Heuristic Evaluation — H1: Visibility of system status

Right from ordering food to booking flights to even finding a partner, we use innumerous apps and websites on a daily basis. Some of these apps and websites are intuitive and easy to use while others are horrible and frustrating. So what differentiates a good app or a website from a bad one.

Although there can be multiple factors responsible for this, but Usability is definitely one of them. Usability means providing users with the ability to achieve their goal with minimal efforts in the least possible time.

Good usability leads to better conversion rates, improved customer retention, reduced support costs, increased productivity, and greater user satisfaction.

Benefits of providing good usability

Now as we know the importance of usability, the million-dollar question here is how to evaluate and improve the usability of an app or a website.

Although there are different sets of guidelines available for evaluating the usability of an app or a website, but the most widely used guidelines to evaluate any user interface are the 10 Usability Heuristics given by Jakob Nielsen. And in this article, we will be discussing the 1st heuristic of these 10 heuristics given by Nielsen — H1: Visibility of system status.

According to this heuristic, the system should inform the users about where they are and what they are doing through appropriate feedback within a reasonable time. Simply put, they should know what’s going on in the system at any given point of time.

The visibility of system status refers to how well the state of the system is conveyed to its users. If you look around yourself you would find plenty of examples where this heuristic is applied, though you may have not recognized it till now.

i). Take the example of your mobile phone — When you put it on silent mode, an appropriate symbol is always displayed to you on the screen. This symbol keeps you informed about the current state of the mobile.

ii). Another example could be an elevator — the system continuously keeps on updating you about the current level of the elevator.

Just take a minute and think of this hypothetical situation — how would it feel if the current state of the elevator is not displayed to you. Although this won’t affect your wait time or the time the elevator takes to reach from its current level to your level, but it would definitely make you feel helpless.

The visibility of the system status affects you at a psychological level. Having clear and transparent communication empowers you while the absence of it makes you feel helpless and vulnerable.

iii). Another very good example of this heuristic that you can easily relate to is your mobile phone’s battery. Your mobile phone always displays how much battery is left in it. This helps you to charge it at an appropriate time and for an appropriate duration so as to avoid any inconvenience.

Imagine if the battery status was not there, you would have no clue about when the battery would die. You might be in the middle of a payment or an important phone call and the battery dies. But with the visibility of battery status, you can easily take the required action that is putting it to charge as and when required.

Hence, having clear visibility of the system status empowers you to take the required action in order to achieve your desired outcome.

Similarly, for user interfaces, the availability of system status plays a very critical role. When users interact with a user interface, they want to know if the interaction was successful. They want to know if their action has resulted in the desired outcome.

For example, in the case of an e-commerce website, clicking on the add to cart button should add that item to the cart. But if the cart is not displayed anywhere or there is no system feedback for this interaction, the user won’t know whether the product was added or not. In such a scenario, it is highly likely that the user may add the same item multiple times because of the absence of proper system feedback.

Proper system feedback is the foundation of user interface design. It keeps users informed about the current state of the system and becomes a facilitator to steer the interaction in the right direction and that too with minimal effort.

When a system conveys its current state clearly to the users, the users’ trust increases. They feel that they are in control as they know what is happening in the system and they can control it. As they can see that the system is behaving as per their expectation, their trust increases for the system.

For example, when a user is uploading an image on a social media platform, a completion bar informs the user about the time it will take to complete the uploading. So they know what the current state of photo upload is. They don’t have to guess when the photo will get uploaded. This clear and transparent communication with its users builds trust for the system.

Therefore for good user experience, sites and apps should communicate the current state of the system to their users.

This heuristic in its essence encourages open and continuous communication which is the building block of all relationships — be it with humans or with devices.

If you liked this article and want to know more about Nielsen’s 10 Heuristics with real-world examples, follow this link:

#Usability #Heuristics #Heuristic_Evaluation #Usability Review #Usability_Audit #Expert_Usability_Review #UX #User_Experience



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