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How to complete a UX audit

Esmee Lewis
Junior Researcher

What is a UX audit?

What is a UX audit? A UX audit dives deep into your digital product, seeking out inconsistencies and usability problems. A UX audit is like having a detective for your user experience: uncovering potential friction points for users, revealing what aspects are confusing for them, and at what point they drop off. Some instances in which your organisation might want to conduct a UX audit include if your website hasn’t been updated in a few years or if key measurable statistics on your digital product are dropping off. Insights into your digital product are comprised in a comprehensive UX audit report, complete with actionable recommendations to supercharge your product’s user experience. 

The benefits of conducting a UX audit

UX audits pinpoint troublesome product features or underperforming aspects. Implementing these recommendations paves the way for growth, expecting a minimum 10% increase in website traffic and reduced drop-off rates. This leads to heightened user loyalty through a smoother experience, ultimately boosting conversion rates. User observations are a crucial element within the UX audit, offering insights into how a digital product is used. By regularly conducting these observations, the resulting recommendations prioritise user needs, guiding future design decisions and potentially driving up website conversions.

Regularly conducting UX audits is highly advantageous as it helps assess your organisation’s position within the UX maturity spectrum, fostering its advancement. Consistent evaluations of factors like UX capabilities, the presence of UX objectives, the alignment of UX understanding among leadership, and the existence of UX strategies can serve as a catalyst, inspiring your organisation to enhance its UX practices and, in turn, boost website conversions. 

User observations are a crucial step in the UX audit to understand exactly how a digital product is being used to get to the heart of user needs and pain points. Regularly conducting user observations of a digital product as part of a UX audit means that the recommendations informed by these observations have the users’ core wants and needs at the forefront of future design decisions. In turn, this is likely to increase website conversions.

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    How to conduct a UX audit

    Review your business objectives

    During the definition phase of the UX audit, the primary objective is to assess your business objectives and fully understand the aspirations of your organisation. Involving team members from various departments within the company at this stage of the UX audit process can provide a comprehensive perspective. This may include stakeholders such as marketers, salespeople, product managers, developers, and others.

    Conduct a UX maturity survey

    Early in the UX audit, a survey is conducted to assess the level of UX maturity within the organisation. This survey involves questioning team members from various departments about their perceptions of the following:

    • The organisation’s existing UX processes
    • How the organisation utilises UX methodologies
    • The extent to which the organisation perceives the importance of UX practices  

    The score from the survey is then translated into a level of ‘UX maturity’ that the organisation is currently at. We assess UX maturity levels according to the model developed by the Nielsen Norman Group because it offers a clear framework for determining the degree of an organisation’s UX-related strengths and shortcomings. The model also reveals solutions for your organisations to progress to the next UX maturity stage. The Nielsen Norman Group identifies six positions of UX maturity: 

    • Absent: UX is disregarded or non-existent
    • Limited: UX work is uncommon, carelessly conducted and of little significance
    • Emergent: Although the UX work is useful and promising, it is also inefficient
    • Structured: The organisation has a widely used scientific UX methodology that has differing degrees of efficiency
    • Integrated: UX work is extensive, successful and widespread
    • User-driven: Valuable insights and outstanding user-centred design outputs are a direct outcome of a commitment to UX at all levels

     An awareness of your UX maturity position and how to advance to the next stage helps to ensure that the user drives design-related decision-making processes in an organisation. As a result, user-related risks are minimised during the development phase, and resources are best utilised. Conversely, a poor understanding of UX maturity and resistance to any change may indicate that an organisation’s activities aren’t in line with user needs or wishes, which might lead to future expenditures. This is included in the final output of the UX audit, a report which includes insights from across activities and recommendations to improve the user experience of your product.

    Carry out a stakeholder workshop

    The workshop stage serves as the foundation for the UX audit by establishing a connection between an organisation’s business goals and its target users, their journeys, and the challenges they may encounter. A one-and-a-half-hour workshop is conducted with key stakeholders of the project to establish the following: 

    • Target users and their journeys
    • Target users’ current challenges
    • Standards such as accessibility and device support
    • Competitors 
    • KPIs and metrics 

    These areas, especially those regarding target users, are paramount in creating proto-personas, which are an output of the UX audit.  

    Conduct six user observations

    In our UX audit package, user observations are carried out to comprehensively understand how your product is being utilised, enabling us to delve into users’ core needs and pain points. Typically, six remote user observations are conducted to enhance our understanding of the critical user journeys.

    Complete a heuristic evaluation

    Our UX team will evaluate your digital product using established industry-standard usability heuristics. This assessment aims to pinpoint areas of improvement and highlight the aspects that are functioning well. A thorough evaluation of the product’s design and usability will be conducted. Additionally, access to your organisation’s Google Analytics and other monitoring tools may be required to gather data about current users.

    A heuristic evaluation involves appraising your product based on widely recognised usability criteria. Some of the commonly employed usability heuristics for this evaluation include:

    1. Visibility of system status
    2. Match between the system and the real world
    3. User control and freedom
    4. Consistency and standards
    5. Error prevention
    6. Recognition rather than recall
    7. Flexibility and efficiency of use
    8. Aesthetic and minimalist design
    9. Help users recognise, diagnose, and recover from errors
    10. Help and documentation

    Our evaluator will review the interface 2–4 times and note any usability problems before rating it against each of the ten heuristics on a scale of 1 to 5. Following this, we will conduct an analysis of the results and present them in the final UX audit report.

    Proto-persona creation

    After conducting the heuristic evaluation, proto-personas are generated utilising insights from your teams, supplemented by user observations and feedback. Proto-personas prove valuable as they establish a foundational understanding of users, enabling UX teams to offer recommendations that align with user pain points. They also serve as decision-making tools in the future, allowing validation of potential new features and guiding user-centric outputs. This phase entails a 90-minute workshop with key stakeholders to define and prioritise the target audience. Following the workshop, three proto-personas are created and visualised. Creating proto-personas is crucial, particularly after the workshop and user observation stages, as these steps heavily influence the content and substance of the proto-personas.

    Reporting and recommendations

    Finally, all the gathered findings are consolidated into a comprehensive UX audit report, encompassing valuable insights, recommendations, and an assessment of your organisation’s UX maturity. This report serves as a guide, informing the decision-making process for your organisation’s future steps. The recommendations outlined within the report offer actionable guidance on how to proceed and enhance the user experience.

     

    When should a UX audit be conducted?

    While it’s not necessary to delay a UX audit until a noticeable decline in site usage occurs, there are pivotal moments when conducting one is particularly fitting. These include situations where suspected user experience issues arise, when new functionality is introduced, and when a deeper understanding of your users is sought.

    How to prepare for a UX audit

    Define organisational goals

    It’s crucial to identify the purpose behind initiating a UX audit and the desired outcomes you aim to attain, as this initial reflection shapes the direction of the research activities. For instance, if you’ve observed a decline in the checkout process and aim to boost conversion rates by a specific percentage, this becomes your guiding objective.

    Determine who should be involved

    Before commencing any UX audit activities, it’s essential to establish your team. We recommend assembling a core team comprising three to five key stakeholders who will remain engaged throughout the process and hold decision-making authority. Additionally, involving a more extensive group for consultation and input during specific audit stages is advisable. For instance, expanding the participant pool for the stakeholder workshop to encompass representatives from various teams, technical experts, and user-facing roles can yield invaluable insights.

    Set a budget, resources and timelines

    These project management aspects are essential to ensure commitment and expectations are aligned. If there are any key milestones which must be hit or important timings in your organisation’s calendar year, these should surface before starting the project. Collect all the necessary resources, including access to the digital product, user data, analytics tools, and any existing UX research or documentation.

    Identifying users

    One of the frequently encountered timeline factors is the timing of user observations. It’s crucial to allocate time initially for deliberating the user recruitment process. User recruitment methods can vary, including on-site surveys, engagement via sales teams, social media outreach, or collaboration with a recruitment partner. In the initial phases of the UX audit process, we facilitate a stakeholder workshop where we collaborate with stakeholders to delineate target audiences. This, in turn, informs the selection of participants for research sessions.

    Tips

    Prioritise the user’s perspective 

    Ignoring the user’s perspective is a UX audit mistake you should plan to avoid. The user’s perspective is vital to understand how users currently use the product, their pain points, and identify the current strengths of the product experience. This insight is necessary for user-centric decisions to be made and means opportunities to improve the user experience are missed. Within our UX audit, we conduct user observations to gain direct insight into user behaviours and requirements. 

    Align with Business Objectives

    Integrating overarching business goals into the audit process is fundamental. This strategic alignment ensures a clear understanding of the desired user actions and interactions with your product drives the audit. By keeping your organisation’s business goals at the forefront, you avoid pitfalls like offering recommendations that aren’t in sync with the broader vision. Our approach emphasises discussing and defining these business goals during an initial stakeholder workshop, fostering a shared understanding that guides the audit towards achieving aligned objectives.

    Balance Aesthetics and Functionality

    Achieving a harmonious balance between aesthetics and functionality is a crucial aspect of a successful UX audit. While visual appeal is essential, it’s equally crucial to assess the performance of the product’s functionality. In a UX audit, the functionality’s effectiveness takes centre stage. Regardless of how visually pleasing an interface may be, its true value lies in users’ ability to complete tasks seamlessly. Overemphasising aesthetics alone can potentially overlook core UX principles such as usability, findability, discoverability, and accessibility. To strike this balance, we employ heuristic evaluations based on industry-standard principles, including those established by Nielsen Norman. Additionally, user observations provide valuable insights into functionality, alongside any relevant feedback on aesthetics, ensuring a comprehensive audit approach.

    Carry out Comprehensive User Testing

    In the realm of UX auditing, conducting thorough user testing holds paramount importance. Whether it is usability testing or user observations, user testing should be at the heart of your insights. A comprehensive approach to user testing means delving deep into the core tasks and gaining a profound understanding of user actions and pain points. Our approach underscores the significance of in-depth user testing to ensure that insights are accurate and valuable, guiding the audit in the right direction.

    Keep Abreast of Industry Best Practices and Trends

    In UX auditing, remaining current with industry best practices and trends is paramount for success. Neglecting to stay updated with best practices can result in recommendations that reflect an outdated perspective. While not dictating the assessment like best practices, trends play a pivotal role in shaping user desires and expectations. We strongly advocate collaborating with an expert UX team to comprehensively consider best practices and trends. This approach guarantees that your UX audit aligns with the latest insights, fostering user-centric solutions that are both contemporary and effective.

    Conclusion

    This article outlined the key aspects to consider when carrying out a UX audit as well as tips to ensure a successful final report. Find out more about what’s included in our UX audit as well as how we measure UX maturity and the process of our UX workshop.


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