Expert Review

Expert reviews, also known as heuristic reviews and usability audits, are a valuable and cost-effective method of ensuring your website or app design is usable and providing the right kind of experience for its users. They are increasingly popular with organisations looking for a comprehensive UX audit of their product of the digital proposition immediately prior to launch or prior to a redesign.

They can be delivered very quickly – often in just a couple of days and drawn on the expertise of a senior user experience consultant.

One of our senior user experience consultants will review your design focussing on the key user journeys or processes contained within your website, product or app.

They approach the review from the perspective of a typical user so that they can highlight any usability issues that might spoil a genuine user’s experience of your website.

Using their knowledge, our UX consultant will then make recommendations that will mitigate against the issues found without creating further usability issues in other areas allowing you to improve the product’s overall user experience.

Expert Review Methodology

1  Objectives & Scope

  • Decide on areas of platform to be audited – e.g. on an eCommerce site this might include registration, adding to basket, checkout etc.
  • Understand objectives and any information that will help us with the audit such as dummy login details that may be required to gain access to key areas.

2  Initial Walkthrough & Context

  • Review of user journeys or processes identified in the brief.
  • Prioritise areas of initial concern.
  • Look at the level of consistency across the website, product or app to provide an overall context for the expert review.

3  Evaluation Criteria and Priorities

  • Journeys and processes assessed against 5 categories which are;
    • Navigation
    • Content
    • Function
    • Presentation
    • Feedback

By the end of step 3 we have a prioritised list of issues by category for each of the key user journeys or processes

4  Detailed Analysis & Recommendations

  • Senior UX Consultant will complete the detailed analysis and make recommendations to correct issues.
  • Recommendations, findings, tables and charts populated into report.

The report contains the following:

  • Introduction – explaining the objectives and what we did to meet them
  • Executive Summary – conveying the key findings from the expert review
  • Charts – showing the usability score and frequency of issues by category
  • Issues Log – using a traffic light system we prioritise all the issues found
  • Detailed Findings – with screen grabs, analysis and recommendations

5  Quality Assurance

  • The quality check is designed to correct any typographical errors, to ensure that the methodology and scoring have been correctly followed and finally to review the recommendations and make sure they follow best practice.

If you would like our senior UX consultant to talk you and your team through the findings of the report we are happy to do so. At a location agreed with you we can workshop the findings, present them or simply talk them through in a format to suit your audience

Optional Video Sessions

Expert reviews are frequently used where there isn’t time or budget available to carry out usability testing with real users. To add a user element to our method we will create tasks, reflecting the key journeys and processes and use services such as WhatUsersDo to provide video sessions from real users attempting these tasks. The users provide a commentary of their thoughts and observations as they go through the tasks. The tasks are un-moderated and we normally generate 5 respondent sessions that we use for analysis and recommendations that are included in the final report to bring the expert review findings to life.


A large omnichannel retailer asked us to complete a task flow review of a prototype at the design stage ahead of usability evaluation with real users. We completed a three-day review of the major journeys across three platforms, focussing on mobile and desktop first and then completing a quick review of tablet.

Feedback was delivered in a short report that highlighted issues and action and these were implemented ahead of the user research. This meant the user testing could focus on the fine detail of the experience.

The data was analysed, the results for the prototypes compared and we provided insight about the overall usability of the prototypes and also which of the design variants wad the most effective. The research was conducted in Leeds so that both the client and their design agency could view the sessions and discuss the observations with our user experience consultant. We provided a detailed report that included recommendations for the agency to implement.

Expert Review Methodologies Breakdown:

There are two key methodologies that can be called upon for an expert review. These are:

  • Cognitive Walkthrough
  • Heuristic Evaluation

Each is described below and we tend to use a cognitive walkthrough but draw on the guidance provided by the heuristic review methodology also.

Cognitive Walkthrough

Cognitive walkthrough places the UX specialist in the shoes of a typical user, and sends them on the same journey that user will make in an effort to perform tasks and achieve their goal. This is particularly useful at the design stage and with task flow evaluation.

At each step of the journey, the expert uses their knowledge of user behaviour to answer the following questions:

  • Will the user try to achieve the effect that the subtask has? – Is it clear that the subtask is required to achieve their goal?
  • Will the user notice that the correct action is available? – Is the means to accomplish this task visible?
  • Will the user understand that the wanted subtask can be achieved by the action? – Is it clear to the user what action is required to continue?
  • Does the user get appropriate feedback? – Will the user be aware they have successfully achieved their goal once the action has been taken?

Dependent upon what answers are arrived at during the evaluation, each step of the journey is marked as either a success or a failure. In the case of the latter, reasons for why the design of the UI might prevent the user performing a task are evaluated, allowing solutions to be found and recommendations made that will improve the website or app’s design and task flows.

This form of expert review requires not only a keen understanding of the users the site is aimed at, but also of its business goals. This allows our UX expert to define detailed personas – ‘characters’ that describe a specific type of user via their age, occupation, goals, pains etc – which are then used in the evaluation to ensure that both the user’s and the organisation’s objectives are well served by the design.

Heuristic Evaluation

In a heuristic evaluation the UX expert will assess a user-interface (UI) in accordance with a predetermined set of usability guidelines (heuristics).

The heuristics are are often drawn from an original series formulated in 1994 by usability consultant, Jakob Nielsen. The ten heuristics he defined, originally for software systems but adaptable to websites and apps, are as follows:

  1. Visibility of system status – The UI keeps the consumer informed of what is going on at every step of the user journey. E.g. Using a progress bar or similar when processing a payment, so the user isn’t left to fret over whether it is going through or the website has crashed.
  2. Match between system and the real world – Content matches the expectations of the user, conveying the desired information clearly, while striking the correct tone.
  3. User Control and Freedom – Does the site navigation and its associated features (breadcrumbs etc) meet the demands of the user? Does it provide a clear path so a user always knows where they are and how to get back to where they were before in the event of error?
  4. Consistency and Standards – Is there consistency in what the user sees and what the user expects to see on account of what they know from visiting other websites? No ‘learning’ is required to achieve a desired goal. E.g. Link colours and button labels are in tune with what is already recognised by the user.
  5. Error Prevention – Ensure the design includes the information and labels that will prevent a user from making errors. E.g. If the phone number field in a form doesn’t allow spaces, let the user know this.
  6. Recognition rather than recall – All the relevant information that allows a user to successfully complete a task is on the one page, so they are not having to flick between tabs or rely on memory to achieve a desired goal.
  7. Flexibility and Efficiency of Use – In the case of an eCommerce website or app, this might be applied to whether shortcuts such as ‘Recently Viewed’ or ‘Saved Searches’ links are provided.
  8. Aesthetic and Minimalist Design – Design elements should be aesthetically pleasing, but not at the expense of site functionality and message. Does the product strike a happy medium where all these components work in harmony?
  9. Help users recognise, diagnose and recover from errors – Where errors have occurred, whether preventable or not (404s etc), is there sufficient information to allow the user to correct their mistake (e.g. highlighting missed mandatory fields on a form) or get back into the site with relevant content (e.g. customised 404 pages)?
  10. Help and Documentation – Pointers, self-explanatory labels and advanced search options to enable a smoother user journey.

Alternative sets of guidelines have been defined over the years, but it is predominately the Nielsen set that forms the basis of this particular methodology.


A large financial services provider wished to evaluate an existing rewards site ahead of a redesign and in doing so to generate a comparison between smartphone, tablet and desktop versions.

We conducted three expert reviews following our unique methodology and combined this with video sessions from a panel of WhatUsersDo respondents. The scoring allowed us to easily show which platform performed best in each area and which performed worst. A detailed report provided recommendations that were taken forward into the redesign

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