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Adam Fard
by Adam Fard, Co-Founder & Lead UX Designer

UX Audit: How to improve your product by doing a review

UX Audit: How to improve your product by doing a review

UX audit, otherwise known as UX review, is an invaluable asset to a business’s success. 

It’s a procedure that’s relevant for both aspiring startups and established companies.

Imagine that you’ve put out an excellent product that has been serving its users impeccably for quite a while. But there comes a time when your growth stagnates and engagement is down. 

It’s natural for companies to make small tweaks to their apps and sites throughout the years. At some point, however, you realize that your product no longer delivers a cohesive experience. This is the right time to conduct a user experience review. 

Today, we’re going to explore what a UX audit is and how it can transform your product. Furthermore, we’re going to look into what you should expect from one — and if you even need one at all. 

Let’s dive right in. 

What is a UX audit? 

This process allows companies to identify usability issues and their solutions. Its goal is to locate areas in the user's journey that cause unnecessary friction. 

This is especially important for startups because they are generally blazing new trails. To ensure that their innovative products gather a broader acceptance, they need to be usable and intuitive. 

Essentially, such reviews are necessary to answer seemingly basic but crucial questions like:

  • Where do users experience excessive friction?
  • Where do users most often abandon their journey? 
  • What causes the frustration that makes them abandon the journey? 
  • What is the nature of that frustration? Do they dislike something or simply need more information? 

An UX review also tackles a series of smaller, more focused issues. The good part is that you can ask the team of auditors to pay special attention to specific parts of your product. As a result, it provides you with in-depth insight in minute but vital details that can help you better your product. 

Recap: A UX audit allows companies to identify their products’ major and minor usability issues. 

What is the value of a UX audit? 

Obvious benefits aside, we should treat such reviews as a mandatory step in a product’s lifecycle. Poor user experience is a costly affair. 

One of the most widespread reasons to invest in UX as a company is ROI. Many reports show staggering returns on usability expenses, and there’s a good reason for it: Nobody wants a poorly designed product. 

The cost of bad design can be staggering. You end up losing users and invest more time and money in designs and redesigns. It’s also worth mentioning that a poorly designed site or app will have low sales, CTRs, and so forth. 

Audits are an inexpensive solution to a costly problem. A study published by Forrester indicates that businesses that invest in UX enjoy a broad spectrum of benefits. They have lower customer acquisition costs, greater retention rates, and higher market shares.  

“When compared to their peers, the top 10 companies leading in customer experience outperformed the S&P index with close to triple the returns. […] [E]very dollar invested in UX brings 100 dollars in return. That’s an ROI of a whopping 9,900 percent.”

[Source]

Recap:  UX audits are a relatively inexpensive way to solve costly usability issues. 

What does an audit consist of?

To assess the quality of user experience, UX researchers analyze a wide array of areas:

  • Usefulness
  • Usability
  • Visual appeal
  • Value
  • Stimulation

Reviewing a product can involve a variety of methods and approaches. Below, we’ll take a look at a few commonly performed tests during auditing. 

1. Interviews with stakeholders

This is often the first step of an audit. Kicking things off with a meeting with execs and management can provide essential context. This way, researchers can learn about the problems that the company is dealing with and the solutions it's after. 

The Ultimate Guide to Stakeholder Interviews

Similarly, it’s always a good idea not to limit interviews to higher management. Employees have a detailed understanding of a narrow field that they’re responsible for. Their opinions and observations can greatly benefit the audit. 

These help form a detailed and all-encompassing list of goals and priorities. 

2. Heuristic evaluation

Let’s get terminology out of the way first. A “heuristic” approach is a “trial and error” way of solving problems. It isn’t the optimal or most rational approach to learning, but it’s a profoundly intuitive one. 

By executing a heuristic evaluation during a UX audit, you can learn about how a user feels when they’re using a product. This blank slate approach allows researchers to learn about the usability problems that a user may confront. 

This test, however, doesn’t entirely lack structure. One of the central responsibilities of a researcher is to establish whether a product abides by the 10 usability heuristics

3. User surveys

This is probably the most informative part of the audit. Running a survey or an interview with your target audience can reveal a host of minor issues. 

As people working with products, we’re often prone to being “too close” to them. We’re just too biased, and that often gets in the way of objectivity. A widespread belief is that interviews are too expensive, which is why many businesses refrain from it to cut costs. 

It’s important to underline that you probably won’t need a large group of people to run these tests. According to the Nielsen Norman Group, elaborate usability tests are a waste of resources. You can uncover 85% of your usability issues with just five users.  

4. Traffic analytics

Carefully studying a website’s traffic can reveal much about the product. Metrics like bounce rates can tell us how well the users’ expectations are met. On-page time (a.k.a. dwell time) reflects how much or how little users engage with your content. 

Sophisticated tools like Google Analytics can be turned into a UX barometer when used right. As a business, it's essential to continuously collect this data to understand trends. 

5. Requirement analysis

Any product is built based on a large set of requirements. They typically range from design to code and beyond. Researchers can identify possible issues by simply looking at the requirements of the current iteration of a product. 

These goals provide essential insight into why individual decisions were made. If any lead to usability issues, it’s much easier to create actionable recommendations based on them. 

6. Heatmap analysis

Heatmaps are an invaluable tool during a UX review. They are a visual representation of your users’ interaction with your interface. 

There are many types of heatmaps. Some document the number of clicks performed on an interface, and the data is color-coded. 

There are also scroll maps. As their name suggests, they record the users’ movement as they scroll down a page. 

Last but not least, there are movement heatmaps. They show where users move the cursor most. 

All of them grant an in-depth understanding of user behavior, satisfaction, and the issues they’re dealing with. 

Recap: Auditing makes use of a large variety of tools. All of them are essential for uncovering your product's usability issues.  

Let’s talk deliverables

The reviews we execute typically take from two to four weeks. Throughout this period, a team of researchers will study our client’s product and everything adjacent to it. The culmination of this research is an exhaustive report. 

In this report, our professionals develop a hypothesis that aims to answer our client’s questions. For example, why do their customers act differently from what they’re expected to? Why are sales low? Why do customers engage so little?  

These reports are typically in the 30-50-page range. We prefer to stay away from text-heavy reports. We focus on the visual side of things and communicate evidence-supported and actionable advice. 

These reports touch on a variety of areas: 

  • Product’s usability
  • User flows
  • Language, clarity, and CTAs
  • Conversion
  • Content
  • Information architecture
  • Visual design

Important disclaimer

It goes without saying that such audits are not a cure-all. User experience is a complex field with many ins and outs. Findings are always subject to interpretation, especially when they’re implemented throughout multiple departments and by many people. 

Audits can have little to no effect if they aren’t adequately followed up on or contain advice that is not actionable. Always ask for sample reports from the person or agency performing the audit. Make sure their recommendations are easy to interpret to ensure a successful implementation. 

Recap: At the end of an audit, you should receive a thorough review with clear and actionable advice.  

Why you shouldn’t do your own UX Audit

If you’re on a tight budget, you can run your own audit. But will this provide you with the most accurate insight? Probably not. 

As mentioned, UX is a vast and intricate field. You can’t become a researcher overnight or even in a month.  

Another essential reason is bias. As a person who has contributed to building this product, you have a backstory with it. Everything makes sense from a certain perspective. But you are not the user. To be one, you need to be clueless. 

Recap: Bias is the primary reason that businesses should hire third parties to conduct audits.   

Essential tools we use in audits

In this section, we’ll take you through a selection of tools that we typically use during UX reviews. 

Hotjar

This is a widely used tool in user experience audits and UX research. We like it because it combines analytics and feedback tools. Previously, you had to use a combination of services to achieve the same results. With Hotjar, specialists can do a great job without having to juggle a large number of tools. 

Hotjar offers visitor recordings, form analysis, feedback polls, and other useful features.

Google Analytics and Firebase

Both of these services are excellent for analytics. You can choose one over another based on the type of product you’re looking to audit. Google Analytics is suitable for websites, whereas Firebase is used for mobile app audits.   

UXCam

Similar to Hotjar, UXCam is designed as a combination of tools that aim to improve user experience. 

The service allows us to tap into statistics, heatmap analysis, and session recordings. UXCam also offers user analysis. This is an excellent tool to understand how users interact with our clients’ products.  

UserTesting

This service is somewhat similar to UXCam and Hotjar. One major difference among them is that UserTesting offers actual recordings of users describing their experience with the product. 

This tool allows us to reach a diverse user base, which is a valuable asset during UX research or auditing.  

Our UX audits solve important issues

Let’s get to the fun part: the results. A UX audit has the power to transform your product and boost its chances of attracting a loyal customer base. Here are a few things you should expect: 

UX reviews result in the improvement of the overall usability of your product.

  • Your site or app will be easier to navigate, and it will have a more natural and intuitive flow.
  • You’ll see more users achieving their goals, subscribing, and purchasing. 

Your conversion rates will grow significantly.

  • An audit will help you identify the reasons that your CTAs aren’t performing as well as you’d like them to.
  • You’ll receive recommendations on how to better word, place, and design your CTAs, skyrocketing sales and conversions. 

You’ll know your users much better.

  • You’ll be able to improve and refine your user personas.
  • More importantly, you’ll be able to understand why certain users don’t see the value in your product.
  • As a result, you’ll be able to better communicate with your potential clientele and convert them into paying customers. 

Recap: Audits can have a powerful effect on the quality of your product.   

Conclusion

A UX audit is an essential tool that any product team or startup should have in their arsenal. A well-executed review will help businesses fix problems efficiently, increase retention, boost sales, and create an excellent product. 

Interested in running a UX audit? We’d love to help!

Adam Fard

Adam Fard . Co-Founder

Helping startups to improve their app’s usability & realize their business goals

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