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  • Writer's pictureJakob Nielsen

Jakob Nielsen’s 10 Usability Heuristics as Haikus

Summary: Ten core principles / In UX, they're the backbone / Guiding each design. 7 haikus define heuristic evaluation and tell us why the 10 heuristics are important. Each heuristic is explained with two haikus. How many can you identify from their haikus?

Jakob Nielsen’s 10 Usability Heuristics celebrate their 30th anniversary in 2024. They’re so famous in the UX field that I fear that they risk getting to be a bit trite. Here’s a way of looking at the 10 heuristics with fresh eyes: all poetry!

“Haiku Master” by Leonardo.

What Is Heuristic Evaluation?

Let’s start with 7 haikus to tell us the foundation behind heuristic evaluation and why the 10 usability heuristics are important for user experience design.

Guidelines etched in stone,

Span all tech interfaces —

Grip invincible.

Human traits won't change

Heuristics play the long game —

Wisdom to arrange.

Aged like a fine wine,

Heuristics stand test of time —

All still in their prime.

Ignore at your risk,

Violate them, then insist

On tests, or be missed.

Future-proof they stand,

Relevant for tech unplanned—

Guidance ever grand.

Three decades of rules,

Define our digital space —

Unbeatable hold.

Invest time to learn,

Apply them as you discern —

Ease of use you'll earn.

Now, on to the 10 heuristics themselves. I’ll give you two haikus for each heuristic to increase your chance of recognizing it, but I won’t state its name. For the standard names of the 10 heuristics, see the list at the end of this article. But I hope you can recognize all or most of the heuristics based on their haikus.

Usability Heuristic 1

Invisible state —

User's grasp loosens, they drift.

Show status; give light.

Click echoes in void,

Feedback's voice quells all the doubt —

Loop of trust deployed.

Usability Heuristic 2

In screen's glass, a world,

Reflections of known and true —

Ease in every click.

Order must make sense,

Natural flow, like a stream —

Trust in context grows.

Usability Heuristic 3

Users lost, then found

With a click, they turn around —

Control is unbound.

Digital or real,

Exits let us steer the wheel —

That's the user's deal.

Usability Heuristic 4

Jakob’s Law prevails,

Users bring past site knowledge—

Meet their norms, don’t fail.

Floppy disk to save?

Weigh the cost of broken norms —

Old icons we crave.

Usability Heuristic 5

Flexible format,

Lets users breathe and type free—

Minimize the slips.

Precision required?

Help users check their own work.

Mistakes fade away.

Usability Heuristic 6

Menus lay it out—

No need for recall's struggle,

Just recognize, click.

Swipe left, or swipe right?

Gestures hide in secrecy,

Cues make them take flight.

Usability Heuristic 7

Customized terrain,

Workspaces shift, yet sustain —

Efficiency gains.

Don't prescribe the route,

Leave room for user's own clout —


Usability Heuristic 8

Signal over noise,

The high ratio we employ —

Clear paths to enjoy.

Beauty has its place,

Yet must not obscure the task —

Form serves function's grace.

Usability Heuristic 9

Wrong way signs ahead,

Clear in meaning, not in code—

Right the path instead.

User's stumble met,

With solutions at their click—

Ease in safety net.

Usability Heuristic 10

Tooltip on the screen,

Guides the cursor's eager dance—

Clarity's serene.

Push and pull reveal,

Timely hints or broad advice—

Aid the user's zeal.

Infographic of All 10 Usability Heuristics with Their Normal Names

The ten usability heuristics: 1 Visibility of system status. 2 Match between system and the real world. 3 User control and freedom. 4 Consistency and standards. 5 Error prevention. 6 Recognition rather than recall. 7 Flexibility and efficiency of use. 8 Aesthetic and minimalist design. 9 Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors. 10 Help and documentation.

How many heuristics could you identify from their haikus? Post your score in the comments.


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