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If you run a business online, you know how difficult it is to get those conversion numbers high. You see a decline in the numbers; you hit the drawing board with your team and try to find out what to fix. But how do you know what exactly is wrong with your website or app?

The best way to keep abreast of how users feel about your product is to gather feedback. But apart from feedback from users and information gathered through data, you and your team can analyze the user experience of your product and see if something can be fixed, which is called conducting a UX audit. Let’s talk a little more about how you can fill in the gaps with a user experience audit.

What is a UX audit?

Just as a company audits finances and employee performances regularly, it is important to audit design standards and user experience of its products too. Every business, at some point of time, finds itself in a sea of problems and needs a way to find solutions for them. UX reports after audits are used to spot imperfections and inadequacies of the website or app.

The best part about user experience audits is that they can be conducted for businesses as small as a startup with an app in the making or as large as a multinational company with several flagship products to showcase.

Some key questions are answered during a UI/UX audit:

  • Is there any friction in the user journey? Where are the points of friction?
  • Where, on the platform, is the drop-off rate the highest?
  • Is the information presented to the users ample enough to help them make decisions?
  • Does the interface design follow heuristic principles?

It is essentially a cumulative assessment of the usefulness, usability, aesthetics, value, experience and user-friendliness of a website or app.

UX audits generally provide a much more in-depth insight into the issues of the product than heuristic evaluations. Not that it has to be said out loud, but the bad user experience is a hole in the money ship for a company. Lately, almost all companies have started investing in user experience in order to increase profits since they understand that bad design does not work well. Such audits or analyses can help strategize and nudge a business in the right direction by solving real user problems.

When should you conduct a UX audit?

An audit could be conducted, usually, at two points in the design process – during the design process, called the formative assessment, and after the product has been developed, called the summative assessment.

It is a good practice to conduct design audits as regularly as possible to sanitise your products and keep the vision on track to success. In an agile environment, usability testing, heuristic evaluations, etc., happen frequently to take into account user pain points and eliminate them at the earliest. In the same way, UX assessments should also be frequent.

Objectives and Outcomes

In order to successfully perform a UX website audit, a prerequisite is to list the goals clearly. For instance, if your website is seeing low conversion rates, your UX audit goals could be analysing the website to improve metrics like conversion rate, bounce rate and drop-offs.

Accumulating relevant metrics is not an easy task. All stakeholders involved within the team should put their heads together to find these. Some of the most common metrics are – NPS (net promoter score), task success rate, bounce rate, user engagement rates, time on task, conversion rate, CSAT (customer satisfaction) and SUS (system usability scale).

Some frequently used techniques to collect these metrics are:

Heuristic evaluation: Evaluating or auditing your product’s interface against an industry-standard checklist to empathize with the user and make their experience better. Instead of basing your criteria on your own parameters, it is best to incorporate widely used parameters like Neilsen’s 10 usability heuristics.

Analytics: Heuristic evaluation is more for qualitative assessment. For quantitative assessment of how your product is doing, data speaks volumes, literally. If you track data on your website using tools like Google Analytics, then you will find tons of data points to validate your hypothesis and form assumptions.

Sales figures: Not recommended due to heavy human intervention, but sales figures can sometimes tell you things other techniques cannot, since your sales staff generally stay in touch with the clients a lot more than your design team. They may even conduct surveys and interviews that can inform your decisions.

Previous audits: If your company or team has already conducted audits in the past, you can use that to your advantage. Keeping the metrics similar to the previous audit with a few extra additions from learnings can make it simpler to find issues and fix them.

Deliverables of a website’s UX audit are usually compiled in a properly structured report containing a detailed description of the audit goals, techniques used, results and even suggestions or strategies.

How does one conduct a UX audit?

A user experience audit can be conducted in phases since there are a lot of moving parts involved.

Preparation

Before you even begin conducting the analysis, it is important to prepare for it. Gathering relevant metrics as mentioned before, charting out phases, allotting enough time to each phase and choosing the evaluating team are all part of preparation. Having the right strategy can save time and money while resulting in extremely useful output.

 Outlining business objectives

Although all UX designers in a company are advocates for the users, business objectives take the front seat in a UX audit along with user goals. Interviewing stakeholders of all kinds like the sales team, business development team, consumer service team, design and development team can help you align your UX audit checklist with the company’s business goals.

Familiarisation with users

Never in your entire design process, be it research, designing or testing, should you not keep in mind your user personas. After all, everything you do as a designer is to make the product better for your users. If you are new to the project, familiarise yourself with the user personas and even conduct some interviews. You will gain a lot of qualitative insight from user interviews.

You may be tempted to drag the interview series for a lot longer due to the active participation of the users, but it is recommended to limit your sessions to 5-10 users and interview them fairly similarly.

Outlining user objectives

At every stage of this audit, you will be able to identify some user stories. These user stories present opportunities and ultimately get converted into user flows that help users successfully complete tasks on your website or app.

You can also add more information to your user personas at this stage too since you will gather a lot of intel from the previous phases. As and when you can, write down user stories and map journeys.

Inspect analytics

Concrete evidence of bad UX can be found in analytics. As discussed earlier, if you are monitoring data on your website through tools like Google Analytics or Hotjar, you can closely pinpoint areas of improvement.

If the budget permits, a data science team can be coherently used with the design team to keep track of metrics from time to time and make reports. These reports essentially provide trends and patterns of user behavior, which may be used to refine their journey.

Conduct a heuristic evaluation

There’s enough to talk about heuristic evaluations as a whole new blog. In this phase, experts come together with certain parameters or design heuristics to assess the product interface.

Keep users updated with the system status, engineering for errors, flexibility and efficiency of use, decluttered minimal design and jargon-less designs are some heuristics to follow. There are some commonly used standard checklists like the aforementioned Neilsen’s 10 usability heuristics and Shneiderman’s 8 golden UI rules.

Even though heuristic evaluation is the assessment of a product’s UI, its objective is to find usability issues and areas of UX improvement. Better usability results in better user engagement, which ultimately results in increased return on investment.

Compile a report and suggest strategies

The last phase is perhaps the most important in the UX audit process. Once all techniques have been exhausted and enough findings have been collected, a compilation of these findings to be shared with the entire team is an important step.

One thing to be noted here is to compile findings in the most effective way possible, avoiding extremely complex pieces of information. Better ways to convey insights would be through design deliverable pieces like wireframes, prototypes, annotated visual designs, etc.

Any sort of UX report should be followed with suggestions around how the findings can be put to use in the best way possible to improve the overall experience of the product. Instead of giving the report a negative connotation of things going wrong, it would be better to give it a more positive tone of improving and heading forward. Suggested strategies should also be practical and achievable by the resources at hand, divided into appropriate priorities.

Now that we’ve discussed the UX audit process in depth, it is time for you to conduct your own audit and deliver a world-class experience to your users. If you are in need of expert guidance, contact our team at Pepper Square for a UX and UI audit.

Are you looking for an experience-driven digital solution for your product or service?
Author Alka Jha
Alka is the Design Director at Pepper Square and she has defined the user experience for some of the finest global brands over the last seven years.

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