In today’s dynamic and fast-paced technology landscape, it’s exceedingly challenging to maintain UI/UX design consistency, especially with multiple teams working on the same product.
Fortunately, in a manner akin to financial audits, UX audits allow design teams to evaluate their products to identify consistency, continuity, accessibility, and usability issues.
This article aims to cover all the basics of UX audits and how they can be exploited to improve the user experience of a product.
What is a UX audit?
Sometimes referred to as a usability audit, a UX audit is a quality assurance (QA) procedure that systematically assesses a digital interface to deliver an in-depth report on potential usability limitations.
The gathered insights can be leveraged to make recommendations for enhancements based on user research and UX heuristics.
UX audits employ different empirical methods to offer heuristics-based recommendations for user-centric enhancements to boost conversions.
What is the objective of UX audit?
UX audits are typically recommended periodically whenever an organisation implements new functionality, or its users report pain points in the user experience.
UX audits help identify and fix common UX issues while measuring success metrics, like bounce rate, revenue growth and user retention.
For the most part, a UX audit helps answer the following questions:
- Where do users experience challenges in understanding navigation or a new capability?
- What does the data communicate about users’ behaviour and their needs?
- What can be potentially modified on a website or an app to improve its overall business performance?
Who should do a UX Audit, and when?
Generally speaking, organisations without a dedicated UX team should consider performing a UX audit periodically. This is because those with in-house UX teams are most likely continually evaluating their products and optimising the user experience.
In fact, companies with in-house teams usually conduct UX audits as part of their quality assurance process whenever they release a major product update or product redesign.
So, companies without dedicated UX teams should always schedule periodic UX audits to ensure their products meet business and user experience objectives. Or to uncover pain points that they might not have been aware of.
However, for the most part, conducting a UX audit largely depends on the size of the business entity and the resources that are available.
Nonetheless, it is recommended that an external team of auditors conducts the UX audit to ensure that the report is as objective as possible.
During the UX audit, the auditor will systematically measure, test, assess and analyse the following elements:
- Broken links
- Usability and accessibility
- Usability heuristics
- Design system inconsistencies—fonts, colours, patterns, etc.
- Layout and hierarchy inconsistencies
- Outdated content
- Traffic, engagement, conversion rates, retention, and sales analytics
- Customer journey bottlenecks and roadblocks
- Branding and messaging
- Review product design against business and user experience goals
Benefits of conducting UX audit
The key benefits of conducting a UX audit are:
Improved user experience
Products underpinned by a comprehensive evaluation and understanding of UX typically deliver an improved user experience.
A successful UX audit can also help companies improve their products by identifying areas where they could improve customer satisfaction and increase user adoption rates.
It’s also useful for helping them understand how different groups of people use a product differently—and what needs to change in order for everyone who uses it consistently to feel satisfied enough that they want more from it (or recommend it).
Increased engagement and retention
The insights gained from UX audits can provide an overview of challenges and pain points from a wide range of disparate user perspectives. These insights can then be used to optimise the product to improve user engagement.
Better conversion rates
Conducting a UX audit will allow you to evaluate how users interact with your product to improve conversion rates.
For example, the areas users find convoluted or confusing, and how they respond when something doesn’t work as intended. This information can be used in the design process so that future iterations are more user-friendly and intuitive for consumers, improving the conversion metrics.
UX audit findings are typically analysed and organised into a digestible report which contains key insights and recommendations based on the audit exercise.
These insights can be aligned with the company goals to gain a competitive advantage by delivering high-quality customer experiences across all touchpoints (for example, e-mail marketing campaigns, social media posts and even website content).
UX audit methods
There are several different methods to conduct a usability audit, for example:
- Observation: The most common method is observation, where the UX auditor sits down with stakeholders and watches them use the product or service in their environment. They can also use an observation checklist or questionnaire.
- UX maturity survey: A UX maturity survey involves team members across a company answering questions about their product’s UX capabilities, awareness and understanding. Consequently, the responses from the survey are employed to gauge the organisation’s level of UX maturity (i.e., capacity and desire to effectively execute user-centric design).
- Usability test: A usability test is employed to collect user feedback on what users find confusing or difficult about a product or service. A usability test involves answering questions like “How easy was it for you?” and “Was this functionality intuitive?” while using the software under test (SUT).
- Workshop: A workshop with key stakeholders is typically conducted to align business objectives and critically understand target users as well as their journeys and pain points.
- Proto-persona: Proto-personas are developed leveraging the insights from stakeholder workshops and user observations to direct user-centric outputs.
- Heatmaps: Heatmaps are typically used to visually represent users’ interaction with a company’s interface. For example, heatmaps that document the number of clicks performed on an interface, or scroll maps that record users’ movement as they scroll down a company’s digital product.
Generally, most UX audit methods involve some form of metrics and materials gathering. This helps in the validation of results, data organisation, review of trends, reporting of findings and the creation of evidence-supported recommendations.
What’s included in a UX audit?
A UX audit is a process that includes a list of questions, guidelines and tools to help you understand your website’s user experience. It can be employed by anyone who wants to improve their website’s usability and accessibility. The following are some examples of what might be included in a UX audit:
User research and feedback analysis
User observations are performed during a UX audit to gain a full understanding of how a product is being used by real users to identify user requirements and pain points. Principally, this exercise to derive user observations ensures that the UX audit is evidence-led and user-centric.
Usability testing in a UX audit involves iteratively examining user interaction data to determine the UX design’s impact on, for example, user flows and navigation.
Usability testing, for the most part, ensures that UI components and design patterns meet user experience objectives and branding guidelines.
A heuristic evaluation methodically compares a digital product to industry usability standards to identify areas for improvement. During a heuristic evaluation, UX auditors evaluate a product whilst looking out for any heuristic issues using Nielsen’s usability heuristics as a benchmark.
Accessibility evaluation exercises revolve around ensuring a digital product is inclusive for all users. During an accessibility evaluation, auditors evaluate whether the colour palette, fonts, and components inclusively serve users with visual impairments. Or even whether the product enables users to flexibly switch between dark/light modes to accommodate users with sensitive eyesight.
This type of evaluation aims to identify any performance issues whilst customers interact with your products, and then make changes accordingly. You should also be able to determine whether or not these performance issues are affecting satisfaction or adoption rates for key features within the products.
How do you conduct a UX audit?
There is no standardised UX audit methodology, as most companies and UX professionals might approach it differently. However, the most common, depending on the product’s complexity, goals and scope, are:
Setting business goals and objectives
The first UX audit step is usually understanding the organisation’s motivation and goal for its digital product being audited.
This stage involves conducting stakeholder interviews with individuals at the organisation with a vested interest in the product. For example, product managers, software developers, marketers, and/or customer service representatives, etc.
Define user personas
The next step is to get to know your users by creating user personas. In practice, user personas are essentially fictional users created by UX teams to better understand their customers.
Fortunately, some organisations may already have user personas informed by data gathered through surveys or other customer touchpoints.
Understand user objectives
The next stage is typically turning the user personas and insights into user flows. These user flows will help establish the user’s objectives across different parts of the product whilst describing their steps to get there. This process will consequently help to identify where a user might encounter usability challenges.
Collect and analyse data
This stage typically involves tracking the product’s performance to provide indisputable, quantitative data about users interacting with the product, and even understanding what they’re doing while using the product.
Complete a heuristic evaluation
UX auditors take insights garnered whilst creating user personas and assessing user objectives to try to accomplish a series of tasks to meet their objectives. Throughout the heuristic evaluation process, they take notes and screenshots detailing each user challenge or pain point encountered.
After heuristic evaluation, UX auditors compile the findings and make recommendations to the organisation or broader team. This single UX audit report should possess insightful analysis and practical recommendations to guide the future development of the digital product.
As already mentioned, UX audit findings are usually condensed into a technical document that concisely relays results to the client as well as a series of actionable recommendations, with detail on how each recommendation can be implemented to meet business objectives.
UX Audit checklist
To have an effective UX audit exercise, your UX audit checklist should tick some of the following boxes:
- The business should have both long-term and short-term UX goals.
- Have a clearly defined, regularly reviewed UX strategy with goals, a vision and a plan.
- The organisation should have a high level of understanding of UX.
- The organisation’s leadership team should have a high level of understanding and support of UX.
- The business’ key values should be consistently communicated across user touchpoints.
UX audits are a great way to improve your product or service.
UX audits should be treated as health checks that help you identify areas that need improvement and ensure they are addressed before they become a problem for your users.
A good UX audit will also help you get feedback on the design of your app from real users, which is an invaluable resource for any business owner or designer.
If you’re serious about improving your product or are planning to introduce new functionality, we recommend conducting user research or hiring a third party to thoroughly evaluate your product or application. However, if you decide to conduct a UX audit yourself, consider the following:
- Using a questionnaire to gather information from your users.
- Using a checklist to gauge the usability of your product or service.
- Checking customer satisfaction with the product or service, and making changes if necessary
- Not reinventing the wheel but focusing on the most important usability elements.
Reach out to us at Netizen Experience for UX audits for your next project!