A bit more desk-research

Heuristic evaluations and content audits

As part of the desk-research toolkit, there are a few methods that are particularly valuable for improving and optimising existing products. Conducting an heuristic evaluation and/or a content audit can build a real time picture of the state of the content at the outset. 

Heuristic evaluation:

An heuristic evaluation assesses a site or product against Jakob Nielsen’s 10 Usability Priniciples:

Jacob Nielsen's Usability principles:
Consistency and standards
Match between system and real world
Clean & Functional Design
User control and freedom
Flexibility and efficiency of use
Recognition over recall
Visibility of system status
Prevent Errors
Help users recover from errors
Help and documentation

I’ve found it useful conducting an heuristic evaluation at the beginning of a new project, but it is also a great way to keep an on-going design project in check. If you keep asking yourself as you design, how does my solution comply with these ideals (in other words, WWJND!), then when it comes to user testing, there will be fewer avoidable design faults to correct.

Screenshot of Heuristic Evaluation

Content Audit

This is exactly what it sounds like – audit and compile all content from across the full product in a spreadsheet, organised by there it is located in the product. These can end up being extensive, and for complex, long-established, informative sites they can take a very long time to complete. However they are one of the best methods for rationalising and prioritising content and site-maps, and also spotting holes or duplicates in content. 

I went to a really interesting meet-up where a design team from Cyber Duck were explaining a project they had recently finished for Sports England, a Government adjacent organisation. The Lead UX Designer placed a lot of emphasis on how valuable their content audit had been given the size of the site. It may be long and tiresome to do, but it’s definitely and important tool for dealing with so much data.

Screenshot of content audit

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