The first step in a UX audit often includes an examination of the 10 general principles for interaction design. This process is called a “heuristic evaluation” and serves as general guidelines to identify potential existing issues. It’s important to always keep in mind that every application is different and not all 10 heuristics may necessarily be applicable in every situation.


#1: Visibility of System Status

This means that users should always be informed and aware of what is going on within a system, and within a reasonable amount of time. An example of this would be a loading bar that displays estimated time and/or percentage remaining.

Progress bar via


#2: Match Between System & Real World

Lexicon, actions, and concepts used within an application should align with terms your user would recognize from real-world situations. A few examples of this that we are used to seeing on a regular basis are “add to cart” on online shopping sites, “trash” on your computer, and “highlight” when you select text with your cursor. These are all examples of a system speaking our language, rather than trying to teach your users more technical terms.

Mac’s empty trash function
‘Add to Cart’ function via


#3: User Control and Freedom

As mentioned in our previous blog post, Understanding & Avoiding Dark Patterns, users need to have full control over their actions within an application. This means giving them the option to undo or correct decisions, and providing an “emergency exit.”

Gmail’s ‘undo’ function via 

#4: Consistency and Standards

Consistency should be used throughout your entire website/app in terms of colors, fonts, terms, and icons. Establishing a branding or style guide is a helpful method of establishing standards that can be implemented in order to reduce user confusion as well as create a great looking final product that is easily discernible from competitors.

Example of a UI/branding guide via

#5: Error prevention

There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to fill out a form, only to hit ‘submit’ and be faced with an error message. By lending users a helping hand when navigating through tasks, they are more likely to have a positive impression of your website and will be more likely to return in the future.

This site automatically displays password requirements in order to eliminate the risk of receiving an error message. Via

#6: Recognition Rather than Recall

A great user experience minimizes the amount of effort required on the user’s part. It’s important to consider this not only in terms of physical actions but also cognitively. Your app or website shouldn’t rely on the user to remember elements from one section to another. Minimizing your user’s cognitive load will not only create a great impression but also maximize conversions and get great results.

Amazon does a great job presenting users with their recently viewed items, rather than relying on users to remember and refer back to these items. Via

#7: Flexibility and Efficiency of Use

You may be thinking you have established the perfect user journey and streamlined important processes to be completed by your users. This is a great sign of a good user experience right? Actually, it is much more effective to allow multiple ways to complete important actions. Allowing multiple paths and shortcuts for your users greatly reduces the risk of error and user frustration and fatigue. A few examples of this are preference settings, keyboard shortcuts, and touch gestures.

Most software such as Google Docs allows common keyboard shortcuts to copy, paste, and delete. This provides a very efficient editing process for users. Via

#8: Aesthetic and Minimalist Design

It’s not just about creating a great looking modern design – it is actually a lot more effective to have a simplistic interface! Including information that is not needed not only clutters your interface but confuses users and diminishes more important elements. Ensure that the visual elements of the interface support the primary purpose of the app or website.

Google is a great example of a clean UI free from distractions. Notice the difference between Google and a competitor search engine, there is a reason why Google is #1. Via,

#9: Help Users Recognize, Diagnose, and Recover from Errors

Error messages should be presented to users as plainly as possible – error codes are not universally understood and may confuse and discourage users from resolving the issue. Errors should always be accompanied by visual elements that aid users in recognizing and understanding them. Instructions to resolve issues should be simple and straightforward.

A clear error message free of technical jargon and a link to redirect the user in order to resolve the issue. Via

#10: Help and Documentation

If all else fails and your users are still in need of assistance, they should have help available to them. In some cases, it is necessary to provide access to documentation that can help users in a clear and concise manner. Ensure that your documentation is easily searchable and provides specific concrete steps in error resolution.

WordPress offers great support options including a searchable database with solutions for common issues. Via


It is important to keep in mind that every interface is different and as mentioned, not all of these heuristics will be applicable in every case. However, an heuristic evaluation is a simple starting point for examining an app or website and identifying opportunities for improvement.