What’s UX audit and how it benefits your business

Read this especially if you don’t have a ton of money for research.

Karina Tarhoni
Binge-watching 80s horrors

Congrats on your launch! After months of hard work, you’ve finally revealed your digital product to the world. But that didn’t stop you from thinking — is it good enough?

What if there’s a catastrophic flaw, hidden somewhere in your app, that ruins the entire user experience? Or, to be less dramatic, what if those couple inconsistencies you promised to fix later will scare off your early adopters?

No matter how daunting they sound, you wanna know about the problems you might face. Luckily, there’s a quick way to uncover them. Let’s talk about UX audit!

What’s UX audit?

A user experience audit (UX audit) is a process designed to discover usability issues and suggest their solutions. It’s conducted by a usability expert, who evaluates a website or digital product using heuristic methods, cognitive walkthrough and metrics from analysis tools.

Additionally, this assessment can uncover hidden opportunities to further improve the user experience and your business.

Think about it: if you fix your checkout process, your users will be more satisfied, boosting your sales AND decreasing the support costs.

Nielsen’s Heuristics

To make sure their opinion is not biased, auditors follow Jakob Nielsen’s Ten Usability Heuristics — a widely respected decalogue of usability principles.

You can use them to solve your design dilemmas when creating websites or digital products. For example, when you can’t decide if you should use breadcrumbs, seek advice from the Visibility of System Status, the first heuristic. In that case, it says to always inform your users where they are — no matter how far they wandered off. Pretty useful, huh?

What are the benefits of UX audit?

So, you know that a UX audit helps your business. But how does that happen?

Trusted, expert opinion

The evaluation is not only based on the auditor’s knowledge but also on the heuristics I mentioned above. This way the outcome of an audit aren’t limited to the expert’s opinion. They are compatible with the industry standards, so you get a clear benchmark of the usability of your digital product.

Actionable list of improvements

Each finding is categorized, rated and described in an easy-to-scan table. You don’t need to have a deep knowledge of UX design to understand the results. They’re also assigned to equivalent solutions that you can implement with the auditor’s help.

Remedy to low budgets

If you head out to the wild and ask designers what’s the best way to find out how to improve your digital product, most will tell you about user testing. While that sounds reasonable, in many situations there’s not enough time, budget or know-how to run them comfortably and get useful results.

A UX audit is the exact opposite. You don’t need to invest much time, because the whole process takes days, not weeks. Nor do you need a ton of money, because it’s a one-person job.

But it still gives you valuable feedback with heuristic-based recommendations that will fix your high-priority issues.

Available at any time

The usability heuristics are a set of best practices for dealing with poor user experience. And you always want to delight your users, right?

That’s why conducting a UX audit regularly, regardless of the development stage you’re at, is the go-to way of understanding what works and what doesn’t.

Can UX audit replace other methods?

No. I don’t wanna start a drama claiming that you should drop every other research method for UX audits — because it doesn’t work like that.

BUT, there are a couple cases where a UX audit can fill in some gaps.

User testing

User testing, as its name suggests, requires you to invite other people to evaluate your digital product. The information on its usability is collected based on how the participants interact with it.

While being super insightful, sadly, it’s expensive too. Plus, you have to rely on other people’s schedule, which can drag on the whole process forever.

So before you invest in user testing, ask an auditor to evaluate your digital product. They’ll analyze it from a professional point of view. That should be enough to solve some of the usability issues and open your eyes on other opportunities for improvements.

On a side note: some user flows are impossible to test with people. To make sure they meet basic usability standards, include them in your audit.

A/B tests

If your website doesn’t get enough traffic, there’s no use in running A/B tests. Loved by the data-driven designers, they require you to have a generous number of visitors to give valid results. And if you’re just starting out, you might not have that luxury.

But this doesn’t mean you can’t improve your website. A UX audit doesn’t require you to have any insights about your traffic. Hire an auditor and they will tell you how to lift up your conversion.

What do you need to perform UX audit?

Before you look out for an auditor, you should prepare a few things — or expect the invited expert to figure them out before they hit the ground running.

Introduction

Start with a brief introduction — get to know each other and describe your business. If you have any data analysis, now’s the time to share it too.

This should give your auditor a good understanding of your digital product, as well as an idea of what they should focus on when conducting the audit.

Red routes

Highlight what are the most critical tasks that give your users the most value when completed. In the context of a UX audit, these are called red routes. They will be used throughout the audit to do the walkthrough.

Target groups

If you’re in this business, you already know that understanding your customers is key. To evaluate your digital product from their perspective, the auditor has to spend some time walking in your users’ shoes. To do so, they need to learn about their goals, needs and pain points.

If you’ve outlined any personas, present them — or let your auditor talk with your users.

Auditor

Of course, can’t forget about the mystery person we’ve been imagining throughout this whole article!

The least number of people who must be involved in a UX audit is… one. An experienced evaluator can conduct an audit on their own. However, if you want to make sure nothing slips your attention, you can expand your team up to 5 people.

Couple days of your patience

The total length of a UX audit depends on the number and scale of the red routes. But from my experience, the whole process usually takes a couple days tops.

Dispel your doubts with UX audit

Nobody will analyze your website or digital product better than an expert who’s been doing it for years. A UX audit can show you a few quick fixes you can implement to improve the user experience. But in some cases, it can unveil a whole new direction that will take it up a notch. Don’t postpone this opportunity for later!

Takeaways

  • A UX audit is a low-budget method of gathering objective feedback on your website or digital product.
  • Its outcome are based on the auditor’s expertise and Jakob Nielsen’s Ten Usability Heuristics.
  • Perform a UX audit regularly to be constantly improving the user experience and your business.
  • You can conduct a UX audit to complement other research methods like user testing or A/B tests.

Hit her up for 80s slasher movie recommendations. Or if you wanna get a kick-ass UX audit.

Karina Tarhoni
Product Designer
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tonik here — a design studio focused on early stage startups, helping founders define, design and build products.

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