A UX audit is a critical step for any enterprise software development project because it can reveal areas of the user experience that need improvement.This piece will provide a comprehensive UX audit checklist that can be used to gain valuable insights into your business’s software solutions to make data-driven decisions in improving your overall user experience.
By following this checklist, you will be able to make informed design decisions, uncover valuable insights, and ultimately, improve the overall user experience. By the end of this piece, you will have a clear understanding of what to look for and what to include in your UX audit checklist.
But before we dive into the details, let’s break down what exactly a UX audit is and when to implement one.
A UX (User Experience) Audit Checklist is a comprehensive and systematic list of design evaluation criteria used to assess the quality of a software product’s user experience. UX audits help to identify areas of improvement in a user’s journey and provide recommendations for enhancing the overall user experience.
The audit checklist is used by UX designers, product managers, and other stakeholders to ensure that the software meets user needs and expectations. It covers a myriad of elements in the user experience such as usability, accessibility, visual design, and overall user satisfaction. The goal of a UX audit checklist is to optimize the user experience and drive design decisions that result in a better product.
User experience is frequently underestimated when considering the development of a product or service. It’s not enough to have a working MVP; you need to make sure that users have a positive experience with your product.
Customer satisfaction influences business success and impact, plus it builds brand loyalty, a valuable asset that is often hard to develop organically. A UX audit aims to improve user experience, and as a result may increase customer engagement, extending the amount of time a person spends on your product. Secondarily, this additional time spent may lower bounce rates and increase conversions.
Every business owner hopes for high levels of user satisfaction, because when users are satisfied with a product or service they are more likely to become repeat customers, increasing revenue per individual client. Satisfied customers may even go so far as to speak highly of your brand, creating a network of loyal customers who are less likely to switch to other competitors, bolstering your brand’s reputation.
Conversions improvement and Increased Revenue - UX may provide guidance on the best ways a company can increase revenue. Many times this is the result of an audit pointing out the ways navigation and product presentation can be improved. For example, a UX audit may point out the ways a checkout process can be streamlined, decreasing the amount of abandoned carts at the end of a purchasing process.
High churn rates may be a signal that your users are having a negative experience interacting with the product. Discovering and addressing pain points in the navigation of product interaction keeps customers happy and returning, lowering churn rates. The audit may also point out areas in which accessibility can be improved, which is a major step in higher retention. As the demographic of customers with accessibility needs cannot be tapped without first making the MVP accessible to that market segment.
Audits uncover better ways of presentation for the product, creating a more visually appealing interaction that encourages your users to explore more deeply and understand more about the product on initial appearance.
There are multiple opportunities to implement a UX audit checklist into your business operations, including:
Planning to redesign your website or product? This is the perfect opportunity to use a UX audit checklist. Redesigns introduce the potential to reconsider product elements that may not live up to their functional potential. Utilizing the process listed on a UX audit checklist can help you conduct a user experience evaluation and identify areas of improvement.
Similar to a product redesign, launching a new feature requires careful consideration of the user experience. Does this new feature match the experience of the rest of the product? Does it make improvements on the previously existing user interactions? A UX audit checklist can be used to answer these questions and help to assess the user experience and identify any potential issues that could arise with the new product feature.
User research is a major part of the UX audit process, and the checklist can be used to guide user research and identify areas for improvement. Many times user research includes surveying for quantitative data, interviewing current users, testing product interactions, developing personas for target markets, and analyzing data of product usage.
Regular UX audits can help you to continue improvements on your product or services, especially as the way people interact with objects changes. Consider this, cell phones used to be exclusively operated with the use of tactile buttons before the introduction of the touch screen.
Practically everyone would consider the movement towards the touch screen in mobile devices to be a massive improvement to user experience, but what is not frequently considered is the scale of experience auditing that took place over its period of development. In order for adoption of this new technology to be successful, the experience of using it had to be well thought out and tested thoroughly.
A lack of satisfaction with a product or service can be acknowledged either through negative feedback or a decline in metrics such as engagement, conversions, or retention. When the user trends of a product begin to decline, it may be time to implement a UX audit to ameliorate the issues faced by your current user base.
The planning phase of a UX audit sets the stage for the rest of the process, so it’s important to first determine the scope of the audit. Are you looking to make general improvements to the whole product or focus on a portion in greater detail? Is this a product with user experience history or is it brand new and needs thorough testing? All of these questions are examples of why a clearly defined scope is important.
Part of setting the scope of an audit is to establish goals as well. What are you hoping to achieve with your UX audit? Better accessibility? Higher conversion rates? Increased engagement? All of the people involved need to be in agreement with the audit’s overall goals.
In this situation, the people involved are the stakeholders, and identifying them is another part of the preparation process. Designers, developers, product managers, and business stakeholders must be selected to form the audit team, and project roles and responsibilities must be delegated as well.
Once the scope is set, it’s time to collect any pre-existing data that falls within the audit’s scope. This could include items such as user feedback, website analytics, and user personas. Collecting previous data often informs the route through which you will collect new data. Were surveys effective last time? Did interviews provide the most context for development? These are questions that can only be answered through analysis of previously collected data.
Once data has been prepared and stakeholders have been identified, it’s time to prepare the template for your audit report. This template should be directly informed by your previously established goals and objectives. This template should include sections for methodology, findings, and recommendations.
Data visualization can be a powerful tool for understanding complex data sets. If you’re looking for ways to better leverage your data, check out our UX data visualization consulting services to learn more about how it can help.
Once everything above has been completed, you are ready to begin your UX audit.
After the audit preparation phase, it’s time to begin data collection. There are many avenues through which a company can collect data on a product or service, but we can consider some of the most common.
User Feedback: User feedback is extremely valuable and can take some coaxing to receive. Feedback is usually gathered through the use of surveys, focus groups, or one-on-one interviews. While all these tactics may require some form of financial compensation be offered to interviewees, the data gained may provide direct insight into the thought processes of your user base and why certain elements may not be fully optimized for current users.
Website Analytics: Analyzing data from website analytics can help to understand how users are interacting with your website or product. Tools such as heat maps provide insight into the most immediate areas of engagement for users, as well as where they spend the most time on a website page and where areas of frustration may lie. Other useful metrics include bounce rates, site conversions, behavior flows, and exit pages.
Usability Testing: Observing users as they interact with your website or product is another helpful way to gather data for experience improvement. Session recordings may be used to go back and review areas of confusion or frustration when engaging with the product or service. Other useful testing options include A/B testing, eye tracking, or moderated/unmoderated testing.
User Personas: Developing user personas that reflect the needs and motivations of different user groups helps to provide a common understanding of the target audience to the entire design team. The practice of developing user personas also encourages empathy, as putting a face to a user helps the team with understanding motivations and frustrations, while creating a common language with the stakeholders about their user base.
Once data collection has been completed, it’s time to begin evaluating your results. It is best to first examine your data from a high-level overview to identify any noticeable patterns or trends. Do most website exits happen on a single page? Does moderated testing reveal a frustration shared with multiple users? Do heat maps reflect misdirection in design layout?
It’s important to look for both positive and negative behavior trends, as making improvements to areas of confusion is just as important as maintaining areas of user clarity. Remember, we are only looking to improve the experience of the user, not reinvent the entire product!
Once patterns and trends have been identified they can be organized into categories like areas of confusion, low engagement, exit pages, etc. Categorizing findings helps to identify common themes that come across your user’s experiences. Visualizing which areas of a product or service have larger negative impacts on UX can help prioritize your findings and guide stakeholders on which areas they need to focus on first.
All this information can be used to create a clear user journey map to reference during the implementation stage of your audit. Maps like these are useful for showing kinks in the user experience, and stakeholders can develop recommendations for each highlighted section of inefficiency.
Once your findings have been thoroughly reviewed, it’s time to announce recommendations and an action plan for implementation. Recommendations should be clear and actionable, and once recommendations have been listed, it’s critical to validate these recommendations through more user testing or prototyping. This ensures that these recommendations are accurate approaches to addressing prioritized concerns.
With recommendations in hand, next steps for developing an action plan are to assign responsibilities and establish a timeline for implementation. Prioritized recommendations should be pushed towards the front of the timeline and need to be allocated the proper amount of resources such as budget, personnel, and tools.
Now that an action plan has been developed and implemented, progress must be monitored to ensure that implementation is going as planned and that no section of action items is under-resourced or struggling to maintain the current timeline for completion. Once a milestone has been reached during implementation, it’s time to evaluate the impact of the new design element. If an element is working as expected, the timeline and next action items can be maintained. If not, then some adjustment to the implementation plan needs to be made to account for the hiccup.
User research gathers data and insights about users to inform the design choices of products, while user satisfaction analysis interprets that data and transforms it into actionable insights based on identified patterns and trends.
Many of the most common research tools have been listed previously, but include:
Understanding your target audience’s needs, preferences, and behaviors provides direction for adjustments in current designs. Pay close attention to the data received when utilizing research tools, and focus on the largest areas where your audience’s needs are not being met.
A user flow is the journey a user goes through when entering a website, product, or application. They can be entirely unique depending on the user, but generally speaking there is value to having charted pathways that are easy for a user to naturally flow into. Understanding your product’s user flow allows you to more intentionally direct visitors or customers to the desired end location.
By identifying and mapping user flows, stakeholders can examine how well the flow is meeting their user’s needs. Evaluating user flow interactions identify roadblocks and areas of friction that should be smoothed out for a better overall experience.
When marking areas of improvement, take note of what could be improved by simply applying the ideas of consistency and simplicity to a user flow. More often than not, a flow can be adjusted for higher efficiency by simply evaluating and removing unnecessary steps from the process.
All elements of a product’s design should live within the same system. By incorporating a design system into your UX process, consistency is a guarantee on your product’s interface, as you now have a set of parameters to work within.
Design systems are usually used to coalesce visual elements like typography, color scheme, and forms into one language for the product or service. Cohesion between design elements has a major impact on user experience. Cohesive design systems help establish brand identity upon first impression, setting the tone of the entire experience. This visual identity can also play on different emotions when visiting a website or product.
For example, a company looking to establish its experience as calming or peaceful would be wise to consider a color palette focused in blues, as blue is frequently associated with stability and peace. Choosing a color like red, commonly associated with aggression or passion, would be in direct contrast with the desired identity.
Not only can color and typography impact the emotional response of users, but it can have serious implications on accessibility. For example, some individuals with specific forms of color blindness have trouble distinguishing reds and greens. A website using a color combination of red and green is going to immediately ostracize users who experience this form of color blindness.
While design elements play a major part in brand perception, they should never come at the cost of accessibility or functionality.
Messaging is directly tied with design, as a user’s first visual impressions should coincide with the messaging displayed alongside the design elements. What action do you want your users to take? How will they know that? Just like a conversation with someone you’ve never met before, picking your words wisely should be front of mind.
Stakeholders involved in the UX audit process will need to unanimously agree on the messaging principles brought forth for a product or service. Principles like clarity of thought, brevity in content, or overall tone of language are all items to consider. Regardless of the decisions made for messaging principles, it’s most important that everyone involved with the audit is in alignment with what is selected.
Once principles have been defined, it’s time to assess what content is currently in alignment with said principles and where there is room for improvement. This may involve changes in copy or how content is organized. Elements like heading, subheadings, and layout can play a huge part in content evaluation, as all of these elements factor into product presentation.
Site structure can play a major role in the ease of navigation for a user, as sites without a clear linear format can be confusing. While it is completely acceptable to have certain landing pages that don’t necessarily factor into the overall narrative of your site, it’s important that there is always clear and accessible navigation to get back to the main narrative, and that once a user has returned to the main narrative that it’s simple to navigate through. This organization, called information architecture, is a major concern because it governs how well the users can find the information they need.
If a sitemap has a clear and logical structure but users are still finding themselves lost in your pages, it might be a good idea to review the “breadcrumbs” you leave on each page. Breadcrumbs in reference to site navigation are elements used to assist users in locating themselves on your site.
For example, lets say a user has navigated from the home page of a clothing store to a shirt they like. If they wanted to look at pants instead, useful breadcrumbs may take the form of a drop down navigation listing them through the pages they traveled to end up where they are currently. It may look something like this:
If breadcrumbs are lacking in the user experience, then a prospective customer is more likely to simply exit out of the page than expend the effort to figure out where they should go in order to fulfill their next objective, hurting your conversion rates.
Breadcrumbs can also take the form of well placed internal links, leading your user to additional relevant resources. And for when a user is simply too lost in a site to use all other navigation tools, a search bar can be a saving grace to maintain that potential conversion.
A successful site structure has an effective, yet simple, information architecture. It is best to keep things simple. Don’t overload the user for the sake of a maximalist approach. Simple navigation is better than overburdening a user with options.
The final element to consider in your audit are the technical and functional elements of your product or service. All elements need to perform efficiently and be accessible to the majority of your users, otherwise all the work put into other elements will be for nothing.
Technical elements include items like performance, security, and compatibility. Is your product beautifully designed but extremely slow to load? Does it require users to input personal data but server security is lacking? What about having a fantastic desktop site that looks unimpressive on mobile devices?
All of these examples would cause a significant decrease in user engagement, regardless of how fantastic a product may perform in other aspects.
Some technical elements may be outside of a designer’s scope. Elements like site speed or additional functionality need to be implemented by a development team. If during the pre planning period it becomes apparent that there may be a need for more development, then having developers join the ranks of stakeholders may be of benefit.
Your checklist will guide you through the audit process from pre-planning through implementation. By building each of the steps listed into your checklist, you can assure that each element of your audit is intentionally considered and successfully improved upon.
Once you have reached the end of your implementation. Consistent monitoring of your changes and related metrics will inform next steps for assisting users to reach your desired outcomes. The process of a UX audit, however, is never really over if your goal is continual improvement. Here are some tips for analyzing metrics of changes made based on your UX audit.
Based on your pre-established baseline, monitor and measure the outcomes of your implementations. These data sets may come in the form of site analytics, error reports, and user feedback. It’s likely that you won’t see drastic changes in a short period of time, but instead a gradual increase in your established metrics over the course of a few months. Regardless of the timeframe, keep close tabs on changes in your data and how they relate to your baseline. These changes should be communicated to your stakeholders on a regular basis.
The direction your metrics are heading will inform future enhancements. Establishing new goals or objectives may be necessary if previous ones have been reached, but regardless, user research should be continued on a semi regular basis to properly discover the general reactions of implemented changes. The items in this checklist should be reused in the order presented when considering future enhancements to the product or service. Just because the target has moved, doesn’t mean you take aim any differently.
UX audits are a critical part of the evaluation process for a company’s products, and utilizing a checklist of all considered elements is a great way to keep stakeholders from overlooking critical elements of the process. Audits inform developers and designers about what choices are best for their current users and how those choices can be built upon to create a continually improving user experience.
If after this blog the process of organizing your own UX audit still seems intimidating, DOOR3 offers UX audit services that can help you identify areas of improvement in your app’s user experience. We’ve hosted hundreds of UX audits and could certainly help guide you through the process. Contact us!
We also offer a simple to follow checklist to help you improve your app’s UX. This checklist covers important areas of UX design, including usability, accessibility, and visual design, and can help you identify areas that may need improvement. Download the checklist to get started.
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