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A Guide to Heuristic Reviews

Laura Martin
Reading Time:
3 minutes

Following on from our Heuristic Review v Usability Testing blog post, we’ll explore what exactly a heuristic review is and also how this can improve your product, through having consistent best practice principles and data visualisation.

What is a heuristic?

A heuristic technique, often called simply a heuristic, is any approach to problem solving, learning, or discovery that employs a practical methodology not guaranteed to be optimal or perfect, but sufficient for the immediate goals.

What is a heuristic review?

Heuristic reviews are where usability experts will review a website to identify any common usability issues. Each review is evaluated against a set of usability best practice principles for consistency. Radar diagrams are then used to visualise where issues are in the product.

At the end of a heuristic review you will end up with an overall usability score, data visualisation and a clear list of areas for improvement.

When should a heuristic review take place?

There are typically two reasons to perform a heuristic review; Uncovering potential issues and benchmarking against competitors. Benchmarking against competitors is insightful, especially in determining which areas the product is failing in.

Reviews can take place at various stages throughout development. The earlier this happens the less chance of issues being surfaced by users. Not only is this cost effective development, but also reducing the risk of product failure.

What are the heuristics?

The most famous set are Jakob Nielsen’s 10 Heuristics. Here at Dock9 we have our own set, which we have refined over time, these are:


From these heuristics we can drill down into specific question sets – this allows us to keep a consistent checklist across all website/clients/reviews. Our question set is based upon User Focus’ Web Usability Guidelines with a few tweaks.

Question set example:

  • The critical path (e.g. purchase, subscription) is clear, with no distractions on route
  • The value proposition is clearly stated on the homepage
  • The information that users are most likely to need is easy to navigate to from most pages

How to score the heuristics?

Heuristics are typically scored in a variety of ways. Here at Dock9 we use -1 to 1 point scale:

  • -1 Point: Does not comply with the heuristic
  • 0 Point: Kind of complies with the heuristic
  • 1 Point: Complies to the heuristic

All points will then be totalled per heuristic and an overall score will be calculated.

e.g. Homepage



Visualising the heuristics

Once scores have been calculated, these are then visualised using radar charts, which immediately identifies which heuristic needs attention without looking through all heuristic question sets, but at the same time having the detailed question sets available for reference.



Heuristic reviews provide a consistent methodology for reviewing a product without consuming large amounts of time and budget. The results and data visualisation gives an indication of areas for improvement and/or usability testing.

Want to know more?

We’ve helped a wide range of clients optimise and improve the user experience across complex and challenging products. If you want to know more, we’re always happy to talk about how we could help. Feel free to contact our UX Team or stop by the Dock9 office for a coffee.

Laura Martin
Laura Martin is Event Manager at Dock9, having previously worked in the financial sector for 15 years including at the Bank of England, Northern Trust and BNP Paribas