Heuristic web analysis
Last modified on Tue 19 Dec 2023

A qualitative and evaluative method.

Website heuristic analysis (heuristic evaluation)

Heu..what? It’s only how Nielsen Norman and Rolf Molich named the usability principles back in the 90s. They also realized that sticking to them led to a better user experience and a greater number of returning visitors.

That’s why today we are talking about heuristic evaluation. It’s a structured approach to testing the website’s usability by taking the known heuristics into account.

We use it to eliminate major usability issues without involving the real users. The method itself is so structured and technical that people talk about it as usability engineering.


You will need at least 3-5 experts to do the heuristic evaluation. It does require at least 1 experienced evaluator. From the Infinum team, you are looking for growth, QA, and UX specialists. From the client's team, you are looking for a marketing specialist, product manager, content specialist, etc.

To prepare for the analysis, we suggest you take a two-and-a-half-hour-long education about heuristic analysis on the CXL platform.

You might notice that this is the only user research method that we conduct — without users. This is only because it relies on a framework that takes well-tested and proven tested usability principles (heuristics) into account. So the focus is still on the user's reality.


You can do the heuristic analysis in any phase of the lifecycle of the website.


Part 1 — preparation (4-8h/person)

Go through the personas to prepare for the heuristic analysis, as you will use them as the basis for the walkthrough. Personas will help you predict users' reactions to the interface correctly, and reduce the risk of faulty presumptions. It will be extremely hard to answer some questions without them. If you want to read more, there’s a whole chapter about personas in the handbook.

Once you know everything about people visiting the website, jump into organizing the heuristic analysis workshop. Schedule about two hours to do the workshop, invite all the stakeholders that will be doing the analysis, and tell them to take the CXL heuristic analysis online course (if they haven’t already).

Decide on who will be facilitating the workshop, prepare the sheet framework and the FigJam board. We suggest that every evaluator does the work in a separate sheet, as we all like to adjust to others' opinions.

Part 2 — the session (2-3h/person)

So, this is how the sessions look like:

After the analysis, you will have a quantitative overview of how well your website performs on these 7 categories/usability principles:

Relevance. Do users think this is the right place for them? Relevance is generally a feeling, and it happens in a fraction of a second - does the web page match to what the visitor thought they were going to see? An important factor in relevance is where your users are coming from and were their expectations meet with the pre-click and post-click messages and visuals.

Trust. Do users think they can trust the company? Trust is also a feeling, and it happens in less than a second. Factors that influence trust in a website are web design (color, form, etc.), information architecture, information focus („clarity“), key visual, useful information, and brand. Another key factors in building trust are Social Proof and Authority (testimonials, trust seals, etc.)

Orientation. Do users know where to click and what to do? Every website visitor wants to be able to find what they are looking for easily and quickly. Orientation is vital in making the users behave the way you want them to. Avoiding design and content clutter, having visible navigation and CTAs will help users navigate the website and find the information they are looking for.

Stimulance. Do users feel like they should buy or use the product? Stimulating and motivating users to buy by using implicit and explicit value messages and including urgency and scarcity in your offer. A clear and unique value proposition and well-designed price/risk perception will help motivate users to complete the desired action on the website (purchase, sign-up, etc.)

Security. Do users feel like it is safe to use this website and give you their personal information? Anticipating and answering user's concerns and doubts about the product or the purchase process, having a FAQ section or a chat option available will help users reduce the perceived risk.

Convenience. How effortless is using the website for the users? Convenience is how easy you make it for the user to do things on your site and how convenient the user perceives it to be. Things like clear visual hierarchy, having space between elements, rounded buttons, clear CTAs etc., all contribute to the convenience to your users.

Confirmation. Do users know what the consequences of their on-site behavior will be? Users may make emotional or irrational decisions, but they also seek to justify those decisions through confirmation and rational thought. So it is crucial to assure the users they made the right decision by purchasing on your website or giving their personal information. That way the “buyer’s remorse” can be avoided.

The most probable outcome is that you will wrap the analysis up by realizing the website has some potential for improvement. And you will ask yourself — what do I do with these results now?

Part 3 — make it actionable for homework(2-3h/person)

End the session by giving the homework to the evaluators. Guide them back to the FigJam template you have prepared. Split the categories among yourselves. Show the basics of FigJam to the evaluators and tell them their homework will be to:

Part 4 — prioritize & wrap up (2-3h/person)

Meet again and:


You can do the heuristic analysis whenever you want to test the UX, content, or design of a website. You might notice that you might test the same thing by doing usability testing. So, what’s the difference between usability testing and heuristic analysis, and why would we ever use heuristic analysis?

Well... Usability testing will only get you the answers about people's reactions and behavior they are aware of. They don’t always tell you a lot about the deeper, subconscious principles.

Moreover, the fact that the people know that they are being tested changes their behavior and answers. The discrepancy between people's socially desirable answers and their real behavior might lead you to make faulty assumptions and build a product that isn’t what you looked for.

The advantage of heuristic analysis in this context is the fact that it takes the subconscious principles into account. It relies on a structured, tested, and proven framework of heuristics, or usability principles.