Saturday, March 18, 2017

Heuristic Evaluation of a Social News Networking Website: REDDIT

By Tunde Memudu


This post describes the heuristic evaluation of the Reddit social networking and news website. We used Nielsen’s heuristics usability guidelines 1995 [4] and Sivaji’s usability heuristics guidelines [5].

Reddit is a news or entertainment website where registered community of subscribers can post contents such as text posts, pictures and video posts, which makes it an online bulletin board system [1].  Reddit entries are organized into different areas of interest called "Subreddits" [7].     Reddit has 50 default Subreddits dealing with topics such as books, television, and music, and thousands of additional non-default Subreddits [7]. All new users are initially automatically subscribed to the 50 default Subreddits, but can then customize their subscriptions [7]. Reddit has a lot of content organized by Subreddits, these Subreddits cover a vast area of fields such as games, music, photo-sharing, movies and books to mention just a few, and the availability of this content resources to users at all times for free has made Reddit popular in the social networking world.

According to Wikipedia [6], as of 2017 Reddit has 542 million visitors monthly and as of December 2015, 54% of 53% male Reddit users are from the United States of America, 6% of all online adults are Reddit users and it was also stated that young men between the ages 18-29 years were twice more likely to be Reddit users as females in the same age range [6].

To evaluate Reddit we used the modified heuristics proposed by Sivaji Ashok which includes the Jakob Nielson’s 1995 heuristics. The following table gives the set of heuristics we used.

NO #
Consistency & Standards
The way the system works should be consistent at all times and maintain certain standards.
Error Prevention & Correction
The system should be designed to minimize the possibility of user errors with inbuilt facilities for detecting and handling some basic errors within the systems.
The way the system should work and is structured should be clear to the user.
Flexibility & Control
The interface should be sufficiently flexible in structure, in the way information is presented, in terms of what the user can do, to suit the needs and allow them to feel in control of the system.
The system should meet the needs and requirements of users when carrying out tasks.
Informative Feedback
The system should always use the appropriate feedback within a reasonable time to let the user know what is happening.
Language & Content
The information conveyed should be understood by the target user of the application.
The system navigation should be structured in a way that allows a user to access support for a specific goal as quickly as possible.
User Guidance & Support
Informative, easy-to-use and relevant guidance and support should be provided to help the users understand and use the system.
Visual Clarity
Information displayed on the page must be clear, well-organized, unambiguous and easy to read at all time.
The appearance and working style of the system should be Compatible with user’s expectation and convention.
The system should help the users protect their private information.

The following are the Reddit usability problem we found

A. Language change only affects a few menu items but not all major contents.

When the user changes from one language to another, only a few content elements are changed to the current language. if non-English speaking users cannot comprehend what key menu contents mean then the website is not usable to them, the default language is in English which can be seen as a menu on the top right corner of the home page, however, if the user decides to change the language from English to Arabic only a small portion of the website is updated to the new language. This is a serious problem for non-English speaking users because it would be difficult for users to comprehend what is going on the web page. This problem violates heuristics #7 which says that the information conveyed should be understood by target users of the application. This is a major usability problem and top priority should be given to resolving this issue.

Inconsistent language change.

Reddit developers should implement a good language translating algorithms in the Reddit website, allowing all major UI elements to be changed to user-selected languages, and that language changes should also affect all subreddits, help content, rules, and Reddit policy statements. The difficulty of resolving the seriousness of the problem ranking is 1, and this problem should be easy to solve.

B.   Redirection to another website without prior warning

Reddit has a navigation problem that if the user clicks on the post link on the home page, the user is redirected to another site. Clicking the Return tab on the Web browser is the only way to go back to the home page. Also when an image is been clicked on it does the same i.e. it loads images in another web page or website link entirely. This violates the heuristics #4 which are navigation heuristics and flexibility and control of the Sivaji heuristic approach since the website doesn’t have a good structure if presenting information to the users. The figure below shows how the user has been redirected to another site without prior warning or notification after clicking to view a picture on the website.

Some people strongly disagree with our suggestion, by saying that users don't want to see the warning “you are leaving this site” when they are been directed to another URL. The suggestion given to this problem is a better approach to open an image content and video files which will not be opened in new URL.

Reddit website navigating to another URL after clicking to view an image.

Reddit should update their site so that text, pictures, and video posts are played on their website without redirecting users to other sites. Using breadcrumbs is also good for proper navigation. Another suggested solution is that Reddit should give the user the option to open and close the notification dialog box and click on a post link. The problem might not be easy to solve because the developers might need to change the structure of the web layout. Another suggestion and similar example is to adopt the Facebook style of displaying pictures and video on the same page with a close button at the right top corner of the page.


C.   Font sizes for major subreddit menu contents are too small.

In order for the user to properly browse the site, the user will need to be able to see and know the location of the content on the page. Unfortunately, the Reddit website is short of this area, making the key features of the login, registration, search bar and all Subreddits content have a very small font size, making it difficult for users to read. This might be frustrating for vision impaired users. This violates the #10 which is the visual clarity heuristics and navigation heuristics of Sivaji's heuristic assessment method. The Figure below shows the contents of the Subreddit menu at the top of the page, they have very small font sizes and are hard to read.

Reddit website Subreddit menu bar, showing how small they are.

Solving this problem will require some effort because the font size of the content on the home page will be given a new look to the Reddit website, and due to too much content to develop People will need to reorganize the content so that they are visible and easy to access. I suggest that Reddit developers should only focus on the main features of the home page so that the main content font size greatly increased.


D.   Too much text on the Reddit page

The problem here is that Reddit has a lot of text on this page. At first glance, it can turn off the user. However, these multiple texts across the home page and subsequent pages may confuse the user because too many things happen at the same time. This violates Sivaji's heuristic assessment method for visual clarity heuristics and navigation heuristics #10 because too much text reduces visibility and often leads to confusion. As an example, the code snippet of the Reddit web page is shown in the following snippet. As can be seen from the snippet, the organization of the text by viewing Reddit can cause confusion and might moderately reduce users’ interest.

Reddit website with too much text on the page.

Reddit should reduce menus, topic, Subreddits etc. making them more concise then allowing users to categorically subscribe for interesting topics of their own instead of registering users to all topic which makes text content jam-packed on the page. If they choose to use long text technology, they should neatly organize the homepage so that users will be interested in what they might see. Also, Reddit should adopt the use of good picture and video sections to organize contents displayed on the website instead of using long text tittle.

E.  Complex and confusing screen design

Having an organized page layout can be very beneficial, allowing users to focus their attention on their important content, and also to guide the users on how the site works. The problem here is that the Reddit website has a bad layout design, mainly due to the fact that the text content is scattered on the web page, which makes it difficult for users to scan through the posts and content they are interested in. This violates the visual clarity heuristics and the navigation heuristics of Sivaji's heuristic evaluation method i.e. the heuristic #10. The figure below shows there is a lot of text in the middle of the page, the right text is not delimited, tiny clickable links at the top, and contains many subreddit themes for the drop down menu. Another problem here is the issue of having two menu bar which are the subreddit menus and the popular menus. 

Reddit website interface.

Reddit developers should reorganize the layout of their Web pages so that users can easily and quickly browse the text on the page. The web page should also be sidelined in a way that the ads should only occupy on side of the page and not the two sides. Also, the menus should be converted into one menu showing the list if what the user has subscribed for.

F.   Homepage menu could not be found

In the current web design, developers tend to use the network logo as a means of accessing the home page of the site. Using the company's logo to access the home page is a practical way that web designers generally believe that the home menu can be changed to. The Reddit logo is the only way to access the Reddit home page which is not a bad idea, but the problem is that it doesn’t look obvious for users, it doesn’t look clickable, it doesn’t gray out when hovered. This doesn’t make it looks like the logo is actually a hyperlink or clickable logo for navigation to the home page and doesn’t give a feedback at the same time. This violates the heuristic #9 and #10 which are visual clarity heuristics and navigation heuristics of Sivaji's heuristic assessment method. The severity of the problem is ranked 1 because it is just a surface usability problem. The figure below shows the logo (on the top left) used to access the home page of the Reddit website.

Reddit menu bar without the home button.

This problem would be very easy to resolve because solving this problem only involves adding an additional home page menu on the Reddit website.  If the Reddit developers still want to use the “Reddit logo” as the home page menu, then Reddit should add some styling attributes to the logo when touched with cursor i.e. attributes like changing the background color of the logo can be adopted.

G.   Full menus should be displayed

The menus serve as a means of navigating also, so, therefore, a web page menu should be well categorized, concise, short and fully displayed for easy usability for users. The Reddit website doesn’t show the full list of the menu button which might make users frustrated by not seeing the section intended to be viewed by the user. I understand the fact that the menus on the website are due to a large number of the topic on the web page but still, I believe it’s still due to the ability to categorize menu well or bad structure of the page content that makes it uneasy to list all the menus. This has violated the heuristics of the functionality #8, flexibility #4 and control #5 with a severity of 3 and ease of fixing of 2. This is shown in the figure below.

Reddit website unseen menus under the more button

Reddit website unseen menus under the more button

The website should be well structured in other to give room for the remaining menus. Therefor I recommend a good menu classification by putting menus into similar categories and making sure all appears on the website page. Grouping of the items might be quite difficult since there are lots of menus to be classified and must be well classified so the user can easily comprehend. Instead of displaying all these subreddit menus that don't occupy a single line on the website, a simple categorization like the following can be adopted “world, politics, gaming, money, health, opinions, entertainment, leisure, tech, style, travel sports, video, and news, audio”. This categorization contains all the content of subreddit and will be fully displayed on a single role on the website.


The heuristic evaluation of Reddit discovered a number of problems through the performance of a limited set of representative tasks on the website. The suggested solutions to the problems discovered have been documented within the post. The Reddit website has millions of users, however, the design approach used by the developers makes it difficult for new users to use the website. Addressing these issues will help improve usability in Reddit. The evaluation was conducted using Nielsen’s heuristics usability guidelines 1995 [4] and Sivaji’s usability heuristics guidelines [5].


[1]   Reddit. Available [Online]:
[2]    Nielsen Norman Group, Jakob Nielsen, “How to Conduct a Heuristic Evaluation” on January 1, 1995. Available [Online]:
[3]   Nielsen Norman Group, Jakob Nielsen, “Severity Ratings for Usability Problems” on January 1, 1995. Available [Online]:
[4]   Nielsen Norman Group, Jakob Nielsen, “10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design” on January 1, 1995. Available [Online]:
[5]   Ashok Sivaji, Azween Abdullah, Alan Giffin Downe, “Usability Testing Methodology: Effectiveness of Heuristic Evaluation in E-Government Website Development”, Modelling Symposium (AMS), 2011 Fifth Asia, Year: 2011, Pages: 68 - 72, DOI 10.1109/AMS.2011.24.
[6]   Wikipedia. Available [Online]:
[7]   Pew Research Center, Available [Online]:
[8]   CNN available online

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