First, let’s broaden our observation: what does any audit achieve? The dictionary definition says it’s either an official inspection of a company’s accounts or a systematic review or assessment of something. So, as UX researchers, it’s in our ballpark already; it’s data collection.
In our case, whether for a website, app, or any real-world or digital product, anything with the UX abbreviation before it is committed to improving user journeys and ease of operation, which, when actioned, improves satisfaction, conversion rate, and ROI.
Ultimately, a digital product UX audit outlines user pain points within specific processes. Typically, it’s within navigation or functionality, but ultimately, anywhere users struggle to complete tasks or recognise the functions they need.
You might have jumped a step ahead and now be thinking, “Isn’t that what usability testing is for?” Well, usability testing is often a part of a UX audit, as we’ll discuss later, but a UX audit is primarily carried out by an expert or a small team of UX specialists. The differences come into play when considering why and when we conduct UX audits. So, let’s get to it.
Understanding the concept of User Experience (UX)
The clue’s in the title: user experience. We understand success is based on the ease and joy experienced as users interact with our products. So, by focusing on user personas, we consider the ideal user flows, navigation, journeys, and interactions from the user’s perspective, uncovering the usability issues that hold them back or confuse them.
Importance of conducting a UX audit for websites
UX audits are a kind of digital health check. If you think you could or should be doing better than your figures suggest, a successful UX audit can help to pinpoint why that might be.
Because they’re based on applying UX best practices, UX audits help develop your business objectives and metrics, uncovering issues in the user interface that prioritize user needs. Bringing in a senior UX practitioner with years of experience will narrow down issues faster and more efficiently, spotting common errors systematically.
Difference between a UX audit and other website audits
There are several types of website audit, each designed to highlight and resolve problem areas, with UX audits being only one.
A standard website audit examines the technical and structural design, including elements such as content, responsiveness, speed, architecture, and code quality.
UX auditing is far more user-centric. It covers obvious frustration areas, such as broken links, design inconsistencies, outdated content, layout and hierarchy issues, to more complex matters, such as bottlenecks, blocks, compliance, and how to improve those essential analytics scores.
When to Conduct a Website UX Audit
A UX audit can be beneficial at any time during a product’s lifecycle, but some of the most likely times to engage with them are when you’re about to launch a new website, app, or feature, if you’ve spotted an anomaly in your analytics data, or when there’s a common complaint or abandonment area. They’re also invaluable for any organisation redesigning a website, app, or feature or introducing a new product or feature to an existing platform.
Typically, though, they’re used as a double check into performance by an independent UX consultant who isn’t too close or invested in the project.
Usability testing vs UX audits
You’ll likely conduct various usability tests throughout the many product build stages. This continual user testing is a must to trial and assess new features, changes, or additions, whereas conducting a UX audit, which will often include user testing, is better placed to get a broader, more holistic, final view of a product’s UX performance.
To continue monitoring a product after launch, UX benchmarking is perfectly placed to spot inconsistencies in product analytics, checking for gains and losses over time. To learn more about the subject, why not explore our UX benchmarking page?
Signs that indicate the need for a UX audit
If you’re concerned with conversion rate or ROI issues, Google Analytics is a great place to monitor for stagnancy, drop-offs, and user flows, spotting patterns in abandonment areas and repeating poor user behaviour.
Who Should Conduct a Website User Experience Audit?
A UX audit is an expert review, so you should employ an expert: a senior UX consultant. Bringing in UX experts from different sectors and purposes, experienced in specific interfaces and applications, can also introduce a cross-fertilisation of learning.
Preparing for a Website UX Audit
- Gather necessary data and information for the audit process
- Create user personas to understand the target audience
- Define clear goals and objectives for the audit
- Evaluate existing design systems and accessibility standards
Steps to Conducting a Website UX Audit
There isn’t a single defining method for those wishing to conduct a UX audit, as every operation, product, and stakeholder will have unique requirements and business goals.
For those conducting their first UX audit, if you have one, you may feel that your in-house UX team is best placed to perform the work. However, we would suggest that an outside expert would be far more beneficial if they’re already engaged in valuable projects.
Whichever option you choose, the following steps suggest a UX audit checklist suitable for most projects:
- Understand the organisation’s, stakeholders’ and product managers’ needs, goals, concerns, and requirements.
- Gather essential data and insights relevant to those needs and goals.
- Conversion rate/metrics (compared to industry standards)
- Sales data (from sales teams and customer service representatives)
- Analytics data (Google Analytics tools provide much of the needed data)
- Existing data in user engagement (including user surveys and previous UX reviews)
- UX standards compliance
- UX best practices
- Usability heuristics
- Define the user journeys under scrutiny (creating user personas/fictional users)
- Decide upon the relevant platforms.
- Carry out a cognitive walkthrough.
- Complete a heuristic usability evaluation.
- Complete an accessibility evaluation.
- Analyse the results.
- Compile a UX audit report detailing pain points.
- Deliver actionable recommendations and methodology.
Depending on the product or feature of the UX design, common practices include:
- Evaluating visual design elements
- Assessing navigation and site structure
- Analyzing content strategy and information architecture
- Reviewing usability and interaction design elements
- Conducting accessibility evaluations
- Performing heuristic evaluations based on established principles
We could write a page on each of these stages, but we want to draw special attention to the following:
Why You Should Conduct Stakeholder Interviews
Understanding what stakeholders expect from a UX review or audit is essential to define and identify usability issues that need exploration and correction. Their business goals will often reveal where UX improvements are necessary, allowing for detailed and actionable feedback in specific areas.
Heuristic Evaluation and Cognitive Walkthrough
A cognitive walkthrough has our UX consultant perform tasks within the user’s journey to evaluate and explore potential errors in tasks and subtasks.
A heuristic evaluation assesses the UI according to specific guidelines. Where Google Analytics offers detailed feedback through quantitative data, a heuristic usability evaluation will deliver qualitative data to fill the gaps. Here at UX24/7, we follow the original usability guidelines set out by Jakob Nielsen. To learn more about his ten usability heuristics, head over to our Expert Review page.
Analysing Findings from a Website UX Audit Report
A user experience audit delivers the valuable insights managers need to correct usability issues. It’s essential, therefore, that each UX design audit caters for:
- Identifying usability issues, pain points, and areas of improvement
- Prioritising issues based on impact and feasibility
- Presenting findings to stakeholders with clear and actionable recommendations
Implementing Recommendations from a Website UX Audit
- Collaborate with developers and designers for implementation
- Test and validate proposed solutions through usability testing
- Measure the impact of implemented changes on user experience via user interviews and UX benchmarking
Benefits of Conducting Regular Website UX Audits
- Increases user satisfaction and engagement
- Improves conversion rates and business performance
- Your digital products stay ahead of competitors with a user-centric approach
Common Challenges and Pitfalls in Website UX Audits
- Lack of stakeholder buy-in or support
- Difficulties in prioritizing recommendations for limited resources
- Ensuring continuity and consistency in design updates
Tips for Conducting an Effective Website UX Audit
Our number one tip would be to employ an expert. They have all the necessary experience and knowledge to conduct a successful UX audit and double down on problems quickly and efficiently. They know precisely what they’re looking for and how to document the results.
For those performing a UX audit in-house:
- Establish clear objectives and scope
- Record all processes and present each journey with screenshots and notes
- Include diverse perspectives in the audit process
- Look for problematic themes that could affect multiple issues
- Prioritise the issues you uncover by importance or severity
- Regularly test and iterate based on user feedback
Whether you choose to use our UX audit template as a guide or bring in an experienced senior UX consultant, the benefits provided by this type of UX research are invaluable.
Those too close to a project are often too close or familiar with the project to spot obvious issues, and without a set of expert eyes, they’re likely to miss the more complex problems and usability issues only outside testing can reveal.