Larky

Heuristic Evaluation

Feb 2018
Larky is a mobile shopping application that sends you local discounts and perks from your memberships and loyalty programs.
Larky Designs
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Executive Summary

In total, 31 usability issues were discovered during the heuristic evaluation of Larky. A majority of the issues relate to the unintuitive placement of information and absence of information important to users - the most severe of which prevents users from exiting a screen.

Number of Minimal Issues Number of Minor Issues Number of Major Issues Number of Catastrophic Issues
10 13 7 1
Minimal Issues
# Issue
2 Inability to undo the removal of a membership
5 Improper placement of the Add Membership button
8 Uninformative confirmation message
11 Misleading confirmation after adding a membership
14 Ambiguous icons used for the Call button and the Visit Website button
15 Tapping the Remove Membership, Call, and Visit Website buttons requires too much precision from users
19 Membership name is in all caps
28 Inadequate readability of text
29 Insufficient screen background
30 Absence of scroll bar on all screens
Minor Issues
# Issue
1 Absence of friction in the Remove Membership button
3 Remove Membership label has the perceived affordance of being tappable when it is not
4 Remove Membership button has a negative affordance of being untappable
6 Unnecessary steps required to search for a membership
7 Inadequate error message for no search results
9 Unintuitive sorting of membership categories
10 Unintuitive sorting of memberships
18 Total Perks label is misleading
22 Inappropriate functionality of the Alerts For This Merchant button
23 Absence of membership name when viewing a discount
24 Closest To You button does not have a perceived affordance of being tappable when it is
25 Tapping the Closest To You button gives an unanticipated result
26 Difficult to use the information in the Notes section
Major Issues
# Issue
12 Inability to go back to a previous screen
13 Tapping the Browse By Category button gives an unintended result
16 Difficult to differentiate the View Discounts As button from the Side Menu button
20 Difficult to interact with discounts on the map
21 Showing Perks For drop-down does not signal which drop-down item is selected
27 All Screens are untitled
31 Poor accessibility of Privacy Policy
Catastrophic Issues
# Issue
17 Unintuitive navigation

Introduction

This heuristic evaluation of Larky consists of an overview of the evaluation approach, an outline of the target user, and a detailed analysis of the discovered usability issues.


Approach

I evaluated Larky against a set of usability heuristics while attempting to complete the core tasks of the application. As the sole evaluator, the list of discovered usability issues is by no means complete. Different people find different usability issues and therefore additional evaluations, each conducted by a separate evaluator following this same approach, are required to make this list exhaustive.

Nielsen and Molich's 10 Heuristics

Larky was evaluated against Nielsen's 10 Heuristics. Initially developed in 1990 by Jakob Nielsen and Rolf Molich, later refined by Nielsen in 1994, these heuristics are well-respected and widely used in heuristic evaluations.

1. Visibility of system status
The system should always keep users informed about what is going on, through appropriate feedback within reasonable time.
2. Match between system and the real world
The system should speak the users' language, with words, phrases and concepts familiar to the user, rather than system-oriented terms. Follow real-world conventions, making information appear in a natural and logical order.
3. User control and freedom
Users often choose system functions by mistake and will need a clearly marked "emergency exit" to leave the unwanted state without having to go through an extended dialogue. Support undo and redo.
4. Consistency and standards
Users should not have to wonder whether different words, situations, or actions mean the same thing. Follow platform conventions.
5. Error prevention
Even better than good error messages is a careful design which prevents a problem from occurring in the first place. Either eliminate error-prone conditions or check for them and present users with a confirmation option before they commit to the action.
6. Recognition rather than recall
Minimize the user's memory load by making objects, actions, and options visible. The user should not have to remember information from one part of the dialogue to another. Instructions for use of the system should be visible or easily retrievable whenever appropriate.
7. Flexibility and efficiency of use
Accelerators unseen by the novice user may often speed up the interaction for the expert user such that the system can cater to both inexperienced and experienced users. Allow users to tailor frequent actions.
8. Aesthetic and minimalist design
Dialogues should not contain information which is irrelevant or rarely needed. Every extra unit of information in a dialogue competes with the relevant units of information and diminishes their relative visibility.
9. Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors
Error messages should be expressed in plain language (no codes), precisely indicate the problem, and constructively suggest a solution.
10. Help and documentation
Even though it is better if the system can be used without documentation, it may be necessary to provide help and documentation. Any such information should be easy to search, focused on the user's task, list concrete steps to be carried out, and not be too large.

Severity System

To better understand how the discovered usability issues impact users, I assigned a severity rating to each issue. To keep my findings in line with Nielsen's methodology, I used his severity rating system.


Target User

To ensure that my analysis was focused and aligned with the frustrations, behaviors, and goals of Larky’s users I created a proto-persona. It was important for me to be able to empathize with what a user would be thinking, feeling, and doing throughout each task.

Proto-Persona

Face of Child

Sara

A 28-year-old office clerk living in Ann Arbor, MI

Behaviors
Frequently makes in-store purchases
Runs weekly errands
Carries her membership cards with her but rarely uses them
Often relies on employees or internet searches to know whether her memberships can earn her a discount on the purchase she is making
Frustrations
Constantly misses out on savings opportunities offered by her memberships
Has no way to track which discounts are offered by her memberships
Even when she is aware of a discount she doesn’t always know how or when to redeem it
Asking employees or searching the internet to discover the discounts offered by her memberships is time consuming and not always useful
Goals
Is aware of nearby savings opportunities offered by her memberships
Information regarding her memberships and their offered discounts is reliable and easy to find, track, and store
Knows how to redeem the discounts offered by her memberships

User Need Statements

To determine which tasks to evaluate the heuristics against, I had to understand what tasks Sara would carry out to accomplish her goals. Therefore, I developed user need statements to translate Sara’s behaviors, frustrations, and goals into statements that tasks could be derived from.

“Effortlessly make payments to and receive payments from other people”

When I have several memberships I want their information, including their discounts, to be kept in the same location to ensure I always know where to view it.

When I know of a discount offered by one of my memberships, I want the details of the discount to be readily available, so that I know when and how to redeem it.

From these user need statements it became clear that Sara would carry out the following tasks to accomplish her goals.


Findings

1. Absence of friction in the Remove Membership button

Task - Maintain a list of memberships

Heuristic - Error prevention

Minor Issue - When a user taps the Remove Membership button, the membership is immediately removed from their list of memberships.

Larky Interface

Recommendation - Require the user to confirm their removal of a membership before the membership is removed. Adding this friction allows users to re-engage with what they are doing and assures them that the decision they are making is actually the decision they want to be making.

2. Inability to undo the removal of a membership

Task - Maintain a list of memberships

Heuristic - User control and freedom

Minimal Issue - After a user removes a membership, they are unable to undo the removal.

Recommendation - After a user removes a membership, briefly provide them with an undo option.

3. Remove Membership label has the perceived affordance of being tappable when it is not

Task - Maintain a list of memberships

Heuristic - Match between system and the real world

Minor Issue - The proximity of the Remove Membership label to the x icon suggests that the label is a component of the Remove Membership button. Therefore, the label has a perceived affordance of being tappable when it is not.

Larky Interface

Recommendation - Place the Remove Membership label and the x icon in a tappable filled container whose functionality is identical to that of the x icon. Alternatively, remove the x icon, change the Remove Membership label to “Remove”, and place the Remove Membership label in a tappable filled container whose functionality is identical to that of the x icon.

4. Remove Membership button has a negative affordance of being untappable

Task - Maintain a list of memberships

Heuristic - Consistency and standards

Minor Issue - The Remove Membership button is always active, however, its grey color gives it a negative affordance of being untappable.

Larky Interface

Recommendation - Change the color of the Remove Membership button to the color of the surrounding buttons.

5. Improper placement of the Add Membership button

Task - Maintain a list of memberships

Heuristic - Match between system and the real World

Minimal Issue - A user’s membership list has an Add Membership button above and below it. Therefore, users must scroll to the top or bottom of the list to add a membership.

Larky Interface

Recommendation - Replace the Add Membership buttons with a floating action button on the bottom right corner of the screen. Therefore, users will be able to add a membership regardless of their scroll position.

6. Unnecessary steps required to search for a membership

Task - Maintain a list of memberships

Heuristic - Flexibility and efficiency of use

Minor Issue - To search for a membership, a user first taps the Search By Name button and is redirected to a search screen. A user then taps the search bar and begins typing. This process is drawn out.

Larky Interface

Recommendation - Remove the separate search screen and replace the Search By Name button with a search bar.

7. Inadequate error message for no search results

Task - Maintain a list of memberships

Heuristic - Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors

Minor Issue - When a user searches for a membership and gets no search results, they are prompted to submit a request to have that membership added to Larky. This is a non-immediate solution and carries the assumption that the search term is not misspelled nor will a variation of the search term produce relevant search results.

Larky Interface

Recommendation - Change the error message such that it states there are no search results for the search term (i.e. reminds the user of what they searched), asks the user to check for spelling and change how they phrase the search term (i.e. provides an immediate solution), and provides the user with the option to submit a request to have the membership added to Larky (i.e. provides an alternative solution).

8. Uninformative confirmation message

Task - Maintain a list of memberships

Heuristic - Match between system and the real world

Minimal Issue - When a user taps the Submit Request button, the confirmation message merely states, “Sent”. The confirmation message does not mention details of the request nor next steps. Therefore, a user is not reassured that they sent the correct request and that the request will be met.

Larky Interface

Recommendation - Change the confirmation message to clearly state what the user requested and inform them of next steps.

9. Unintuitive sorting of membership categories

Task - Maintain a list of memberships

Heuristic - Match between system and the real world

Minor Issue - The list of membership categories is not intuitively sorted. Therefore, a user does not have a consistent process for finding a category and must recall a category’s position in the list.

Larky Interface

Recommendation - Sort the membership categories alphabetically.

10. Unintuitive sorting of memberships

Task - Maintain a list of memberships

Heuristic - Match between system and the real world

Minor Issue - A user’s list of memberships is not intuitively sorted. Therefore, the user does not have a consistent process for finding one of their memberships and must recall the membership’s position in the list.

Larky Interface

Recommendation - Sort the memberships alphabetically.

11. Misleading confirmation after adding a membership

Task - Maintain a list of memberships

Heuristic - Visibility of system status

Minimal Issue - When a user taps a membership to add it to their membership list the plus icon is replaced with a check mark icon and is briefly followed by a loading indicator. Loading indicators signal that an action is being processed and check marks signal that an action is complete. Therefore, the confirmation that the user receives is misleading.

Larky Interface

Recommendation - If technically feasible, remove the loading indicator. Alternatively, make the loading indicator appear before the check mark appears.

12. Inability to go back to a previous screen

Task - Maintain a list of memberships

Heuristic - User control and freedom

Major Issue - When a user taps the Add Memberships button, they are redirected to a different screen and are not provided with an option to go back to the previous screen.

Larky Interface

Recommendation - Replace the Home button on the left corner of the top navigation with a Back button.

13. Tapping the Browse By Category button gives an unintended result

Task - Maintain a list of memberships

Heuristic - Flexibility and efficiency of use

Major Issue - When a user taps the Browse By Category button they are redirected to a list of memberships for a specific membership category, instead of the list of membership categories.

Larky Interface

Recommendation - Fix this bug so that when a user taps the Browse By Category button they are redirected to the list of membership categories.

14. Ambiguous icons used for the Call button and the Visit Website button

Task - View a discount

Heuristic - Match between system and the real world

Minimal Issue - The Call button is a mobile phone icon and the Visit Website button is a desktop icon. The icons do not effectively signal their purpose nor the action that will follow if they are tapped.

Larky Interface

Recommendation - Make the Call button the universal telephone icon and the Visit Website button the universal website icon.

15. Tapping the Remove Membership, Call, and Visit Website buttons requires too much precision from users

Task - View a discount

Heuristic - Flexibility and efficiency of use

Minimal Issue - The visual bounds of the Remove Membership, Call, and Visit Website buttons are small and each button’s touch target does not extend beyond its visual bounds. Therefore, tapping these buttons requires great precision from users.

Recommendation - For each button, increase its visual bounds and extend its touch target beyond its visual bounds. Ensure that there’s a balance between information density and usability.

16. Difficult to differentiate the View Discounts As button from the Side Menu button

Task - View a discount

Heuristic - Match between systems and the real world

Major Issue - The View Discounts As button on the left corner of the top navigation and the Side Menu button on the right corner of the top navigation are too similar in appearance. Users can easily mistake one button for the other.

Larky Interface

Recommendation - Change the appearance of the View Discounts As button so that its distinguishable from the Side Menu button and its purpose is clearly conveyed.

17. Unintuitive navigation

Task - View a discount

Heuristic - User control and freedom

Catastrophic Issue - When a user taps the View Everywhere button they are redirected to a map that displays local discounts as well as non-local discounts. However, they are unable to return to the previous screen by tapping the View Everywhere button again. To return to the previous screen, the user must tap the search bar and tap the x icon that appears.

Larky Interface

Recommendation - Make the search bar consistent with the other search bars on Larky and make the View Everywhere button toggle between the maps when tapped. Alternatively, remove the View Everywhere button as it detracts from Larky’s goal of providing local discounts.

18. Total Perks label is misleading

Task - View a discount

Heuristic - Match between system and the real world

Minor Issue - The Total Perks label on the top of the side menu displays the total number of discounts, both local and non-local, offered by a user’s memberships. It is not immediately clear how the Total Perks is calculated, users are not able to distinguish the amount of local discounts from non-local discounts, and users are not able to distinguish the amount of viewed discounts from unviewed discounts. The Total Perks label is misleading, provides minimal value to users, and does not contain a call to action.

Larky Interface

Recommendation - Remove the Total Perks label. Users are not concerned with the number of discounts they have, instead they want to know what their discounts are and how to claim them.

19. Membership name is in all caps

Task - View a discount

Heuristic - Match between system and the real world

Minimal Issue - On a discount, the name of the membership that the discount is offered by is in all caps. The light grey color, small size, and placement of the membership name signals its low priority, however, its capitalization does the opposite. Additionally, having the membership name in all caps makes it harder for users to read.

Larky Interface

Recommendation - Uncapitalize the membership name except for its first letter.

20. Difficult to interact with discounts on the map

Task - View a discount

Heuristic - Flexibility and efficiency of use

Major Issue - On the map, it is difficult for users to recognize the location of discounts and tap certain discounts without zooming in extensively.

Larky Interface

Recommendation - Reduce the number of discounts displayed when a user zooms out and increase the number of discounts displayed when a user zooms in. Therefore, discounts will not be clustered. Alternatively, change the shape of each discount to a pin and reduce its size.

21. Showing Perks For drop-down does not signal which drop-down item is selected

Task - View the details of a discount

Heuristic - Consistency and standards

Major Issue - The Showing Perks For drop-down does not signal which drop-down item is selected, regardless of whether it is open or not. Therefore, users are unaware of how the discounts are currently filtered.

Larky Interface

Recommendation - Display the selected drop-down item next to the Showing Perks For label. Additionally, differentiate the selected drop-down item from the other items when the Showing Perks For drop-down is open.

22. Inappropriate functionality of the Alerts For This Location button

Task - View the details of a discount

Heuristic - Consistency and standards

Minor Issue - When the Alerts For This Location button is pressed, its label disappears until the button is released. This issue is present in the Alerts For This Merchant button as well.

Larky Interface

Recommendation - The label is present regardless of whether the button is pressed. Additionally, the button’s functionality is applied only after it has been released.

23. Absence of membership name when viewing a discount

Task - View the details of a discount

Heuristic - Consistency and standards

Minor Issue - When a user accesses the details of a discount from the map, they are never presented with the name of the membership that the discount is offered by.

Larky Interface

Recommendation - Add the name of the membership to the discount preview.

24. Closest To You button does not have a perceived affordance of being tappable when it is

Task - View the details of a discount

Heuristic - Match between system and the real world

Minor Issue - The Closest To You button does not have a perceived affordance of being tappable when it is.

Larky Interface

Recommendation - Give the Closest To You button its own white filled container and replace its label with a label that has a call to action, such as “Get Directions”.

25. Tapping the Closest To You button gives an unanticipated result

Task - View the details of a discount

Heuristic - Visibility of system status

Minor Issue - When a user taps the Closest To You button, they are immediately redirected to their phone’s map application.

Larky Interface

Recommendation - Require the user to confirm that they want to be redirected to their map application before they are redirected.

26. Difficult to use the information in the Notes section

Task - View the details of a discount

Heuristic - Flexibility and efficiency of use

Minor Issue - The information in the Notes section of a discount, such as urls and phone numbers, cannot be copied and is untappable. As a result, unnecessary effort and time is required from users to utilize the information.

Larky Interface

Recommendation - Make the information in the Notes section copyable. Additionally, make all urls and phone numbers tappable and afford they are tappable (e.g., by underlining them).

27. All Screens are untitled

Task - Maintain a list of memberships, view a discount, view the details of a discount

Heuristic - Recognition rather than recall

Major Issue - All screens are untitled. Therefore, users are not immediately aware of a screen’s purpose and can easily lose a sense of where they are in Larky.

Recommendation - Each screen has a descriptive and concise title that helps users orient themselves and understand the screen’s purpose.

28. Inadequate readability of text

Task - Maintain a list of memberships, view a discount, view the details of a discount

Heuristic - Aesthetic and minimalist design

Minimal Issue - The small text size and absence of kerning in the text puts a strain on users’ eyes when viewing content.

Recommendation - Increase the size and kerning of the text.

29. Insufficient screen background

Task - Maintain a list of memberships, view a discount, view the details of a discount

Heuristic - Aesthetic and minimalist design

Minimal Issue - Each screen’s background is an image of a light blue sky. As a result, a majority of the content is placed in white filled containers and the content that is placed directly on the background has insufficient color contrast.

Recommendation - Replace the light blue sky background with a white background, remove all containers, and change the color of white text to black.

30. Absence of scroll bar on all screens

Task - Maintain a list of memberships, view a discount, view the details of a discount

Heuristic - Visibility of system status

Minimal Issue - All screens do not have a scroll bar. Therefore, a user has no sense of where they are on a screen.

Recommendation - Add a scrollbar to each screen.

31. Poor accessibility of Privacy Policy

Task - Maintain a list of memberships, view a discount, view the details of a discount

Heuristic - Help and documentation

Major Issue - Larky’s privacy policy can only be accessed while creating an account and such access is unnoticeable.

Recommendation - Make the privacy policy accessible while logged in. Additionally, increase the color contrast and size of the Privacy Policy button and place it under the Join Now button.


Conclusion

Most of the discovered issues are small, however, together they create a user experience that is unintuitive and that forces an unnecessary cognitive load on users. After finishing this evaluation I sent it to the CEO of Larky and was invited to present my findings to the rest of the team. Although I told them in detail how they could improve the application, it was apparent that their resources were limited and that the application was no longer their highest priority. As a designer you must be aware of your constraints and not only know the user value behind your decisions, but also the business value. Therefore, as a next step I would further prioritize the issues based on the resources that would be required to fix them, the value that would be created for users if they were fixed, and the value that would be created for the business if they were fixed.