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UX audit best practices for mobile app design

Sarah Edwards
User Experience Consultant

UX audits are a powerful tool that supports optimising the user experience of an app’s design. A mobile UX audit will ensure you are benchmarking your users’ experience and identifying areas of improvement and optimisation. UX Audit best practices include heuristic evaluations and, most importantly, testing and evaluation with real users. 

 

Identification of goals and objectives

It’s important that, as part of the initial stages of the project, goals and objectives are defined. This should extend to the objectives of the organisation as a whole and the specific product objectives. Key performance indicators (KPI’s) can also be put in place at this stage to measure performance now and in the future. Typically Make it Clear would measure the UX maturity of an organisation or product team and the scoring of the heuristic evaluation and use these as KPIs.

A heuristic evaluation is a method for finding issues in a user interface by judging it relative to proven principles created by Nielsen Norman Group (usability heuristics). The evaluation is typically conducted by one or multiple UX experts who review the interface against a set of pre-agreed criteria.

 

Reviewing the overall experience

A review of the mobile apps experience should then be conducted, and there are a number of angles that this analysis can take. The heuristic criteria that we use at Make it Clear are outlined below:

  • Visibility of system status: The design should always inform users about what is going on through appropriate feedback within a reasonable amount of time. 
  • Match between the system and the real world: Use words, phrases, and concepts familiar to the user rather than internal jargon and follow real-world conventions, making information appear in a natural and logical order.
  • User control and freedom: Users may perform an action by mistake and need a clearly marked “emergency exit” to leave the unwanted action without going through an extended process.
  • Consistency and standards: Users should not have to wonder whether different words, situations, or actions mean the same thing. Follow platform and industry conventions.
  • Error prevention: Good error messages are important, but the best designs carefully prevent problems from occurring in the first place.
  • Recognition rather than recall: Minimise the user’s memory load by making elements, actions, and options visible. The user should not have to remember information from one part of the interface to another.
  • Flexibility and efficiency of use: Shortcuts — hidden from novice users — may speed up the interaction for the expert user such that the design can cater to both inexperienced and experienced users. Allow users to tailor frequent actions.
  • Aesthetic and minimalist design: Interfaces should not contain information which is irrelevant or rarely needed. Every extra unit of information in an interface competes with the relevant information units and diminishes their relative visibility.
  • Help users recognise, diagnose and recover from errors: Error messages should be expressed in plain language (no error codes), precisely indicate the problem, and constructively suggest a solution.
  • Help and documentation: It’s best if the system doesn’t need any additional explanation, but it may be necessary to provide documentation to help users understand how to complete their tasks.

 

Additional evaluation metrics

You may also want to gather data on mobile app usage and engagement. This could include analysing the app’s store ranking and visibility and if there is a customer service function in place, it’s a good idea to gather input on failure points.

 

User definition

With mobile app development and all digital product development, it’s crucial to have a strong idea of the target user. This information can be used to assess the current UX effectiveness and design for future functionality and will support your UX audit. If no current user personas exist, a fast, effective way of creating a profile of a typical user is the creation of a proto-persona. These are user personas created using information gathered from internal teams. 

Information for these proto-personas can be gathered in a workshop with stakeholders. The key information that you should be looking to gather is around demographic, typical tasks, challenges and pain points, goals and motivations. It may also be relevant to map out a short user journey of how the user will engage with the mobile app. We recommend that between 3-5 proto-personas are created. Any more can make it challenging to make decisions going forward.

 

User observations

As previously mentioned, a UX audit is a powerful tool that supports optimising the user experience of the design, meaning the evaluation of an app with your actual user base is critical. We recommend that the UX audit include some user testing. This typically takes the form of a set of tasks that the user performs and is then evaluated on their ease of use. 

When incorporating mobile applications into your UX audit, you may want to consider doing your testing in a lab environment. Usability testing labs have specialised setups that will record the user’s reaction and the user’s screen at the same time.

 

Summarise findings and provide recommendations

After gathering the data through the stages above, research should be pulled together and used to define the next steps and recommendations. It’s important that these recommendations are in line with the objectives of the audit. We advise that recommendations are grouped into phases that could span over a number of years. To provide value, any actions that have been identified as a quick win should be surfaced at the start.

It may also be appropriate to run a prioritisation exercise, and each recommendation can be assessed by impact and difficulty of implementation. 

 

Conclusion

We hope this article has been informative and demonstrates the importance of conducting a UX audit for mobile app design. To stay competitive, organisations need to constantly evaluate, improve and refine the approach, ensuring that the user is at the centre. It’s vital to regularly conduct UX audits to keep mobile apps updated and optimised for conversions.

 

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