Category Archives: Research

Heuristic evaluation – a starting point

heuristic evaluation - louise ventris [usability, homepage, navigation, forms, feedback, search, content and trust]

Heuristic evaluation is often a good starting point on the outset of a new project and especially when you’ve got little data or research to work from. It’s also a great way of quickly getting familiar with a product, service or site

There are a number of ways to run a heuristic evaluation – ideally I like to work with a standard framework, which I will vary depending on the platform or device.

If you’re in a position to enlist others to help it can give a more balanced view of the product and it’s also a great way to bring the team together to consider the project.

I’ve pulled together a google sheet as a Heuristic evaluation framework which covers items I like to check in each of the following area.


  • Is the purpose of the site immediately obvious
  • Are the main user tasks easily reached from the homepage


  • Can the user read the text easily [contrast, size of font]


  • Is the site navigation simple to use [consistent and standard position]
  • User can easily locate where they are with in a site


  • Is the content easily readable up to date and accurate
  • It is easy for a customer to cancel a purchase, service etc


  • Does the content uses plain english [jargon free and appropriate for the audience]
  • Is content easily readable [well labelled and chunked]


  • Are search results well presented and provide accurate ranking
  • Are search results relevant to the device [not linked to a desktop site from a mobile search]


  • Forms are broken down in to clearly understood sections

Error rates on forms

Forms can be very tricky to get right, and we aim to monitor the success rate on our forms, some of which do have high error rates. It is useful to get an idea of a base level, its’ a helpful gauge when looking to optimise.

Jane Frost, Director, of the Individuals Customer Directorate at HM Revenue & Customs
‘Reality Check: What Your Customers Will Actually Do’

Customer-focused design based on user testing for forms, and all communications, is essential to reduce error rates, she said, although councils should be realistic: “With forms, there is a 5% error rate when you just ask people for their name, and with anything involving a calculation it is over 50%. This suggests that a form that is 10 questions long, even with the simplest questions, will have a base error rate of 25%.

Google Maps API

Experimenting with Google maps API with the intention of mapping my current journey into work with photos. It’s very straightforward and pretty easy to get quick results.

Loading the map and setting the correct longitude and latitude was simple, things are starting to get a little more complicated with adding markers and then adding photos to the markers.

Interactive framework

1. Product form and input methods. What is the form  of the product – where will it be used? Will it web based or in the physical world. If in doubt refer to the personas and the scenarios.

2. Functional and data elements. Data elements are broken down into the key elements, such as email, photo, contacts, messaging –  whilst the functional elements are the key functions that the user needs to undertake.

3. Functional groups and hierarchy
4. Interactive framework
5. Construct key scenarios – Outline the frequently used pathways through the system – based on the user tasks.
6. Check design with validation scenarios

[ref Cooper About Face]

Questions to consider during the information design phase

Do the users want to see the information grouped by subject, process, business group, or information type?

How similar are the needs of the different user groups?

How different are their needs?

How many potential main categories are there? (typically relates to navigation)

What should those groups be called?

What terms do customers find confusing?

Are there any items be included in more than one section?

What action would you take if you could not find the information you need here?

What items and groupings were easy to create?

What items and groupings were difficult to create?

card sorting a definitive guide

Emotional Branding

“Emotional branding is about building relationships;it is about giving a brand and a product long-term value”….”It is based on that unique trust that is established with an audience. It elevates purchases based on need to the realm of desire. The commitment to a product or an institution, the pride we feel upon receiving a wonderful gift of a brand we love or having a positive shopping experience in an inspiring environment where someone knows our name or brings an unexpected gift of coffee – these feelings are at the core of Emotional Branding.” Sergio Zyman former chief marketing officer Coca Cola]

Design for use not necessarily the user

The design focus is on what the users are doing and trying to do in the context of the larger real world activities in which they are involved.

[An element of the design is based on the user – to ensure that the design is appropriate for them – design brand, aesthetic or surface design of the product.]

As designers we can pay too close attention to users and what they say they want which can lead to timid, over conservative design that does little more than repeat the mistakes of the past in a shiny new package.

Activitity modelling and Participation Maps
Human activity can be understood at three levels of analysis: activity, action, and operation. An Activity Map represents how various activities fit together and provides a rich picture of their composition in terms of actions and operations.

Modeling techniques, such as card storming and card clustering, make it possible to quickly construct a rich activity model that inventories and organizes the full range of activities and actions that need to be taken into account in a design.

design web applications for use