What is a heuristic analysis?

Simply put, it’s the art of finding, inventing, making discoveries.

In the science of History,it is the part that has as its object the search for documents. Its objective is to identify, select and prioritize all documentation related to a given topic.

In philosophy and sociology,it is the discipline that studies the processes of research and scientific discovery. Heuristics conduct a methodological reflection on these topics to establish the rules that favour scientific research. It is more a reflection on the intellectual activity of researchers than on methodological processes to obtain solutions.

In computer security, heuristic analysis is related to the search for the programming code corresponding to the functions of a virus. That is, it is focused on discovering viruses that are unknown. Heuristic analysis is passive. It considers the code as simple data and never authorizes its execution.

An analyst searches for code whose action may be suspicious. In this case, it does not look for fixed sequences of instructions specific to a virus, but a type of instruction. For example, instructions for modifying a file. This method moves towards a “smart” approach to virus research.

Finally, in psychology,it is a mental, fast and intuitive operation (judgment heuristics).

Heuristic analysis within the CRO process

Within the CRO (conversion optimization) process, we focus on several tasks that aim to identify potential problems. These friction points can be checked both quantitatively (e.g. Google Analytics) as qualitatively (e.g. behavioral observation).

CRO Friction heuristic analysis
Little friction

Heuristic analysis is part of the qualitative part of the CRO process. Much of the topics covered in a heuristic analysis in CRO are related to usability, design and psychology.

Heuristic analysis is a knowledge-based analysis of users that uses experience-based techniques for problem solving, learning, and discovery.

Finally, well done, it saves time and money, as well as helps us find opportunities that we can’t see simply by analyzing or researching users.

Advantages of heuristic analysis

  1. Reduced cost. Few people and tools are needed.
  2. Compared to other tasks in the CRO process, the time required is less important.
  3. In addition, it is very useful in particular with low traffic pages. If you don’t have a lot of traffic or monthly conversions to run an A/B test, a heuristic analysis can be perfect for finding friction points and proposing possible solutions and improvements.
  4. Also, it can be done before presenting the page to the general public. In fact, you can discover many potential problems before people use the page and complain, have problems, or have trouble performing certain tasks. So, it’s a great way to do something before you launch a new product.
  5. Easy to do multiple times. It’s relatively easy to repeat this process every time you want to optimize a part of your funnel, launch a new product, or evaluate something else in your customers’ journey on the website.

Disadvantages of heuristic analysis

  1. The main disadvantage is the essence of a heuristic analysis: our knowledge. We may fall victim to cognitive biases,having tendencies/preferences towards certain designs and certain products, or certain characteristics. This is why a heuristic analysis between 3 and 5 people is recommended.
  2. Some knowledge of usability, design, marketing and psychology is needed.
  3. User feedback is not taken into account. For that reason, we cannot take the results of the heuristic analysis separately from the rest of the CRO process analysis.
CRO cognitive biases
Beware of cognitive biases

The 5 keys to heuristic analysis

We focus on 5 key points; Here are examples of topics to discuss at each point:

  1. Claridad
    Your visitor must be immediately clear that he is in the right place, he must find what he is looking for to solve his “problem”.
    1. The user is able to determine in less than 5 seconds what we offer and their value.
    2. The user clearly knows about where she are on the site and what she can do.
    3. Visual hierarchy helps the user. The user clearly understands what the next stage will be.
  2. Relevance
    People should always feel they are in the right place and in the right direction to achieve their goals. The information they receive on each page should only be relevant to the page they are on, and the next steps should be very clear. That means it’s also relevant.
    1. The page offers the same layout and language as the source of the traffic (Google Ads, landing).
    2. The necessary information is visible on the page, without having to navigate to other parts.
    3. The vocabulary used is adapted to the audience.
    4. Images complement texts, add value, and help the user.
  3. Motivation
    Your customers are motivated to shop for an inherent need, either consciously or unconsciously. Since the ultimate goal of the CRO process is to match this behavior as closely as possible, your heuristic assessment should focus on having that aspect covered.
    1. The difference with competition is clear
    2. There are discounts, offers or other incentives
    3. The design is attractive and fun to use. It’s nice to browse and use.
    4. The user per receives the value of what she will receive for her money.
    5. Emotions are used in texts.
    6. There is visible social evidence
    7. The site provides security.
  4. Friction
    The heuristic analysis process basically helps identify elements on your website that create friction. Your goal is to find these friction points and eliminate them.
    1. Are there any unresolved issues/questions on the page?
    2. It’s simple to complete a task. It takes a few clicks.
    3. Are there any technical problems? For example, videos that don’t work, dead fields, mobile problems.
  5. Distraction
    Any action or element on the page that doesn’t directly help people achieve their desired goal is a distraction. Imagine trying to focus on a task at work, and being constantly distracted by emails, chat windows, phone calls and jokes from your peers. That’s exactly what we want to avoid in terms of website experience.
    1. User is asked to share the site with their friends (too soon)
    2. Other products are offered before you have chosen a main one.
    3. Too many options available.
    4. Irrelevant animations.
    5. Irrelevant pop-ups.

To complement heuristic analysis, we can use one of the references in terms of design analysis and usability: 10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design by Jacob Nielsen.


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