Skip to main content
7 minute read

Unlocking better user experiences: The power of Heuristic Audits for digital health solutions

A heuristic audit might sound a bit technical, but it's essentially about making digital products easier and more enjoyable to use. Think of it as a comprehensive “health check” for your website, app or platform, diving deep into its user-friendliness. In an industry where trust and clarity are key, mastering this can significantly impact your success.

20220901 Graphite 005 Website image gallery 1
by Graphite Digital
08 February 24
  • Heuristic Analysis
  • Digital Product Success
  • UX Research

What is a heuristic audit?

A Heuristic audit, also known as heuristic analysis or heuristic evaluation, is a method of evaluating the user experience of a digital product against 10 established usability principles, known as 'heuristics'.

Heuristics are a set of guidelines that support with the creation of a good interface design for any digital product or service.

In a heuristic audit for UX or UI, clinical UX researchers conduct a thorough review of your digital product or service. They assess it against established principles to pinpoint usability issues and areas that might not align with your business or user goals. This process not only uncovers gaps in the user experience, but also provides actionable insights for enhancement.

A heuristic audit is an important tool for healthcare and pharma companies, helping to refine and optimise user experiences in a practical and insightful way.

Benefits of heuristic audits in digital health

So, why invest time in heuristic audit?

The benefits of a heuristic audit are huge, as it’s an inexpensive and swift way to gain valuable insights, allowing you to significantly enhance the usability and overall digital experience for your users. Especially useful when direct user feedback isn't available, it offers a roadmap for making informed changes to your product.

Once the audit is complete, you’ll have comprehensive documentation detailing each heuristic violation, its impact on users, and prioritised recommendations for improvement. This approach is key in our commitment to delivering user-centred digital solutions, balancing UX best practices with regulatory constraints.

A site that's easy to navigate and understand means happier visitors and, ultimately, better outcomes for both users and your business. Applying heuristic principles can transform a good website or app into a great one. It's not just about fixing problems; it's about enhancing what you already do well.

NHS North West London case study: Real improvements through heuristic audits

In this recent client partnership, the NHS North West London team wanted our help to deepen their audience understanding to evolve their Know Diabetes web service, better serve patient needs, and improve site engagement. Specifically, they wanted to help users from a South Asian background, as this demographic made up the majority of patients in their region.

Our heuristic audits led to significant improvements in the digital experience for patients with diabetes. This project shows the power of heuristic audits in healthcare, particularly in enhancing user experience and engagement.

Key improvements from the Heuristic Audit:

1. Actionable UX improvements: The audit resulted in a prioritised list of UX enhancements. These improvements were not just theoretical; they were practical, actionable steps that could be immediately implemented to better serve users.

2. Usability issues identification: By conducting a thorough heuristic audit, Graphite's clinical UX research team identified key usability issues. This process involved a page-by-page review, applying digital expertise against heuristic principles.

3. Informed restructuring: Insights from the audit informed the restructuring of site navigation and content, making it easier for users to find relevant information and complete tasks.

4. Strategic roadmap development: The collaboration with the NHS team extended beyond the audit to include strategic planning activities, ensuring a clear focus and direction for the future.

Best practices for conducting heuristic audit in digital healthcare and pharma

If you're thinking of giving heuristic evaluation a go, there are some best practices to keep in mind. It's not just about picking any set of guidelines; it's about choosing the right ones for your specific audience and goals. And remember, it's a team effort – involving different perspectives can lead to more comprehensive insights.

The value of the audit depends on the expertise of those conducting it, so it's crucial to engage specialists who have a knack for pinpointing relevant issues, so the outcome is meaningful and actionable insights.

However, it's worth noting that heuristic audits can sometimes be skewed by bias, especially if performed by just one evaluator. Bringing in an independent third party to review your digital product with a fresh perspective can reduce the risks of bias or subjectivity. This step is essential for a balanced and objective heuristic analysis.

It's important to remember that heuristic audits, while valuable, don't provide the depth of user insight that you'd get from usability testing or interviews with representative users. Think of a heuristic audit as the initial step in a broader user research strategy. It's not a standalone solution but rather a springboard for deeper exploration.

When you undertake a heuristic audit, your goal is to compile a list of heuristic violations that are causing usability issues, potentially impacting the user experience (UX). This information is a goldmine for designers and service teams, guiding decisions on enhancing the overall experience for your audience. While heuristic audits don't replace the insights gained from direct user interactions, they offer a glimpse into the user experience, setting the stage for more detailed usability testing.

Step-by-step guide to Heuristic Evaluation

Embarking on a heuristic evaluation? Here's a straightforward guide to help you navigate this process, optimised for SEO on the topic of heuristic audits.

Planning your audit:

Start by identifying your target audience and their goals. This understanding is crucial for evaluating the right aspects of your product.
Determine the scope of your audit. Decide whether you're conducting a full or partial audit, focusing on specific pages or features.
Choose your heuristics. The most commonly used are Jakob Nielsen's 'Heuristics for User Interface Design', but others like Ben Shneiderman's 'Designing with Simplicity' can also be relevant.

Executing the audit:

Conduct a thorough review of each page or feature, looking for violations of your chosen heuristics.
Pay attention to details. Review each element multiple times to ensure nothing is missed.
Record any heuristic violations, noting their perceived impact on the user experience.

Categorising issues:

Classify issues based on severity. Categories can include critical (blocking user tasks), high (requiring extra effort), and low (causing discomfort but not preventing task completion).

Compiling and reviewing:

Create a comprehensive report, ideally with screenshots, noting where each violation occurs and its severity.
Summarise the findings, highlighting the most affected areas that need attention.
Share and discuss these findings with your team to ensure a shared understanding and plan for addressing the issues.

Benefits of Heuristic Audits:

It's a quick, cost-effective method to gain insights, especially when direct user feedback isn't available.
Offers a roadmap for improvements, guiding future design decisions.
Can be used alongside other research methods for richer insights.

Considerations and best practices:

Ensure the audit is conducted by experienced evaluators to avoid bias and ensure relevance.
Consider involving an independent third party for an unbiased perspective.
Remember, heuristic audits are a starting point, not a standalone solution. They should be part of a broader user research strategy.

Next steps:

Use the findings from your heuristic audit to inform the design and development process.
Consider combining the insights from the audit with other forms of user research for a more comprehensive understanding of user needs. 

By following these steps, you can effectively conduct a heuristic audit to enhance the user experience of your digital products. Remember, heuristic audits are a vital tool in the UX toolkit, providing quick, insightful feedback that can drive significant improvements in your digital offerings.

Future trends in heuristic audit for digital health and pharma

Looking ahead, we're excited about the potential of integrating AI and machine learning into heuristic audits. These technologies could offer even deeper insights and more personalised recommendations, pushing the boundaries of what's possible in web design.

Imagine a digital product that is constantly learning and adapting, offering real-time suggestions for improvement. That's the future we're heading towards, and it's going to revolutionise how we approach digital design in healthcare and pharma.


From apps that help manage chronic conditions to platforms that streamline healthcare workflows, After these evaluations, companies have reported not just better user satisfaction rates, but also increased engagement and conversions.

A heuristic audit is more than just a buzzword in the digital design world; it's a crucial tool for ensuring your digital product is doing its job effectively. By focusing on user experience and staying ahead of the latest trends, you can create a product that not only looks good but also works seamlessly for your users.

In essence, if you're looking for a method to gain valuable UX insights without a hefty time or financial investment, a heuristic audit is a smart choice. It's a practical, efficient way to identify usability issues and enhance the digital experience for your users, without the need for extensive resources.

Heuristic Audit FAQs

What is a heuristic audit?

It's a method used to assess the user-friendliness of a digital product by applying a set of criteria or 'heuristics'.

How can a heuristic audit improve digital products?

It helps identify and fix usability issues, leading to improved user satisfaction and engagement.

What are the best practices for conducting a heuristic audit in the healthcare and pharma sector?

Choose relevant heuristics, involve a diverse team, conduct thorough evaluations, and turn findings into actionable improvements.

How long does a heuristic audit take to complete?

A heuristic audit can be completed relatively quickly, often taking only a few weeks. This swift turnaround is one of its appealing features, especially when compared to more extensive user research methods.

Is a heuristic audit expensive?

When it comes to cost, heuristic audits are generally seen as an affordable option. They don't require the recruitment of user participants, which not only saves money but also avoids the potential difficulties in accessing patients or healthcare professionals. This aspect makes heuristic audits a cost-effective choice for many organisations, particularly in the healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors.

Want more on user research?

6 minute read

Conducting compliant user research for your digital products in pharma

  • Healthcare
  • Pharmaceutical
  • User research
6 minute read

Why pharma companies cannot afford to overlook user research across digital innovation

  • Healthcare
  • Pharmaceutical
  • User research
User research usability testing0 Large
5 minute read

How user research will help you create better digital products, whatever stage you’re at

  • Healthcare
  • Pharmaceutical
  • User research