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As the famous saying goes, ‘first impression is the last impression’ – the world of mobile apps follows pretty much a similar model. With the ever-increasing competition in the app industry, if a user downloads and installs your app, the first impression of user experience and interface will be the deal breaker.
According to a study, if an app takes too long to load its content or if the images never load, 39% of users stop engaging with it. And 24% of mobile apps are used only once after they have been installed.
Now if we compare these two important mobile app stats, it gives a very clear picture of how competitive the market is today. As far as user experience (UX), user interface (UI) and user engagement is concerned, developers and designers can leave no stone unturned in ensuring the app meets the user’s expectations – frankly speaking, even surpass them.
Over the past few years, a number of methodologies and techniques have been introduced to test and measure the overall app experience – the most commonly used being heuristic evaluation and usability testing.
Heuristic evaluation is a usability inspection method that involves having evaluators examine a user interface and assess its compliance with established usability principles (or "heuristics"). These heuristics are guidelines or rules of thumb that help identify common usability problems.
During a heuristic evaluation, evaluators inspect the interface and identify potential usability issues based on the heuristics. The evaluators then report their findings to the designers or developers, who can use this feedback to improve the interface.
Heuristic evaluation is a cost-effective and efficient way to identify usability problems early in the design process. It can be done quickly and does not require large groups of participants. It is particularly useful for identifying problems that may not be detected through user testing or surveys.
Keeping this model specific to mobile apps, how can developers, designers and product managers implement the ten heuristic principles on a mobile app? Let’s have a look:
Jakob Nielsen defined usability testing as a methodology used in user-focused interaction design to assess a product by conducting tests on the users of that product.
Unlike the heuristic evaluation technique, where UX experts are the evaluators, here the user researchers are individuals with limited knowledge or expertise to gauge the performance of a mobile interface.
According to a study, 13% of users will tell 15 or more people about a bad experience. Another report found out that 32% of customers leave a brand they were loyal to, only after one bad experience.
Being a developer, SQA resource or an app manager, if you are looking to conduct a usability test on your mobile app, you just have to follow these simple steps:
Now that we know what heuristic evaluation and usability testing is all about, let us have a look at the key differences of these two techniques:
Heuristic evaluation is a method in which a group of evaluators examine the interface of a software or website, and assess its compliance with a set of usability principles or guidelines, usability testing involves observing users as they interact with a software or website.
One of the key differences between these two models is the fact that heuristic evaluators are not the actual target users. There might be variations in an evaluator’s results and the actual experiences of a real-time user of an app.
However, on the other side, since there is a standardized heuristic checklist, the UX experts give the app a thorough test and are able to observe inconsistencies that a user might overlook – for example, the color of the button of the app, border layout, etc.
In order to keep things on the right course from day one, it is highly advised that heuristic evaluations and usability tests should be done sooner rather than later. After each design stage, heuristic assessment can be carried out in order to remove the flaws and errors – and this, eventually, will assist usability testing in a better way as the final version that the user sees will be a refined and improved app already.
It is imperative to note that delaying these evaluation and assessment models will only add to your overall project costs.
The above graph clearly shows that the more you delay a certain change in your overall design or architecture of the whole system, the higher will be the costs that you will have to incur. Another factor to note here is that the highest cost incurred was at the ‘post-development’ stage, which means an app went live and then it was redesigned or re-coded once the anomalies were observed.
Heuristic evaluation and usability testing models are the most widely used techniques in the world of mobile apps. This is because they are able to identify UX and UI flaws in a mobile app before it ever reaches its target user.
The inconsistencies that these mechanisms are able to detect will have serious impacts on your user engagement metrics such as retention rate, churn rate, adoption rate, etc. Also, since the findings from these models will assist you in revisiting and fixing your app’s design flaws at a relatively earlier stage, the overall cost of your app development will go significantly down.
Lomit Patel is the Vice President of Growth at IMVU. Prior to IMVU, Lomit managed growth at early-stage startups including Roku (IPO), TrustedID (acquired by Equifax), Texture (acquired. by Apple) and EarthLink. Lomit is a public speaker, author, advisor, and recognized as a Mobile Hero by Liftoff. Lomit’s new bestselling book Lean AI, is part of Eric Ries’ “The Lean Startup” series, now available at Amazon.