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Heuristic Walkthrough

The heuristic walkthough is a type of inspection that combines aspects of heuristic evaluation, the cognitive walkthrough, and the pluralistic usability walkthrough.

Participants in this method make two passes through a product. The first pass uses "thought-provoking" questions and requires the evaluators to work through a set of prioritized tasks. The second pass requires evaluators to use a set of heuristics to find additional problems. The assumption here is that the task-based review will enhance the heuristic review.


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Originators and Popularizers


Detailed description

Benefits, Advantages and Disadvantages


  • uncovers both major and minor problems
  • uncovers both global and local problems
  • relies on use of both user tasks and usability principles
  • task knowledge helps aid evaluators in focusing on major problems
  • requires little or no training for evaluators
  • is quick (cost-effective, no formal lab process)
  • likely assists with determining task set for formal testing

Disadvantages (Limitations)

  • may require skilled evaluators (product-dependent)
  • the choice of tasks for the walkthrough will affect the number of problems that are uncovered. If a key task is missed, then some major problems might also be missed.
  • results could be skewed based on variations in the set of heuristics used to uncover problems.


How To


The heuristic walkthrough uses a two-step procedure for identifying problems. The first step is to evaluate a product based on a set of tasks and questions associated with those tasks. The second step is to evaluate the product according to a set of heuristics. More than one evaluator can conduct the walkthrough, but the evaluators should assign individual ratings to each problem. Those ratings are then compared and a single rating is assigned to each problem.

Process Steps

  1. Develop a list of "thought-provoking" questions about the product.
  2. Develop a list of prioritized tasks based on importance, frequency or other criteria).
  3. Walk through the product using the questions and tasks to uncover potential usability problems.
  4. Document the usability problems.
  5. Walk through the user interface of the product using list of usability heuristics to uncover problems.
  6. Document the usability problems.
  7. Assign severity ratings to problems.
  8. Ask the evaluators compare ratings and agree on single rating per problem.

Data Analysis and Reporting

Evaluators compare ratings and assign one rating for each problem. The result is a list of usability problems, categorized by importance, and an overview of the types of problems encountered.

Next Steps

  • Collect feedback from evaluators in a debrief session.
  • Utilize the findings to help develop a formal usability test plan.

Additional studies could be done on applying this method to early conceptual models and mockups.



Lifecycle: Evaluation
Sources and contributors: 
Chauncey Wilson, Ben Werner, Karen Shor.
Released: 2011-03
© 2010 Usability Professionals Association