be clumsy or hard to use or need better error detection. You could then implement alerts that explain the correct way to submit something.
7. Recognition rather than recall
Recognition is more straightforward than recall. What is an easier question to answer? Who wrote Harry Potter? Or. Did J.K. Rowling write Harry Potter? The second question is more straightforward because you only need to validate the query. The first question requires you to recall a name. This concept also applies to web design. Using the proximity principle, you can keep related objects and elements together. This proximity suggests they are related. Keeping associated items grouped helps users memorize content based on context.
8. Aesthetic and minimalist design
When working with clients, it is a prevalent challenge that some want a ton of content on their site. And mostly, when organized and distributed correctly, you can make it work. But sometimes, some content is just not needed and hurts more than helps. A great book about this subject is Letting Go of the Words by Janice Redish. In the opening of the book, she says about website visitors “People come for information that answers their questions or helps them complete their task.” It’s a straightforward idea that gets bulldozed by wordy, irrelevant, and unnecessary content. And as a result, the content interferes with usability. The client is so passionate about their brand or project they lose objectiveness when confronted with this reality. Be upfront and honest, and find a suitable resolution backed by research, professionalism, and empathy.
9. Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors
Errors are going to happen on websites. Just about any device or technology is going to have them as well. But the path to getting back on track after an error is part of how the developer designs it. The 404 error on the web is one we can all relate to. It’s also a very hopeless one. All you know is something did not work, and you need to go back. Getting error codes that only tech-savvy people understand is just a path of bad design. When users encounter an error on your site, you need to alert them in simple plain English and guide them to recover. While 404 errors can be minimized, other errors with contact forms and eCommerce stores can be eliminated.
10. Help and documentation
If you have a simple website with a good design, this heuristic step is not as important. But when you have a vast site with many systems, comprehensive documentation may be needed. A simple FAQ can help fill in the gaps on your site and your services for smaller websites. One important thing to remember is to create your help systems and documentation with your users in mind. Complex ideas and terminology may seem easy to understand for well-informed and fluent content creators, but your users may not be. Break ideas and concepts down to help your users interact with your system documentation.
I hope you got something out of these little explorations of user experience. I only briefly covered each area and shared my thoughts. I may further explore some of these later, but I find some newer principles more interesting. It is a vast topic I will continue to learn about.