Heuristic Evaluations as a fire starter

When most UX folks hear the words "Heuristic Evaluation," they can tend to sigh as their eyes gloss over. I'll admit, I wasn't a huge fan of them for a long while. Official, detailed evals read like technical manuals and require teams to perform, as well as to handle the firehose should anyone ask for it to be presented. Practical evaluations—i.e., 99% of what you see happen in actual companies—are tend to be busy work given to new hires, as "they'll get to know the product that way" and the result is a Figma file full of screenshots. Those evals are helpful to one person: the person doing it.

But what if I told you they can be so much more? What if you did heuristic evaluations to wake people up, to light a fire under hesitant stakeholders? Sure, you might say… the only way those sleepy tomes will wake someone is if you hit them over the head with it. In a way, figuratively, you're right.

When facts don't draw them in… provoke them

I was challenged by the VP of Design to perform a HE on Stamps.com's web app. Ask anyone in the company and they'd tell you it's old, it's a mess, it hasn't changed in years. But instead of gearing it toward full, exhaustive documentation—which I'm fairly well known for—he challenged me to treat it like a slide deck, and to… get spicy with it. We knew all the decision makers agreed it needed to change, but they couldn't explain how, which often leads to apathy or maybe a fonts & colors redesign. Lipstick on the pig. 

ADHD is an executive dysfunction disorder. When someone with ADHD has something they know they need to, it can grow bigger mentally than it actually is, and the person can become blocked by task paralysis. Or they might switch to another priority, something that they enjoy and releases their dopamine. Executive dysfunction is a great term, because this sort of task paralysis with… well… executives is what we're trying to cure. Just like many folks with ADHD, a stimulant is helpful to engage these stakeholders. Sometimes concept designs help, and biz folks love metrics, but when you can trigger a visceral reaction to a problem, you've got their full attention.

Disclaimer: I'm not saying be insulting, overtly crass, or do something you'll get an email from HR about. But direct examples with frank language grab the attention. After 3 spicy evaluations, my work became infamous, and larger groups wanted to read a copy of them.

“I’m thoroughly enjoying reading this! You've done an incredible job making it so engaging and hilarious, it's [even] better to read it than be presented”
- Suchita, Conversion Rate Optimization Manager

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