UX Audit–The Way to Improve Your Digital Product

While developing your digital product, I bet you've done your homework: you established user personas, went through every stage of the product design process, collected feedback, implemented improvements... So, when your results are far from your initial expectations, you might wonder what went wrong.

Yet, wondering will not bring you any meaningful business insights. To find out what elements of your services are less-than-perfect, you need to check them. And that is where UX audit steps in.

Product Design Process by Monterail

 

Table of content:

  1. What is a User Experience (UX) Audit?
  2. When Should You Conduct The UX Audit?
  3. Benefits of The UX Audit For Your Business
  4. Outcomes Of The UX Audit
  5. Types of UX Audits
  6. Conclusion 

What Is a User Experience (UX) Audit?

A UX audit refers to the process of evaluation of existing digital products. It might be a website, mobile app, eCommerce site, or anything else, as long as its goal is to push users to make a certain action. The primary goal of a UX audit is to find out whether there is something to improve to make the goal more achievable.

It’s a very useful tool to enable companies to identify problems and bottlenecks that prevent them from meeting their business goals. It can detect problem areas that make users change their minds during their customer journey, and leave the site by abandoning the cart or without no completing the contact form.

When Should You Conduct The UX Audit?

When things after launch go not exactly smoothly, despite conducting product development "by the book," it is tempting to jump into the redesign, throwing away every initial assumption we made, gathering whole development teams, and starting over from scratch. But - if the pre-works were taken seriously - redesigning is not always the answer. Sometimes, it can cause more damage, and it is important to take things slowly and see if there are some low-hanging fruits we may reach out easily.

It is typically when one of the UI / UX design services — UX audit — comes to the rescue, as sometimes one minor tweak can make a significant change. When it is precisely the one roadblock that makes your customers turn over, a UX audit will help you identify these pinpoints and give you a fresh look at your product from an entirely new perspective.

The UX audit will define the areas in your product, which - if improved - will increase your conversion rates.

UX audit, however, shouldn't be considered as just a part of a rescue plan. That would be too simple. In fact, it's worth it to run it at every aspect of the product life cycle and keep running regularly to keep up with the market trends, as we need to remember that customers' demands are never set in stone.

If you want to learn more about your users, accelerate your business growth, outpace your competition, add new features or expand your reach - before you start making a bloodbath at your storefront, check whether you can use a scalpel rather than an ax.

  • When your product struggles with usability issues
  • When you need to test your MVP
  • When you are preparing to redesign your existing product  
  • When you are about to start the development process

Typically, a UX audit is the first aid when you figure - analyzing HotJar or Google Analytics stats - that something is missing. Maybe - despite colossal traffic, your conversion rate is low, or perhaps - despite your customers loading their carts with items, they don't buy them at the end, or nobody downloads your eBooks, despite spending tons of time browsing your blog posts?

There are a variety of issues you can face at some point, and the UX audit crucial goal is to find them and cut them out.

Of course, we know that when you've got your MVP (Minimum Viable Product) done, you probably checked all the boxes in terms of usability research and even tested your assumptions. Still, we think that that UX audit at this point doesn't hurt, and - especially if you are trying to get external funds - it might help. As they say: better safe than sorry. You will have just one chance to impress the investor, and you probably don't want to blow it with forms that are too long or CTA that are too small.

"Suppose you want to enhance your product by adding new features. In that case, a UX audit will help you to set whether new functionality is actually of value to your clients, and - if so - its design is readable, and users will not struggle with using it. It can save you money and time. Instead of implementing changes and correcting the course, you gain meaningful insights before jumping into costly development processes."

agnieszka-kozlowska Agnieszka Kozłowska Product Designer
at Monterail

It is true that - typically - a UX audit comes in handy with evaluating the existing product. Still, there are no obstacles to reaching out for it before we decide to implement a new design into a product we are just about to develop. Applying the process to validate a new product can also save money and time, as it is a stage where your flexibility is still at the level to make changes relatively harmless.

Benefits of The UX Audit For Your Business

Although a UX audit is not a silver bullet that, once applied, solves every usability problem you tackle, its value cannot be overrated.

When your product is live, you have invested significantly to attract your target group and convert the users into clients. And yes, it might happen that you nailed it, and from day one, you struggle with keeping up with the rampant demand or handling overwhelming traffic, but this scenario doesn't happen often. The more common situation is that - after going live - the time of endless iterations and neverending improvement starts. And that's a good thing if we realize that none of the high-profile brands such as Zalando, Amazon, or eBay rest on their laurels regarding usability improvements.

UX audit is helpful regularly. It reveals what your users want, what they are wrestling with, and how to meet or exceed their expectations. As we already said, sometimes the slight customer journey improvement may bring astonishing business results reflected in numbers.  

On average, businesses report a $100 ROI out of $1 invested in the UX, according to Forrester (via Forbes), and even though it is a very general statement hardly proved by specific calculations, it came as no surprise that increased user satisfaction leads to a higher conversion rate.

Outcomes Of The UX Audit

What kinds of results do we expect after conducting a UX audit? Well, it depends on what issue we decide to analyze, and it will be different in the case of eCommerce websites, web or mobile apps, or - for example - news outlets.

Typically, when dealing with an eCommerce site, the main goal is to sell, so every part of the customer journey leading to "buy" CTA is crucial. Thus, an eCommerce site's UX audit requires re-creating the customer journey map, analyzing it by - for example, heatmaps, collecting data, and - based on them - establishing recommendations.

How does it look in practice? Eye-tracking heat maps show how users interact with the website. With them, it is relatively easy to check whether the website's individual elements are arranged so that users can notice them. If the UI layer is designed so that the central part attracts the most attention, placing, for example, a promotional banner on the left seems pointless; if the corners are most visually attractive, crucial messages should be placed right there.

Of course, it is always good to validate the assumption with A/B tests to make sure the implementation of the improvements is an effort worth taking but still, it is a strong hint about direction.

Within the eCommerce site, where the goal is clear, it is pretty straightforward to set what we are looking for while running a UX audit. Things get more complicated when we are dealing with - for example - a dedicated tool for remote collaboration, a project management solution, or a communication platform. Thus, it is good to start with reaching the actual users representing our target group, collecting their feedback, pinpointing their "headaches," and - based on it - planning the recovery strategy. It is no surprise that sometimes a slight change such as button size or icon position, color range, or push notifications can make a massive difference in driving conversion or boosting engagement.

Types of UX Audits

UX audit can take different shapes, depending on its goal. However, there are several common approaches:

  • heuristic evaluation
  • expert reviews

Heuristic analysis is used to identify a product's common usability issues to resolve the problems. Its goal is to consequently improve the user's satisfaction and experience and raise the chances of a digital product's success overall. Within this method, one or more experts compare a product's design to a list of predefined design principles and identify where the product is not following them.

Expert reviews (conducted by 3 people independently) deepen insights that come after performing heuristic analysis by evaluating the project due not only the compliance with heuristics, but examining it against other guidelines other usability guidelines such as cognitive psychology and human-computer interaction, and the reviewer’s expertise based on its experience.

  • customer journey analysis

The UX audit commonly includes these two types of analysis and is reliable in detecting UX errors that may negatively interfere with user experience, preventing them from taking desired actions. UX experts easily spot the issues that go against best UX practices, such as inconsistent fonts, inappropriate color usage, wrong web copy placement, etc.

Often it is enough to fix them to notice the effects on business metrics. And that is the desired scenario, but - when the UX issue is more complex, the project is more unique in terms of guidance that can be directly applied to it - the above methods should be enhanced with customer journey analysis.

It may reveal non-typical problems that the experts may have missed. When dealing with products targeted to a niche target group, usability testing seems crucial as the audience can have particular needs. Customer journey analysis allows the experts to step into their shoes and walk by the journey (or journeys) they are supposed to take. Typically, usability testing includes several scenarios that enable detecting any "miscommunications" sewed in UI.

  • Usability testing

Usability testing can be done with various methods such as lab testing, session recordings, or guerilla testing and tools (HotJar, Google Analytics) to find out how users interact with the product and experience it in their natural environment, at home, office, or between places, on mobile. The main idea of usability testing is to gather real-life insights, especially on what doesn't work with the product.

Conclusion

The UX audit should set the actionable steps to improve the project's overall performance. Of course, the guidelines will differ depending on the scope of UX analysis established at the beginning. The audit may cover crucial eCommerce elements such as navigation, searching, filtering, design of product and category pages, checkout and carts, or include the areas pointed out by the client.

What is important, the initial analysis should be conducted by different experts, and the effects of their works should be clustered by using affinity diagrams to gain meaningful, unbiased insights. Additionally, when it is required, analytical tools should be included. HotJar (or its alternative) shows how users interact with websites and display the conclusions on readable heat maps. It is always good to use it to enhance the analysis performed by experts.

The UX audit's "visible" end-game is the report with insights and the next steps suggestions.

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