The goal of a UX audit is to demonstrate where users are running into problems, giving recommendations for user-centric enhancements. Ultimately, the quality of the user experience will depend on the quality of the user interface.
This assessment is based on a variety of factors that are determined by the industry and customized to your particular product. In this article will be tackling all things related to UX Audits, what they are, who should do them, when, and how.
What happens in a UX Audit?
During a UX audit, an auditor uses a variety of different tools and metrics to analyze where a product could be wrong, or pinpoint the less than perfect areas. An audit infers problems from a set of pre-established standards, goals, or questions, that arise. Some of these are:
- Traffic and engagement metrics
- Conversion metrics
- Sales data
- Usability heuristics
- Mental modelling
- Prototyping & Wireframing
What outcomes to expect?
Answers to your most pressing questions, of course! But, more importantly, you will be equipped with actionable recommendations that are based on the data that your auditor gathers. These recommendations will be specific to each problem-area and can then be implemented for user-centric design.
Conducting a UX Audit
What is the aim of a UX Audit?
A UX Audit is performed to help product owners, founders and marketers detect opportunities for improvement that they cannot perceive without it, due to being too involved with the product.
When to do a UX Audit?
A UX audit is built to answer your questions, in light of this, there is no good or bad time to conduct one. A UX audit should be done periodically. A rule of thumb should be after a major release, or after a few piled up releases where the changes might have slipped the control.
Since a UX audit is a general term for a variety of different activities, it can be relatively simple or really time-consuming, expensive, and usually more efficient if outsourced (but we will get into that later). In short, regular UX audits are useful and necessary to make sure the changes over time remain consistent or when you wish to gather insights about your digital products and their performance. The frequency depends on factors such as the maturity of a product, the sector of the market it fits into and the number of versions and releases.
Who should consider a UX Audit?
Product owners can benefit from the audit by identifying and fixing the problems on the interface. Marketers can gain insight into the customer journey, campaign conversion, and understand user-driven behaviour. Founders can use UX audits in order to identify errors before the development phase for the launch of a well-rounded product. The result is a product that understands your customer, empathizes with their needs and creates a fundamental shift in how you view your product.
Limitations: Time, Money & Proximity
As previously mentioned a UX audit really depends on the depth of the analysis you are willing to take on. It can be short, focused, and less pricey, or it can be lengthy and expensive. To summarize: a UX audit can take as long as the resources you are willing to expend.
Proximity to the product is also a limitation in viewing the digital product objectively. An audit is most effective when performed by someone who can look at the digital product with fresh-eyes, unfamiliar with the sequence of its usage, and can truly empathize with the target user.
Methods, Materials & Organisation
Before you start…
Ask yourselves the questions: What are my user’s goals with my product? What need of theirs am I fulfilling, where are they coming from? Think about the bigger picture of daily life, where your product fits into: If you can put yourself in the mindset of the user who has a specific task in mind that your digital product can help them with, this will help you determine who your users are. Once you know who the users are, then ask yourself whether these were the target audience and whether they are the users you really want coming in.
Goals should be defined by strategists, designers, developers and should include the final say of a decision-maker to implement the changes brought forth in the audit. What is your objective in conducting an audit? Where are those problem-areas that you wish to improve on? These questions should also include revenue goals, conversion goals, and other goals important to your specific product.
Define Resources & Budget
As we have previously mentioned a UX audit is a lengthy process that takes up money, time, and workforce. Who is going to conduct your audit? And, for how long? If you set expectations at the beginning of the audit you can avoid bottlenecks due to lack of availability and planning. Think about the amount of time you are willing to give the audit and keep track of your objectives based on that timeline. Keep in mind that the expected cost of an audit depends on how in-depth you want to go, and can range in price anywhere from $1,500 – $10,000.
Materials & Methods
An audit is first a collection of data. Here we will describe to you the materials you will need in order to proceed with the audit. If available, get access to the original product requirements in order to help the auditor understand the design choices that were made, and how to improve on them.
Stakeholder Interviews & User Surveys
Collecting information from people is imperative for the success of your audit. Stakeholder interviews are important because you gain insight into what the plan for the product was, what are the requirements to keep it going, and what have been areas of challenge. You get to understand what people close to the product view as problem-areas and what their goals are.
Make sure you get real experience of the interaction a user has with your digital product. User opinions about the usability of your product are extremely valuable and should be both interviewed and filmed or screen recorded (if possible) to understand how people interact naturally with the product.
Heuristic Product Evaluation
Evaluate your product based on pre-established criteria in order to get good qualitative data, which can be tracked over time. There is a multitude of usability heuristics that make a digital product work for its users, these vary slightly depending on the format of the product (mobile app., website etc.), you can find the most popular usability heuristics here.
Web, Mobile & User Analytics
Analytics tools will help you get the quantitative data that you require for the audit to be complete. The evaluation of traffic to your digital product can easily be done with resources such as Google Analytics, for the more basic functions like traffic source or flow over time, but there are other tools such as Kissmetrics or Crazy Egg which can supplement the basics for a more in-depth audit. If your digital product is a mobile app then some of the tools you can use are Google mobile analytics or through Mixpanel.
To help auditors keep track of all the data that is collected, also if uploaded to the cloud it can become a collaborative, living document that stakeholders can access, with ideas and questions alongside relevant metrics. There are a variety of templates available from UserFocus, but if you are keener on using a word document to track your progress Usability.gov provides a template.
Looking for trends
At this point, an auditor has their hands full with qualitative and quantitative information, organized into spreadsheets – here comes the hard part: looking for trends. In order to make sense of the mounds information, there are practices like data mining and card sorting, more traditional methods of seeing tendencies. If you want more information on finding patterns in UX research we recommend Steve Baty´s post from UXmatters. Trends pinpoint the problem areas of your product and can help in reporting your findings.
Reporting & Implementing Findings
The very first step in reporting the findings is developing a hypothesis about the status of the product: what makes a user act the way they do, and not the way it was expected by the stakeholders. In order to best report their findings an auditor compares their insights against the four keystones of successful products:
- Value: Is the value proposition of your product clear to the user?
- Relevance: Is your product addressing a pain-point for its user? Are there any disconnections between what a user may expect, from the reality they receive while using your digital product?
- Usability: Is your product intuitive to use? Are there any unnecessary elements that could misguide users?
- Action: Can your users easily notice and access call-to-action-buttons?
One must remember that an audit that only points out problems, will not help improve the digital product. As such, each audit must include a problem with a recommendation.
Typically, user personas are built to best represent the problems that users can run into, these are scenarios which take into account the target user, their goal with the product, and their method of achieving it. Other methods of presenting findings are wireframing, site mapping, prototyping. Each auditor will have their preferred method of presenting their findings depending on what the findings call for, and the product of course.
The key elements of a UX audit are the recommendations driven by the data an auditor has collected. Simply pointing out the problems uncovered during an audit will not help to improve a digital product. A well-rounded audit report should include the insights that were gained as well as the actions recommended to improve upon that problem, a good auditor will emphasize the positive, avoid usability jargon, and will be task-specific. If applicable an auditor supplements recommendations with examples, suggesting solutions for the design and development team.
We want to provide you with the resources to be able to start your audit internally. It is important to note that a UX audit depends on the digital product being audited as well as the objectives it sets out to accomplish, with that in mind we leave you a few places to start:
- Omniture and Kissmetrics for advanced analytics tools
- UserTesting for usability software
- Web App Heuristics template
- ISO Principles
The benefits of conducting a UX audit are many, especially when it comes to the improvement of your digital product and brand image to your target audience. Conducting a UX audit is a lengthy process that requires significant time, budget, and human resource investments, for this reason, we suggest you seek out a third party to do your auditing rather than internally. Using a third party for your audit not only saves you time, but it also guarantees objectivity. A fresh pair of eyes always does the trick!