A mental shortcut used to solve a particular problem; it is a quick, informal, and intuitive algorithm your brain uses to generate an approximate answer to a reasoning question. Imperfect heuristics can lead to cognitive biases.

Importance of Heuristics in Design Important to leverage heuristics to the advantage of the design. Heuristics allow people to make decision faster and process more information. If the design can leverage heuristics in effective ways, it can make the experience easier and more enjoyable.

Daniel Kahnman’s

Anchoring People tend to rely on the first piece of information we receive more heavily than subsequent information in order to make a decision. Once an anchor is placed, decisions are made around the anchor.

Availability The availability heuristic means that the easier it is to think of an example of something—an event, entity, whatever—the more probable it is.


Loss Aversion Most people will behave so that they minimize losses because losses loom larger than gains, even though the probability of those losses is tiny. 



Certainty People tend to overweigh options that are certain, and are risk averse for gains.

Isolation Effect The isolation effect refers to people’s tendency to disregard any elements that are common to both options, in an effort to simplify and focus on what differs.

Other Heuristics

Affect The affect heuristic means that words with positive and/or negative connotations have corresponding influence over your decision-making.

Representativeness The representativeness heuristic means that you determine the likelihood of something happening based on what you think about something similar to it. It’s the stereotype heuristic.

Default Effect The tendency for people not to adjust the default settings of a product.

Scarcity People are motivated to action when they perceive an item’s availability to be limited in quantity or time.

Naïve Diversification People tend to make choices that are more diverse when multiple options are presented to them at once, rather than sequentially.

Fluency People tend to make decisions based on which option is easiest to process.

Effort Heuristic A mental rule of thumb in which the quality or worth of an object is determined from the perceived amount of effort that went into producing that object. In brief, the effort heuristic follows a tendency to judge objects that took a longer time to produce to be of higher value.

Usability Heuristics

Usability principles that are used as shortcuts to evaluate an interface against. The principles are often derived from mental shortcuts (traditional heuristics).

Nielsen’s 10 Usability Heuristics

Visibility of system status The system should always keep users informed about what is going on, through appropriate feedback within reasonable time.

Match between system and the real world The system should speak the users’ language, with words, phrases and concepts familiar to the user, rather than system-oriented terms. Follow real-world conventions, making information appear in a natural and logical order.

User control and freedom Users often choose system functions by mistake and will need a clearly marked “emergency exit” to leave the unwanted state without having to go through an extended dialogue. Support undo and redo.

Consistency and standards Users should not have to wonder whether different words, situations, or actions mean the same thing. Follow platform conventions.

Error prevention Even better than good error messages is a careful design which prevents a problem from occurring in the first place. Either eliminate error-prone conditions or check for them and present users with a confirmation option before they commit to the action.

Recognition rather than recall Minimize the user’s memory load by making objects, actions, and options visible. The user should not have to remember information from one part of the dialogue to another. Instructions for use of the system should be visible or easily retrievable whenever appropriate.

Flexibility and efficiency of use Accelerators – unseen by the novice user – may often speed up the interaction for the expert user such that the system can cater to both inexperienced and experienced users. Allow users to tailor frequent actions.

Aesthetic and minimalist design Dialogues should not contain information which is irrelevant or rarely needed. Every extra unit of information in a dialogue competes with the relevant units of information and diminishes their relative visibility.

Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors Error messages should be expressed in plain language (no codes), precisely indicate the problem, and constructively suggest a solution.

Help and documentation Even though it is better if the system can be used without documentation, it may be necessary to provide help and documentation. Any such information should be easy to search, focused on the user’s task, list concrete steps to be carried out, and not be too large.

Gerhardt-Powals’ 9 Cognitive Engineering Principles

Automate unwanted workload.

Reduce uncertainty.

Fuse data.

Present new information with meaningful aids to interpretation.

Use names that are conceptually related to function.

Limit data-driven tasks.

Include in the displays only that information needed by the user at a given time.

Provide multiple coding of data when appropriate.

Practice judicious redundancy.

Weinschenk and Barker Classification

  1. User control: heuristics that check whether the user has enough control of the interface.
  2. Human limitations: the design takes into account human limitations, cognitive and sensorial, to avoid overloading them.
  3. Modal integrity: the interface uses the most suitable modality for each task: auditory, visual, or motor/kinesthetic.
  4. Accommodation: the design is adequate to fulfill the needs and behaviour of each targeted user group.
  5. Linguistic clarity: the language used to communicate is efficient, clear and adequate to the audience.
  6. Aesthetic integrity: the design is visually attractive and tailored to appeal to the target population.
  7. Simplicity: the design does not use unnecessary complexity.
  8. Predictability: users will be able to form a mental model of how the system will behave in response to actions.
  9. Interpretation: there are codified rules that try to guess the user intentions and anticipate the actions needed.
  10. Accuracy: There are no errors, i.e. the result of user actions correspond to their goals.
  11. Technical clarity: the concepts represented in the interface have the highest possible correspondence to the problem domain they are modeling.
  12. Flexibility: the design can be adjusted to the needs and behaviour of each particular user.
  13. Fulfillment: the user experience is adequate and the user feels good about the experience.
  14. Cultural propriety: the user’s cultural and social expectations are met.
  15. Suitable tempo: the pace at which users works with the system is adequate.
  16. Consistency: different parts of the system have the same style, so that there are no different ways to represent the same information or behavior.
  17. User support: the design will support learning and provide the required assistance to usage.
  18. Precision: the steps and results of a task will be what the user wants.
  19. Forgiveness: the user will be able to recover to an adequate state after an error.
  20. Responsiveness: the interface provides the user enough feedback information about the system status and their task completion.

Service Design Heuristics

Address Real Need Solve people’s problems while providing value that feels like it’s worth the effort. Base service models on needs identified from contextual research with people.

Clarity of Service Offering Provide a clear service offering, in familiar terms. Actors (any person involved in the creation, delivery, support or use of a service) should easily grasp if a service is right for them, and what they are trying to deliver

**Build Lasting Relationships ** The service system should support appropriate interactions, allow for flexibility of use, and foster ongoing relationships. The right level of engagement supports an evolving service experience.

**Leverage Existing Resources ** Consider the whole system and what existing parts could be used to better deliver the service. Find opportunities to augment, repurpose, or redeploy resources.

**Actor Autonomy and Freedom ** The service ecosystem should fit around the habits of those involved. Do not expect people to adapt their life or work styles to suit the service model.

Graceful Entry and Exit Provide flexible, natural entry and exit points to and from the service. Consider when it is appropriate for actors to jump in, or to achieve closure.

**Set Expectations ** Let actors know succinctly what to expect. Assist understanding of where they are in the system through the design of environments and information.

The Right Information at the Right Time Tell the actors and the system what they need to know with the right level of detail, at the right time. Weigh the costs and benefits of providing more or less precise information.

**Consistency Across Channels at Any Scale ** Continuity of brand, experience and information should exist across the entire service system. Actors should be able to seamlessly move across channels.

**Appropriate Pace and Rhythm of Delivery ** All actors should experience and provide the service at a suitable and sustainable pace.


https://www.nngroup.com/articles/ten-usability-heuristics/ https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/the-cognitive-principles-of-gerhardt-powals-ace-your-capacity-to-understand-human-behavior http://usabilitymatters.com/introducing-usability-matters-service-design-heuristics/ http://uxmag.com/articles/the-3-most-powerful-heuristics-designers-can-use https://www.smashingmagazine.com/2015/07/using-heuristics-to-increase-use-of-your-product/ http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/psp/32/5/906/

Created by: Joe Steinkamp | Last updated by: Joe Steinkamp