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    How to conduct a UX audit

    “Why is nobody buying our stuff?”

    two developers addressing issues
    “Why is nobody buying our stuff?” “Why are users not returning to our site?” “Why are people ignoring the new features we rolled out?” These questions have plagued countless teams throughout the life cycle of countless websites.
    While your business may offer quality products and your site may be filled with engaging content, you could be neglecting a fundamental component of good design: the user experience (UX).
    You know your website isn’t performing up to its full potential, but you don’t know why. Or worse: you’re unaware that your site isn’t doing well, in which case you certainly don’t know why.
    While there are many potential causes for a site not performing well, a likely possibility is a poor user experience. Usability is crucial to the success of your web presence. Solid UX design can alleviate user frustration, streamline paths to purchase and create an all-around positive perception of your website, eCommerce store, mobile app, or any other digital product.
    So how do you determine if there are flaws in your user experience that need to be fixed? Conduct a UX audit.

    What is a UX audit?

    A UX audit provides a detailed analysis of a digital platform’s user experience. It places the entire website under a microscope, sifting through each and every component and documenting how well those components contribute to the site’s overarching goals and usability. If the site or app is underperforming, a UX audit can help determine why via in-depth analysis. A UX audit examines the end-to-end experience from a practical perspective, and ultimately reveals which individual components are frustrating, deterring, or confusing users. The key is to identify all user pain points.
    Once those pain points are determined, a UX audit offers actionable recommendations, insights, and solutions to ensure underlying problems are addressed through user-centric fixes and improvements that ultimately help users achieve their goals.
    For instance, say a certain call to action (CTA) button isn’t getting as many clicks as you’d like. Perhaps the flaw is in the location of the button. Or maybe it’s the size? The color? The microcopy? A UX audit not only identifies the problem but lays the groundwork for providing a solution that rectifies the underlying cause.
    Audits can indicate the general usability of a platform, or give a more granular analysis by studying how well the experience engages users, targets personas, and converts. Audits provide thorough feedback and insight into points of both success and failure, and help designers offer strategized solutions based on their findings.
    For a real-life example, see how a UX audit helped the design team at Codal transform CallPotential’s suite of products .
    UX audits can also address a common concern for eCommerce sites: shopping cart abandonment . An audit can analyze the checkout process and determine the pain points that cause users to abandon their carts.

    When should you perform a UX audit?

    Auditing is as proactive as it is preventative. A UX audit is not a “one and done” process. As part of a commitment to continuous improvement and a goal of always advocating for the user, UX audits should be conducted routinely, or at least at the onset of suspected problems.

    Who performs a UX audit?

    UX audits can be performed internally, provided your business has its own in-house design team. But just like editing your own writing, having your own UX team audit its own products isn’t a great approach.
    For starters, a comprehensive UX audit can take a great deal of time to complete. It’s rarely feasible for an internal UX team to effectively manage an audit on top of their pre-existing work.
    Besides handling the workload, it’s difficult for an internal team to distance themselves from what’s being analyzed. That’s why UX audits should be performed by third parties, such as a UX design consultancy .
    Hiring a third party eliminates a great deal of subjectivity and allows for objective and rational analysis. A UX design company has no personal stake, nor are they emotionally invested in the product or service, and therefore possess little to no bias relative to what’s being surveyed and studied in the audit.

    Who benefits from a UX audit?

    Short answer: everyone! Any and all organizations with a website or web app need to invest in UX audits. UX audits provide designers with explicit information regarding the elements that are contributing and hindering a platform’s usability. The user benefits from an improved experience, which in turn benefits the business, rewarding their investment with higher conversion rates and better engagement metrics.

    How to conduct a UX audit

    Before beginning a UX audit, it’s essential to set parameters. First, determine if you will be handling your UX audit in-house or enlisting the support of a third party. As mentioned above, while your organization is likely capable of auditing itself, it’s best to bring in an outside entity to conduct a removed, impartial audit.
    Next, determine what resources your organization is willing to invest in a UX audit. If bringing in a third party, you’re thinking in terms of budget. If handling it in-house, determine how much time and effort you’re willing to devote. How many designers will be taken away from their normal day-to-day work to conduct the audit? Will the audit require any executive oversight or project management?
    Once your organization is aligned on resourcing and approach, it’s time to get started. If you’ve elected to work with an outside auditor, great! You can expect to collaborate with the third party on the following steps. But if you’ve decided to go it alone and conduct the audit internally, here is what you’ll need to do.

    1) Determine your business goals

    In order to accurately assess if your website is delivering value to both the user and your business, you need to fully understand what your company is trying to achieve. Conduct stakeholder interviews with executives, sales representatives, marketers, product managers, and others within your organization to gain insight into what the company is trying to achieve.
    You’ll likely hear things like “grow our customer base,” “increase sales,” or “enter new markets.” This is great context, but you’ll need to tie these goals to specific metrics to assess your site’s current performance and determine what the ideal state looks like. If you want to increase sales on your eCommerce site, consider your listing conversion rates or new buyer growth rate. Is content a big part of customer acquisition and retention in your organization? Think about how the content on your site is performing using metrics like pages viewed per session, bounce rate, and average time on page.
    The key here is to determine what key performance indicators (KPIs) are essential to your business meeting—or exceeding—its goals. Once you have an idea of what “good” really looks like, you can start to audit in earnest.

    2) Gather metrics

    You’ve determined what KPIs will inform your audit, now it’s time to collect those metrics. Use tools like Google Analytics to compile all relevant data that will inform your UX audit. This data could include conversion rate, traffic metrics, and more. Augment these analytics with additional data points gathered from tools like Crazy Egg or Kissmetrics , which offer heatmaps and other powerful tools.
    Here, you’ll be looking quantitatively for areas of improvement. Where do you seem to lose users in the conversion funnel? What pages or content fails to interest them? This quantitative data will form the backbone of your UX audit.

    3) Understand user perspectives

    While quantitative research is fundamental to the overall success of your UX audit, gaining perspectives from actual users is invaluable. Conduct actual user research by interviewing the end users of your site. Get their overall impressions and feedback. Understand what they like about the experience, and what frustrations they have. Pay attention to how they navigate through your site, and any obstacles or confusion points they encounter along the way. You may have gained these insights with earlier usability testing . If so, it’s still important to revisit and get additional perspectives.
    Based on insights gathered from interviews, create user flows . User flows outline the steps users must take to complete objectives on your site. User flows should incorporate any deterrents or areas where users could potentially be steered away from completing the objectives. Mapping out how users move within your site helps you see where elements can be streamlined to help users complete tasks without getting sidetracked, frustrated, or distracted.

    4) Conduct a heuristic evaluation

    Heuristics refer to web usability consultant Jakob Nielsen’s 10 general principles for interaction design. While not hard-and-fast rules for usability, the principles represent guidelines for an intelligent user experience. 
    Using the insights gathered from user interviews and user flows, navigate your site as if you’re the end user. Take extensive notes and capture any individual screens where you encounter obstacles. Consult Nielsen’s usability heuristics to ensure your evaluation remains as objective and user-focused as possible.

    5) Collect your findings

    After completing both quantitative and qualitative research, and navigating your site from the user’s perspective, it’s time to collect your findings. Compile your data, visualize user flows, and document all obstacles encountered during the heuristic evaluation. Then, condense and package this information in a singular document.
    This UX audit report represents the summation of all audit activities. It should be clear, concise, and easy to understand for executives and other stakeholders who may be unfamiliar with the UX design process.

    6) Make recommendations

    This is perhaps the most important part of the UX audit process. Based on the information gathered, you will make informed recommendations on how to improve the site’s usability. Refer back to the business goals you outlined in step one of the process.
    How are user frustrations tied to these goals? How can you improve user flows to get users to achieve what you want them to? Where are opportunities to improve the overall usability of your site based on obstacles encountered by users? You’ll need to ensure all recommendations are directly tied to clearly defined business goals.

    How to measure success

    After completing your UX audit and making recommendations, recall the KPIs you established in step one. They will serve as the gauge to measure the success of your audit and the changes made based on its findings.
    Your recommendations represent actionable solutions to usability issues encountered throughout the user experience. But there’s no guaranteeing these recommendations will translate into actual business success. That’s why continuing to monitor the performance of your site based on the established KPIs is critical. If change isn’t happening, perhaps it’s time to consider another UX audit, additional usability testing, or a UX redesign.

    Are UX audits worth it?

    Absolutely! A study found that every dollar invested in UX—including an audit— brings a $100 return .
    A great way to ensure an increase in sales is to invest in a UX audit targeting the conversion funnel of your site. Effective UX equates to satisfied users; they feel good about interacting with your platform, which directly correlates to conversion.
    Audits can assess the elements of the UX that influence bounce rates, such as visuals, navigation, and content. For example, if a site’s landing page is flawed and produces high bounce rates, a UX audit would diagnose the specific issue.
    Additionally, refined UX can increase customer retention. While content is critical to an organization’s platform, the UX is what keeps users engaged and on the site. But sometimes it’s difficult to pinpoint which part of the platform is influencing users to stay or leave. UX auditing seeks to answer this question and remedy the problem.

    Ready to give your platform a UX audit?

    UX audits are a critical measure of any website or digital product. They can answer questions like, “Why are users not purchasing products?”, “Why are users not filling out the contact form?”, or “Why are users not returning to our site?”
    If it’s time for your site to undergo a UX audit, get in touch with Codal. We can deliver a comprehensive audit of your entire digital product—the key first step in delivering a seamless, engaging digital experience.

    Written by Gibson Toombs