‘Heuristic’ is the English transliteration of the Greek word ‘heuriskein’ which means to find out or to discover. Herbert A. Simon introduced the word into the fields of Economics and Computer Science, and ended up winning both the Nobel Prize in Economics and the Turing Award. So it’s an idea that’s pretty important to both fields.
Daniel Kahneman also used the term, and also won the Nobel Prize in Economics for his work on the idea that markets are not the product of rational thought.
Basically, you can say this:
A heuristic is the unthinking procedural shortcut you use every time you do anything that you’ve already learned to do. Do you you tie your shoes unthinkingly? Then you have a shoe-tying heuristic. What about the order in which you brush your teeth? Or the way you greet people in passing? A cook who isn’t following a recipe is following his heuristics, and a financier who follows her gut when investing is doing the same thing.
Every designer uses a mix of their personal and professional heuristics, and every engineer does the same.
Here at Evolv AI, we’re tracking the performance of all of the UX optimization heuristics we encounter. In time, we’ll have hard numbers on which ones work best under different circumstances.