The Development of Heuristics for Evaluation of Dashboard Visualizations

Dawn Dowding, Jacqueline A Merrill

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Background Heuristic evaluation is used in human–computer interaction studies to assess the usability of information systems. Nielsen's widely used heuristics, first developed in 1990, are appropriate for general usability but do not specifically address usability in systems that produce information visualizations.

Objective This article develops a heuristic evaluation checklist that can be used to evaluate systems that produce information visualizations. Principles from Nielsen's heuristics were combined with heuristic principles developed by prior researchers specifically to evaluate information visualization.

Methods We used nominal group technique to determine an appropriate final set. The combined existing usability principles and associated factors were distributed via email to a group of 12 informatics experts from a range of health care disciplines. Respondents were asked to rate each factor on its importance as an evaluation heuristic for visualization systems on a scale from 1 (definitely don't include) to 10 (definitely include). The distribution of scores for each item were calculated. A median score of ≥8 represented consensus for inclusion in the final checklist.

Results Ten of 12 experts responded with rankings and written comments. The final checklist consists of 10 usability principles (7 general and 3 specific to information visualization) substantiated by 49 usability factors. Three nursing informatics experts then used the checklist to evaluate a vital sign dashboard developed for home care nurses, using a task list designed to explore the full functionality of the dashboard. The experts used the checklist without difficulty, and indicated that it covered all major usability problems encountered during task completion.

Conclusion The growing capacity to generate and electronically process health data suggests that data visualization will be increasingly important. A checklist of usability heuristics for evaluating information visualization systems can contribute to assuring high quality in electronic data systems developed for health care.
Original languageEnglish
JournalApplied Clinical Informatics
Early online date11 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Requirements analysis and design
  • Clinical decision support
  • Home health
  • Dashboard
  • Methodologies


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