While a particular software system may be evaluated on the basis of many technical criteria, the system must ultimately be judged by its usability: To what degree does it help users accomplish their task(s) and to what degree are the users satisfied with their experience. One tool to help developers identify and repair problem areas in the user interface is usability testing. Heuristic evaluation is a "discount" approach to identifying interface problems which can be administered for little or no cost, without special training, in a relatively short period of time.
In the Fall of 1994, the Bureau of Labor Statistics had just completed a prototype for a public access system to be distributed over the World Wide Web. Since our resources (human, material, and financial) were quite limited, we carried out a heuristic evaluation of the prototype to identify problem areas that could be avoided in the final product, but also to evaluate the inspection method itself and determine whether it might prove fruitful in other development efforts. This talk will report our findings. We will concentrate on our experience with the method, and our judgment of its strengths and weaknesses.