How to carry out a usability expert review

Learn how to find and fix usability and user experience bloopers in web, software and mobile user interfaces.
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  • Lectures 38
  • Length 5.5 hours
  • Skill Level Intermediate Level
  • Languages English
  • Includes Lifetime access
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    Available on iOS and Android
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About This Course

Published 7/2013 English

Course Description

Learn how to carry out one of the most in-demand user experience techniques — the Usability Expert Review.

Knowing how to competently carry out an expert review is a skill that should be in every UX consultant's toolbox.

Expert reviews are a great way to identify "usability bloopers" with a product or web site. They are quick, cost-effective and provide an immediate sanity check for the design. Expert reviews are also an ideal way to ensure that a product or web site will meet usability standards.

But many people find it difficult to identify specific usability issues from generic usability heuristics. Beginners also find it hard to derive action-oriented recommendations that can be passed to the design team.

This seminar reveals the practitioner secrets behind expert reviews and will teach you how to think like a usability expert.

  • Appreciate the difference between a usability inspection and someone’s personal opinion.
  • Learn and practice some quick techniques for carrying out usability reviews of prototypes and finished products.
  • Apply Jakob Nielsen’s heuristic evaluation technique to software, products and web sites.
  • Compare Nielsen's heuristics with other sets of guidelines, like ISO’s 7 dialogue principles, Shniederman’s 8 golden rules of dialog design and Tog’s 16 principles of interaction design
  • Uncover the elements of your design that lead new users to make errors, using the task-based cognitive walkthrough method.

As well as a set of comprehensive notes, you'll download detailed usability checklists and workbooks to help you carry out the most valuable techniques: the Heuristic Evaluation and the Cognitive Walkthrough.

You'll also download an expert review reporting template in PowerPoint and Keynote format that you can re-brand and use to report back the results of your own expert reviews.

- All of the video lectures and worksheets are download-enabled. If you have a slow internet connection, or want to take this course with you on your laptop, smartphone or other portable device, sign up and download all the videos and other course materials now.

- Every lecture has been fully transcribed as a text document. This is useful if English isn’t your native language or if you just want a readable and searchable version of the course.

- On completion of the training, you will receive a certificate of completion and be eligible for free, e-mail-based, refresher training.

What are the requirements?

  • You should have an interest in and an enthusiasm for user interface design.

What am I going to get from this course?

  • Appreciate the difference between a usability inspection and someone’s personal opinion.
  • Learn and practice some quick techniques for carrying out usability reviews of prototypes and finished products.
  • Apply Jakob Nielsen’s “heuristic evaluation” technique to software, products and web sites.
  • Compare Nielsen's heuristics with other sets of guidelines, like ISO’s 7 dialogue principles, Shniederman’s 8 golden rules of dialog design and Tog’s 16 principles of interaction design
  • Uncover the elements of your design that lead new users to make errors, using the task-based “cognitive walkthrough” method.

Who is the target audience?

  • This seminar is for you if you are looking for practical, cost-effective methods to evaluate designs.
  • This is an in-depth course in one area of user experience and is most effective for delegates who have day-to-day responsibility for ensuring usability within their organisation.
  • Common job titles include web designer, software designer, user interface designer, user experience designer and usability practitioner.

What you get with this course?

Not for you? No problem.
30 day money back guarantee.

Forever yours.
Lifetime access.

Learn on the go.
Desktop, iOS and Android.

Get rewarded.
Certificate of completion.


Section 1: What we'll cover in this course
Why take this course?
Let's review the objectives of the course and the strengths and weaknesses of expert reviews.
Section 2: Heuristic Evaluation
What are the steps in carrying out a heuristic evaluation?

Heuristic #1: Visibility of System Status

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

Nielsen used to call this: “Provide feedback”.

I think of it as: “What’s going on?”


Heuristic #2: 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.”

Nielsen used to call this: “Speak the user’s language”.

I think of it as: “What are you talking about?”


Heuristic #3: 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.”

Nielsen used to call this: “Provide clearly marked exits”.

I think of it as: “Oops! Where’s the undo?”


Heuristic #4: Consistency and standards

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

Nielsen used to call this: “Be Consistent”.

I think of it as: “I know what to do with this”.


Heuristic #5: 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.”

Nielsen used to call this: “Provide good error messages”.

I think of it as: “How do I fix this?”


Heuristic #6: 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.”

I think of it as: “Thanks for helping me avoid making that mistake”.


Heuristic #7: 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.”

Nielsen used to call this: “Minimise the user’s memory load”.

I think of it as: “Erm, sorry, I’ve forgotten”.


Heuristic #8: 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.”

Nielsen used to call this: “Provide shortcuts”.

I think of it as: “Experts and novices are both welcome here”.


Heuristic #9: 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.”

Nielsen used to call this: “Simple & Natural dialogue”.

I think of it as: “Don’t make me think puke”


Heuristic #10: 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.”

(This heuristic didn't appear in Nielsen’s first set).

I think of it as: “How do I…?”

Let's review the usability guidelines in EN ISO 9241-110 "Ergonomics of Human-System Interaction: Part 110. Dialogue Principles".
Let's look at Shniederman’s 8 golden rules of dialog design and Tog’s first principles of interaction design.

Do the experts disagree about what constitutes good usability? Or do they just disagree about how to organise what we know into a small set of operational rules?

This form lists ISO’s 7 Dialogue Principles. Use the pull-down menu to select the Nielsen heuristic that most closely matches each one.
This form lists Shniederman’s 8 golden rules of dialog design. Use the pull-down menu to select the Nielsen heuristic that most closely matches each one.
Here's how I think the various principles match up.

Look at the designs on the following screens. Find the usability problem with each design. Classify the problem using one of Nielsen’s heuristics.


Arnold Lund asked colleagues working in the HCI field for the rules of thumb they found particularly useful during the design process. 

He then created a list of 34 maxims.

Are these rules of thumb covered by the other guidelines we’ve discussed?


By their very nature, these principles are fairly generic and may even seem a little vague when applied to a new technology, like mobile. This is why an experienced reviewer will develop a usability checklist to interpret the principle for the technology and domain under review.

Here is a checklist for the Nielsen Heuristics for desktop software.


There is a nice payoff from using more than one evaluator. Nielsen recommends using about five evaluators, and certainly at least three. 

Test what you've learnt by carrying out this heuristic evaluation activity.
Here's my heuristic evaluation of the interface.
Section 3: The Cognitive Walkthrough
In this lecture, we'll review the background to the cognitive walkthrough by using Norman's Theory of Action as context.
Let's look in-depth at a question you ask in the cognitive walkthrough.
Let's look in-depth at another question you ask in the cognitive walkthrough.
Let's look in-depth at another question you ask in the cognitive walkthrough.
Let's look in-depth at another question you ask in the cognitive walkthrough.

Imagine we’re reviewing Adobe Illustrator’s drawing tools. Let's do a cognitive walkthrough.

Now it's your turn to carry out a cognitive walkthrough.
Section 4: Presenting results from an Expert Review
How do you log a usability problem?

Giving feedback to design teams is difficult because it’s a bit like telling a proud mum that her baby is ugly. Here's some tips for doing this.

4 pages

Download a PowerPoint and/or Keynote version of the template I use for my expert review reports.

Click on the 'Materials' tab and then download the format you prefer. Feel free to edit, rebrand and change anything about these templates so that they're right for you. You don't need to credit me or refer to this course, although if you want to do so, then go ahead!

Let's summarise what we've learnt and introduce you to the refresher training for this course.
Section 5: Wrap up
Please give me your feedback on this course
Section 6: DVD Extras

Here’s what we cover in the Q&A.


What happens when a business’s goals are not in alignment with users' needs? For example, what if your field research with users suggests you should work on something different to what the business is asking for.

Tommy Nguyen Duc

1. In Asian countries (like Vietnam and China), there are many IT outsourcing companies that deal with software development and testing. But the users of these systems are often based abroad. How can UXers work effectively in an Asian-based product team when their users are in another country (US, EU)?

2. How do you make UX profitable? How should you sell UX?

Josephine Caffrey

Good, Fast, Cheap - pick any two? What CANNOT be compromised if something has to give?

(On a separate note, I noticed a lot of typos in the video closed captioning. I rely on it because of office noises, accents, audio quality etc. )

Helen Brown

After taking yours and others' classes on user experience and usability, I feel still quite unsure (in practice) whether I am asking the right questions when forming the tasks for the users to perform. For example, I just performed a usability test on the navigational experience (i.e. finding the particular courses they were interested in) for an online educational website (similar to, but focused on a particular industry). While the tasks were good and we found out a lot of user pain points and even things we didn't know we didn't know...still, I can think of so many other tasks I could have asked for. I want to know how you prioritize your usability test tasks: how do you decide which tasks to ask users to carry out?

Allison Farquhar

What's your take on the future of the lone "UX Researcher"? Seems like I'm seeing more and more "UX Designer" jobs out there that require the research but they also seem to need significant design & programming skills.


What are the UX design differences when designing a website that aims to make money versus other types of web site, such as crowdsourcing sites, and social entrepreneurship?

How do you use to get people to participate in UX activities and give you personal information ?

Aditi Pany

We are setting up a new e-commerce venture with fairly ambitious goals, backed by a large company. What I'm trying to understand is where should the User Experience Designer / Officer sit in the organization structure?

What is the best practice? What are the trends?

Is this treated as a separate function where the team reports to the CEO or is this treated as a subset of Product Management reporting to the Product Management Head? Where is the industry trending? Does it depend on stage of the business.

What, if resources are NOT a constraint and we are not bootstrapping, but simply want to build an outstanding product for our users?

Lorena Leticia Garcia Arrache

1.- How should the UX/Designer/researcher role fit on tech projects?

2.- How should the software development process/workflow look? What are the UX/Designer responsibilities on software development projects?

3.- What areas of knowledge do you think I should look at or study to enrich myself (my professional background is in Graphic Design). Are there any specialized courses or seminars you could recommend about specific techniques, theories, methodologies, etc? Are there specialized publications to find out about the UX Design state of the art?

4.- As a UX Designer should I stop doing graphic design activities (implementing graphics and UI elements)? As a graphic designer I have been focused on creating visual elements but I really want to become a UX Designer.

5.- What is the difference between a UX Designer, a UI Designer and an interaction designer?

6.- Are there institutions doing formal research on UX Design?

7.- Is there a kind of UX Designer international certification?

8.- Can you provide a list of some companies successfully selling “UX Design" to other companies, organizations or individuals?

9.- How important is the UX Designer role for software companies? Is there a study about this? Are there many software companies that consider the UX Designer role?

10.- How can I "sell" the idea or importance of UX Design to my boss, my customer, the stakeholders?? How can I encourage investment in UX Design?

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Instructor Biography

David Travis, UX consultant and Udemy Outstanding Instructor

I'm on a mission to create more user experience professionals.

Perhaps you'd like a job in user experience. Or maybe you already work in the field but you've never had any formal training. Or maybe you want to improve your skills in one specific area, like usability testing or expert reviews. I've turned thousands of people into user experience designers and researchers and now you can join their ranks by taking my courses on Udemy.

You're probably curious about my background. At 18, I appeared as an extra in the film “Quadrophenia" alongside Sting and Ray Winstone. Despite a critically-acclaimed performance lasting 5 seconds, follow-up offers from Hollywood failed to arrive so I turned to psychology where I gained a BSc and a PhD. Since 1989 I've worked in the fields of human factors, usability and user experience and I've published two books on usability. I'm now the Managing Director of Userfocus, a consultancy specialising in user experience. I'm also an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, a Chartered Psychologist and a member of the User Experience Professionals Association. I'm no longer in contact with Sting or Ray Winstone, whose career trajectories have been somewhat different.

I've provided usability support to top brands like HP, Microsoft, Whirlpool, Orange, Skype, eBay and Yahoo! and I've also consulted with public sector organisations like The Greater London Authority, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, UK Government and the World Health Organization.

My students describe me as passionate and technically knowledgeable and students voted me a Udemy "Outstanding Instructor" in 2014.

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