Things move fast in the user experience field such that regular UX audits are becoming a necessity to stay relevant in the market. A UX audit is one of the building blocks to consistently deliver a great user experience, as technology advances, user behaviour changes, and market trends move. Even a short UX audit can sometimes reveal loopholes in your products and obstacles for your users that are driving them away.
When I run my consultations, I always stress the importance of a UX audit, especially in a major product redesign. The way I see it, you can’t improve something if you don’t know why you are fixing it and what you should be fixing. A UX audit gives you these answers, so you can design better.
What is a UX Audit?
A UX audit is a systemic assessment of the experience of your users when using your product. It should be data-driven, comprehensive, and cover your product’s usability, accessibility, aesthetics, and the overall user satisfaction.
Why do you need to do a UX audit?
You need to run UX audits to keep up with shifting user expectations, uncover roadblocks and issues users are facing, and to stay competitive in the market. Typically, audits are run when you are considering a product redesign.
However, it’s better to run them regularly to reap the most benefit and ensure you’re actually improving your product. A UX audit is like a health check. It helps you identify your weak points and strengths. For those running ecommerce or digital-based businesses, running regular audits becomes essential because your digital product is the bread and butter of your business.
Who should run the UX audit?
You can either use your internal team or hire an external UX professional to run the audit. Using internal resources will most likely cost less than a consultant or agency. However, if you’re using the same people who were involved in the UX design to audit the product, then you are bound to overlook things. Hiring an external party removes biasness and gives you a fresh pair of eyes to uncover issues.
If you’re running a business without a dedicated UX team, or with only a few UX experts on board, then you would be better off hiring an external party to do the UX audit. Depending on the complexity of the product design, a UX audit should take between 1-2 weeks. That should be enough time to uncover the majority, if not all, of your UX issues and opportunities.
How to run a UX audit?
1. Obtain all relevant information
Pull up any relevant information such as your product’s metrics, user feedback, reviews, and any market data that is useful. You may have to reach out to people from marketing, IT, and customer service. Also, don’t forget to include previous product requirements and goals, so you get a clearer picture of what you should audit.
2. Determine your objectives
Now that you’ve gathered all the data, you need to go through everything to get a clear picture of the product, in terms of what the users think of it and where it sits in the market. You’ll need to set the objectives and the scope of the UX audit based on the data in hand.
Is this a regular audit or are you planning a major redesign? Knowing the objective and scope will help your audit process, and ensure the audit helps shape the path forward. It’s a good idea to involve other stakeholders such as developers, product managers, and marketers.
3. Run a heuristic evaluation
A heuristic evaluation is a test to uncover issues with a product’s user experience. The most popular set of principles is the 10 Usability Heuristics by Jakob Nielsen, consisting of 10 general rules for a product’s usability. Because a heuristic test is broader, it helps identify major problems that may have gone unnoticed.
4. Conduct a user testing
You can run a set of user tests to identify issues that aren’t so obvious, but are blockers or turn-offs for your users. To make it more comprehensive, run accessibility tests too with a diverse group of users. It doesn’t have to be extensive, but enough to give you a general idea of what’s wrong with your product and what you can do about it.
5. Examine your content and UI
Check that your content and UI is on-brand, consistent and supports a great user experience. Look for mixed messaging, inconsistent wording, ambiguous instructions, and unclear information in your text. Study the information architecture, and how information is grouped and presented to your users.
6. Find patterns in your metrics
You want to watch out for issues that keep repeating such as bounce off points and declining conversion rates. Sometimes, all it takes is a few tweaks to boost your stats. Other times, it is not a UX problem, but a change in pricing, policies and positioning.
7. Conduct a competitive analysis
How does your product compare to what’s available in the market, in terms of the user experience? Try using your competitors’ products, and study how they do things. You’ll quickly be able to see what your product is lacking for users and how other designs are attracting users. It’ll also help you come up with a point of differentiation in the market.
8. Write your recommendations
Once you’ve mapped everything out, you’re ready to write your UX audit report. List down all the issues and opportunities you’ve found. Don’t forget to include positive feedback too, because they help you build on the strengths you already have. You should include recommendations and best UX practices in the report.
9. Draft an action plan
To build an action plan, you can do a cost-benefit analysis to help prioritise the recommendations you’ve made. Most of the time, there isn’t enough budget or resources to implement all the upgrades and fixes needed.
A good action plan should list the quick wins, urgent recommendations that should be actioned, and low priority ones that could be fixed in subsequent projects when the budget and resources allow for it. You could also draft a rough plan and timeline that would help move the dial forward.
Here’s a tip. A UX audit is also subject to iterative improvements, much like the products you design. With every audit you run, you will discover better and faster ways to identify UX issues and opportunities. As the product evolves, so will your UX audit process. Keep revising your audit checklist, refine the process, be detail-oriented, and always document everything.