I have found multiple definitions of what a heuristic is, and I have found multiple computer science-related definitions.

In my university course, the lectures cite the Nielson Norman Group defining a heuristic as an area of measurement. On Wikipedia, a heuristic is defined as a problem-solving technique. These definitions do not seem to be referring to the same thing.

In the context of human-computer interaction, what is a heuristic?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "defining a heuristic as an area of measurement": what ? Where did you see that ?? $\endgroup$
    – user16034
    Mar 14, 2023 at 19:42
  • $\begingroup$ I agree with the Wikipedia definition, which applies here. $\endgroup$
    – user16034
    Mar 14, 2023 at 19:43

1 Answer 1


you might aswell ask this qustion over at https://ux.stackexchange.com/. But you are a CS guy so you probably didn't touch that UX part yet.

Heuristics as defined by Nielson et al. can be used to evaluate the usability of a user interface. They describe common-sense approaches to identify usability issues with user interfaces. Therefore these heuristics are "problem-solving technique": A technique to identify problems in user interfaces.

As children grow up, they learn heuristics like "if it smells bad - don't eat it" or "if something is red - be careful, it might be hot".

And for UI heuristics it is similar: "If the error message does not say what the problem is - users will not be able to solve it.", "If I can see/visit/input forms that dont apply to me - Users will get lost." or "If I cant use or customize keyboard shortcuts - experienced users can not start to work more efficiently."

These ARE concrete heuristics - each is a technique to identify (and solve) usability problems in user interfaces.


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