What is a UX Audit?
A user experience audit is the process used to identify potential usability issues based on established heuristics and/or prior user research. For example, an audit of an e-commerce checkout process may reveal that it is far too complicated, and it offers limited payment options that could result in a drop-off.
An effective UX audit targets issues to ultimately create an easier and more seamless user journey. This process can help to increase customer engagement, satisfaction, and conversions.
Preparing for a UX Audit
Ideally, before starting an audit, organizations need to make sure they have a few key things in place.
Before companies can improve their product’s UX, they need to have a solid understanding of who they’re designing the experience for.
This entails finding out these things and their relationship with each other:
- Demographics and behaviors of current users
- Where the current users are coming from
Organizations preparing for a UX audit should also analyze whether their current users are also their target users. If a significant part of the user base aren’t the ones targeted, they need to identify the reasons for why that is so.
Clearly defining organization goals
Organizations must have a clear understanding of what they want to get out of their UX audit.
Without clearly defined goals, determining what success is would be merely subjective. The common goals of UX audits are typically related to revenue and conversions. Customer satisfaction should always be one of the top considerations as well.
Determining who should be involved
Companies need to make sure that whoever they’re involving in the process (including designers, developers, sales teams, marketers, and decision-makers) have a solid understanding of the customer experience. To accomplish this, walk everyone through the typical process a user goes through, so it’s easy to see potential friction points.
Setting the budget, resources, and timeline.
Whether an organization is outsourcing the audit or doing it in-house, it’s important to set everyone’s expectations from the get-go. Everything—from how much time and output are expected of each team involved, to what the expected end results are—should be made clear to everyone.
Companies also need to have a well-constructed timeline to make sure everything stays on track. This includes establishing individual timelines and milestones so that each person who’s part of the audit is held accountable.
Then comes the question of the budget. To give you an idea, a two-day audit by a freelancer could cost around $1,500, from which they can expect a short design checklist as the output. A more comprehensive audit could cost around $7,500, which entails a checklist with much deeper and actionable insights.
6 Steps to Conducting an Effective UX Audit
1. Use behavioral metrics
These provide quantitative information regarding things like user flows within the website, conversion or abandonment, site hotspots, or even what users were doing before visiting the site. An important thing to note during this process is to go far back enough in the analytics. This enables recognizing trends as opposed to just viewing isolated data points. Popular tools include:
Hotjar – ideal tool for beginners, as it requires no customization and is ready to use right off the bat.
Kissmetrics – A great tool for analyzing and optimizing businesses’ digital marketing efforts. It takes the entire user journey into account, tracking both web and mobile behavior the latter being crucial in today’s mobile-oriented world.
CrazyEgg – This tool provides heat maps that show you how customers scroll, click, engage and experience your website or application. Filters help you understand specific customer segments & use cases.
2. Use attitudinal metrics
To get a tangible understanding of users’ experiences, companies need to communicate with real people.
Apart from getting feedback from actual users (which should be categorized into findings per screen or task, for example), companies should also speak with product stakeholders and developers. This provides insight into their plans, requirements, and ongoing developmental challenges.
Qualitative data gathered from interviews and surveys should be validated through usability tests. Running these tests will help determine if any unsupported claim can be backed up, such as a complicated checkout process as found from user survey results.
Utilize user personas and customer journeys
From the data gathered, companies would benefit from then identifying user personas and their respective journeys to help both the business and their stakeholders understand who their customers actually are and what their intent may be.
Perform a competitive analysis
Simply analyzing one’s own data and walking through the typical user journey on the product isn’t enough to help an organization make informed decisions on improving conversions. It’s also crucial to look at direct and indirect competitors—their traffic, search engine rankings, and product’s usability—to find out how a company’s products stack up.
Additionally, a competitive analysis enables companies to get a clear picture of user expectations when interacting with similar products. This then allows them to ideate improvements that either competitors are lacking or are using to great success.
3. Organize the collected data
Using spreadsheets is the simplest and most convenient way to organize all the information gathered on a product’s UX. To ensure that everyone involved stays in the loop, use a cloud-based spreadsheet. This allows everyone to collaborate, as well as receive and record questions and ideas alongside relevant metrics.
Some resources can help in this regard. UserFocus, for example, provides a booklet that allows companies to measure metrics alongside a long list of the best usability practices. Meanwhile, Usability.gov provides a template for measurable usability goals.
4. Analyze the data
This step involves identifying shortcomings of the current UX, as well as frustrations of users when interacting with a website.
Companies benefit from conducting a screen-by-screen analysis of their product. This lets them map out the entire user flow to get a clear picture of all the different pages and actions users take from anywhere on the website/app.
Coupled with data previously gathered, the user flow allows seeing points where the UX helps the product to perform well, making A/B testing suggestions, and documenting any glaring usability issues that could be hindering conversions.
5. Recommend improvements
Once the findings are organized, these can then be handed over to the design team as well as strategists in charge of visual design assessment. There, they can analyze how to boost conversions by improving brand visibility and consistency within the product.
At this stage, they can ask themselves questions like:
- Is the logo clear and easy to find?
- Does the messaging and tone fit the target audience?
- Do the colors, textures, and fonts accurately represent the brand?
This includes things like running general responsiveness tests to ensure that the product looks good and works on all devices (both old and new), measure website performance, and suggest technical improvements.
Slow websites will always have a problem when it comes to generating (and keeping) traffic, and ultimately, converting.
CSS frameworks like Google’s Material Design adopt grid layouts that make it much easier for developers to adhere to general responsiveness standards users now expect across the web.
When the audit gets past the UX and visual design reviews, companies can then move on to reviewing content on the product. This entails reviewing all texts, from the copy, microcopy, and body text to headings and subheadings.
For example, relevant analytics can help identify low-performing pages that should be converting higher than they currently are.
Common issues like large chunks of text, ambiguous headings and buttons, and confusing (or lacking) instructional text should all be documented and added to the list of possible updates.
Inclusivity has continued to be something brands place great importance on. It’s more than just a trend, with 650 million people living with some type of disability.
Thus, while it’s been a relatively slow process, more and more companies are working to ensure all people have the opportunity for equal use of a website or app and its content whether they’re deaf, blind, or learning-impaired.
Because companies are now legally required to make their websites more accessible, they should use tools like Google’s Lighthouse, which helps identify issues that could be infringing on web accessibility standards.
6. Compile findings into a UX audit report
Organize results by criteria including critical usability issues, quick wins, A/B test suggestions, impact, and challenges to identify which potential areas for improvement could maximize ROI.
Sample UX audit reports
For beginners, these UX case studies share the best practices in conducting an audit:
Note how these audits were able to determine the pain points of users and propose solutions to address them.
Meanwhile, here’s a helpful checklist you can use when drafting your UX audit report.
Tips to Remember When Performing a UX Audit
Quite simply, this just makes it easier to document every page, interaction, and possibility regarding UX.
Organize into buckets
When laid out into spreadsheets, it becomes easier to see categories like “what features each product has,” and what characteristics are common” emerge. This sort of breakdown also makes the findings easier to understand.
Look for patterns
These sheets also make it easy to identify commonalities, sort of like a heat map for patterns. These patterns can, for example, identify common conventions users are familiar with.
Use what is learned
Of course, all the findings and insights would be all for naught if it’s merely chalked up to experience. Depending on the resources available, organizations would be wise to use what they’ve learned from the audit – be it for more immediate updates, or for future developments.
A UX audit is a time-consuming process, but it can also be the difference between a product that consistently underperforms and one that surpasses expectations. A successful audit provides an organization with a clear picture of positives and pitfalls with the current product experience and can help to target what to focus on in future design enhancements.
UX research - or as it’s sometimes called, design research - informs our work, improves our understanding, and validates our decisions in the design process. In this Complete Beginner's Guide, readers will get a head start on how to use design research techniques in their work, and improve experiences for all users.