Visibility of system status - University of Waterloo Library

Sept 12, 2003
Hueristics and the Library Website
Matt Bohnert
Heuristics: a general set of rules used to guide in the investigation or
solution of a problem.
The 7 Heuristics for UW Library Web Site
1. Appropriate Context
Site speaks the user’s language, with appropriate terms and concepts
for the user’s level of knowledge.
Eg) undergrad page does not use terminology specific to biology grad
2. Consistency
User should not be confused as to whether different words or actions
mean the same thing
Eg) “Journal Articles” are not referred to as “journals” on one page
and “articles” on another.
3. Recognition rather than recall
Clickable objects should be obvious. The user should not have to
memorize how to use the tool, but simply recall how to use it upon
returning. Help/Instructions should be easy locatable.
Eg) Links use the same colour throughout the site; navigation does
not change drastically from page to page
4. Efficiency of use
Frequently used actions are easily accessed.
Eg) user does not have to scroll down to the bottom of the page to
find a commonly used function
5. Minimalist Design
Keep it simple; keep noise (underlines, italics, bolds, flashy graphics,
etc) down. Omit needless words.
6. Help/Documentation
Try to make it simple enough so that instructions are not needed. If
needed, keep it short, with search available. Site search terminology
should make sense
7. Visual Hierarchy/Trunk Test
Intuitively nested layout and/or “breadcrumb” display.
The following should be clearly visible on every page:
 Site ID
 Page name
 Section
 Local navigation
 Search Option
 “You are here” indicator
This list was constructed based on research from Jakob Nielsen’s Ten Usability
Heuristics ( and Steve Krug’s
(2000) Don’t Make Me Think, Indianapolis, IN: New Riders Publishing