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How to conduct a successful UX audit

Last updated

3 April 2024


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User experience (UX) audits are a crucial aspect of any UX improvement project, mainly because you can’t solve a problem you’re unaware of.

Since customer experience is now the primary factor that sets competitors apart in all industries, a company’s UX can genuinely make or break its success during the design process.

Use this comprehensive guide to better understand what a UX audit is and how it can help you and your company.

What is a UX audit?

A UX audit, also known as a UX review, is a quality assurance process that determines how easily users can interact with a digital product, such as a website or app.

This audit can help reveal which parts of the site or app cause users problems. It can also measure user satisfaction across accessibility, usability, information architecture, performance, and interface design.

What can a UX audit tell you?

Performing a comprehensive UX audit can help you evaluate your content’s accessibility on different devices. It can enable you to detect design flaws that may hinder user engagement and provide insights on how to improve conversions by making it easier for users to fulfill their objectives on a website or app.

A UX audit can also measure, analyze, and test the following:

  • Layout and hierarchy inconsistencies

  • Outdated content

  • Broken links

  • Design system inconsistencies, including things like fonts, colors, or patterns

  • Usability and accessibility heuristics

  • Customer journey bottlenecks and other roadblocks

  • Product design relating to business and user experience goals

  • Branding and messaging

  • Traffic

  • Engagement

  • Conversion rates

  • Retention and sales analytics

  • Legal compliance

Once the audit is complete, a UX audit report with actionable recommendations will be generated. It will indicate issues that need fixing so they don’t impact business goals and revenue. The audit can also identify areas for improvement or redesign.

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UX audit limitations

A UX audit can be an ongoing process since there’s always a vast amount of user data to analyze, support tickets to review, and product information to go through.

However, to provide valuable insights, you should establish certain limitations and boundaries around the research process. These limitations will allow the UX audit team to move forward and start recommending fixes for specific problems and issues. For example, these limitations may include time limits or specifying the number of items you want to review in a specific category.

Who should do a UX audit?

Who conducts a UX audit will usually depend on your company’s size, available resources, and other factors. However, companies must ensure that those involved in the UX audit process understand their customers’ experiences. Researchers, designers, developers, marketers, sales teams, and other decision-makers are typically involved for this reason.

When should you conduct a UX audit?

UX audits are usually performed in the following circumstances:

  • Retention challenges: when the company’s customer retention is declining, it may be related to UX. A UX audit would be a good way to identify any related problems.

  • Drops in onboarding metrics: when the company’s onboarding metrics are poor (for example, below 15%), it may be due to a UX issue. A UX audit may be needed to explore these issues further.

  • Rebuilding or migration consideration: when the company considers rebuilding or migrating an application, it should start with a UX audit of the current app to provide a solid starting point for the new prototype.

  • Addressing FAQs: a UX problem may cause multiple customers to ask the same questions. A UX audit can help you figure out why this is the case and what issues are involved.

  • App maintenance and systematization: a UX audit allows companies to better systematize the app maintenance process and come up with proper recommendations.

How to prepare for a UX audit

Before starting a UX audit, consider taking the following steps to help with your assessment and allow you to get the information you need:

  • Consider the limitations: a UX audit won’t provide all the answers you need about consumers and why they don’t use a product, but it can tell you whether consumers are actually leaving and whether you’ll need to conduct further research to find out why.

  • Figure out who will be involved: decide who will be responsible for conducting the UX audit. Do you need to hire an external team, or can it be done internally?

  • Pick the right tools: before starting the audit, review what tools you have at your disposal to ensure it’s done correctly. Consider web page analytics tools, like Hotjar or Google Analytics, or tools for unmoderated tests, such as Maze.

  • Look into previous studies: gather as much information as possible before starting the audit. This can help you clearly define your goals and the UX strategy you will use, which can ultimately save you time.

What are the types of UX audits?

There are various types of UX audits, each with pros and cons. However, the main types of UX audits generally include the following:

Usability testing UX audits

Usability testing is a crucial component of UX audits. It involves analyzing and observing how members of the target audience interact with a specific product or service. Companies schedule sessions—either during an on-site meeting or a virtual conference call—to observe representative users engaging with different features.

Through these tests, you can gather valuable feedback and identify pain points, which could include unclear instructions, functional errors, and complex navigations. This data uncovers concrete usability issues, enabling product teams to make informed improvements.

During usability tests, participants are typically asked to perform specific tasks while a UX researcher closely observes their behaviors and feedback. The aim is to pinpoint navigation difficulties, confusing interfaces, or functionality problems.

These tests can be one of the following:

  • Moderated, facilitating direct interaction between researchers and participants for real-time insights

  • Unmoderated, offering flexibility and scalability but potentially limiting the depth of understanding without direct involvement

Regardless of the format, usability testing provides invaluable insights into user satisfaction and task performance, guiding iterative design enhancements for optimal usability and user experience.

User interview UX audits

A user interview UX audit focuses on gathering qualitative data through conversations with consumers who have used a specific product or service.

During interviews, researchers ask open-ended questions to delve into the user’s motivations, experiences, preferences, and pain points. The goal is to gain a deeper understanding of the user’s perspectives, attitudes, and behaviors relating to the product or service.

User interviews provide rich, qualitative insights that can uncover nuances and underlying reasons for user actions and preferences that you might not be able to easily observe through other audit methods.

Session recording UX audits

Session recording UX audits involve capturing and reviewing a consumer’s interactions with a product. These might include, for example, scrolling and clicks.

This type of UX audit enables product teams to gain insight into consumer patterns and determine their frustrations with the current UX and what can be done about it.

Analytics research UX audits

Analytical research UX audits involve thoroughly analyzing quantitative data gathered from different sources, including user behavior-tracking tools, website analytics, and product analytics.

The goal of this audit is to identify trends by examining top-used features, user flow completion rates, and churn, as this can help uncover areas for improvement.

Heuristic evaluation UX audits

Heuristic evaluation can be an ideal approach in the following cases:

  • Budget constraints

  • Lack of access to users

  • Needing to address the most obvious usability issues before conducting other types of research, such as user interviews or usability tests

Heuristic evaluation involves reviewing and assessing a specific service or product against predefined usability principles or guidelines, such as Jakob Nielsen’s usability heuristics. Based on recognized best practices, UX evaluators can review the interface and identify potential usability issues.

Companies often use this type of audit to determine areas that may need further improvement, specifically in visual design, accessibility, information architecture, and interaction design. Users can also prioritize heuristics that have been violated based on their severity.

Competitor research UX audits

Competitor research UX audits compare a product or service with its competitors.

By examining these differences, product teams can gain input into industry trends, learn more about unique features or experiences, and evaluate their own service’s or product’s strengths and weaknesses. As a result, this type of audit can help companies improve their overall user experience and differentiate themselves from others in the industry.

New target user testing UX audits

A new target user testing UX audit involves testing a product with a specific target user group that differs from an existing user base. By observing and gathering feedback from this new user segment, product teams can determine potential barriers and areas for improvement.

Steps for conducting a successful UX audit

Your method for completing a UX audit will usually depend on the specific situation and the work involved. However, following a recommended approach helps you ensure that you’re including critical core components.

Here are the typical steps you should follow to conduct a successful UX audit:

Step 1: Understand business objectives

The first step of conducting a successful UX audit is understanding the business’s overall goals for the product or service being audited. This will help guide you to better understand what this audit aims to do and what changes your company wants to see as a result.

Step 2: Define the number of user journeys and platforms

This step can help you define your audit’s scope. However, this will depend on the resources and time available to complete the audit.

For example, if you have digital products involving more than one type of consumer or multiple journeys with differing routes, prioritizing the highest-value user type may be the best choice.

You should also look across all platforms, desktop or mobile, since users will likely use both. If you need to prioritize a specific platform, start with the one that receives the most traffic.

Step 3: Choose a suitable UX audit approach

Consider factors such as available resources, budget constraints, access to users, and specific goals to choose a suitable UX audit approach.

You might choose heuristic evaluation, for example, to identify obvious usability issues on a budget. Or, if you have more resources, you might opt for usability testing to gain valuable insights from user perspectives.

User interviews offer qualitative insights into user needs and preferences, but you might opt for the analytics analysis approach to uncover patterns in user behavior. Alternatively, you might choose accessibility evaluation, which ensures compliance with accessibility standards, catering to diverse user needs.

Ultimately, selecting the right approach depends on balancing these factors and aligning with the objectives of the audit.

Step 4: Analyze the data

If you track your products’ performance, reviewing the data available can help you understand how consumers interact with and navigate products. With this information, you can adjust your goals and put measures in place to achieve them.

For companies with a bigger budget, obtaining specific tools such as Kissmetrics, Hotjar, or CrazyEgg can show more advanced analytics and help support any Google Analytics data. This data can enable you to further understand trends and establish new ones.

Step 5: Compile findings and recommend improvements

After evaluating your product and the feedback involved, the next step is summarizing the findings and providing recommendations for future improvements.

Bear in mind that this report should be able to stand alone, providing enough detail to be understood by anyone who reads it. Although a verbal presentation can add context, it shouldn’t be necessary.

When you present the UX audit’s findings and recommendations, be honest without being overly critical. Focus on the positives and provide recommendations for change and improvement.

What UX audit tools do you need?

You can select from several UX testing tools to use during a UX audit, but here are some of the more common tracking and analytics tools used for testing:

  • Google Analytics: this tool can efficiently serve as a UX analytics tool, often providing valuable insights about website visitors to improve user experience.

  • Mixpanel: this UX audit tool focuses on users’ actions on a web page. For instance, this tool can reveal how many consumers pushed the contact button from a specific page—knowledge that UX designers can use to make changes that will improve conversion.

  • Kissmetrics: this UX audit tool offers extensive customer behavior reports as well as analytics that help UX designers better understand customers and how to improve user experience.

  • Hotjar: this tool lets you observe users’ behavior to better understand their website activity and what information attracts them most. This tool creates interactive heat maps of where users click, move, and scroll, which gives companies a better idea of how consumers interact with their websites.

  • CrazyEgg: CrazyEgg is a UX testing tool that offers five reports analyzing consumer behavior from different perspectives. Use this tool to obtain a comprehensive picture of users’ interactions and gain information to help enhance the customer journey.

  • UXCam: this tool has excellent app analytics capabilities, including session recordings, heat maps, crash logs, and integration with Firebase, a Google platform for creating mobile and web applications.

  • UserTesting: although UserTesting isn’t a conventional review site, the platform allows businesses to get prompt customer feedback on mobile apps, websites, and prototype user experiences. UserTesting lets you receive video and audio messages from your target audience once they test a product and accomplish their assigned tasks. It can also schedule live conversations and ask questions that can help product teams identify necessary changes.

Top tips for conducting a UX audit

The more audits you do, the better you will get at tailoring the content and discovering usability issues. However, if this is your first time completing a UX audit, bear the following tips in mind when getting started:

  • Map out the entire journey with screenshots.

  • Try to identify common themes and solutions that can address multiple issues simultaneously.

  • Try to pull out numbers for usability errors, such as total errors or heuristics violated.

  • Use one tool to establish a single source of truth.

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