UX Audit – All You Need to Know, Benefits, and Checklist

UX audit

In today’s fast-paced tech industry, it’s challenging to maintain perfect design consistency, especially when you have multiple teams working on the same digital product!

Periodic UX design audits allow designers to evaluate a product to identify continuity, consistency, accessibility, and usability issues.

Reduce errors while increasing fidelity, functionality, and collaboration with UXPin’s code-based design tool. Sign up for a free trial today!

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What is a UX Audit?

A UX audit (sometimes called a UX review) is a quality assurance (QA) process that reviews an existing digital product to ensure it meets business, user experience, and accessibility requirements.

A design audit allows UX designers to identify user pain points and business value opportunities using valuable real-world data. Testing during the design process is limited in revealing how a product will perform in the real world –especially if you have thousands or millions of daily users. 

An auditor will measure, test, and analyze the following during a UX audit:

  • Broken links
  • Design system inconsistencies—fonts, colors, patterns, etc.
  • Layout and hierarchy inconsistencies
  • Outdated content
  • Customer journey bottlenecks and roadblocks
  • Usability and accessibility
  • Usability heuristics
  • Branding and messaging
  • Review product design against business and user experience goals
  • Traffic, engagement, conversion rates, retention, and sales analytics
  • Legal compliance (GDPR, CCPA, etc.)

At the end of a design audit, auditors generate a UX audit report with actionable recommendations to fix any issues or optimize the product.

When to Conduct a UX Design Audit?

Teams typically conduct a UX audit as part of the QA process whenever they release a significant product update or product redesign. Organizations may also schedule periodic UX audits to ensure a product meets business and user experience objectives.

Who Conducts a UX Audit?

Who conducts a UX audit will depend on the size of the company and available resources. Many small companies and startups will likely use in-house design teams to perform UX audits.

To get an objective, non-bias UX audit, some organizations use external auditors to evaluate their products and deliver a report. Large companies might use a UX design agency, which can be expensive but produce thorough audits with meaningful feedback and insights. Smaller businesses and startups might consider hiring a freelancer to get similar results.

How to Prepare for a UX Audit

A UX audit requires several benchmarks to evaluate a digital product. Without these benchmarks, auditors have no way to determine whether the product is meeting its KPIs, goals, and objectives.

If your company doesn’t have a UX strategy, you probably want to start by defining this before you conduct a UX audit. You can download our Free UX Process & Documentation Templates and read this article to outline your company’s UX strategy before your first design audit.

To prepare for a UX audit, you will need:

  • User personas
  • Clearly defined business goals
  • Product data and analytics
  • Previous UX audit results & changes
  • Audit constraints, deliverables, deadline, and stakeholders
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User Personas

Identifying your customers and their personas before you conduct a UX audit will help determine if your current users (from analytics data) match your target users (from previous user and market research).

Suppose the UX audit reveals a change in user demographics. In that case, UX designers might need to apply the design thinking process to determine if the product adequately caters to this new group.

Clearly Defined Business Goals

Understanding the company’s business goals is another essential factor auditors must know in preparation for a UX audit. Auditors will need to assess whether the product meets the company’s business expectations and the design’s impact, whether negative or positive.

Product Data and Analytics

Auditors must gather relevant product analytics and information like heatmaps, click tracking, and other interaction data. Companies might acquire this data through Google Analytics, Kissmetrics, Hotjar, and CrazyEgg, to name a few.

This data is crucial to understanding how users navigate a digital product and whether designers need to consider changes to match this behavior.

Analytics can also provide auditors with conversion and revenue data to measure the product’s success metrics and KPIs.

Previous UX Audit Results & Changes

Auditors can use reports from previous UX audits to check if any of the same problems still exist. If there were any design changes after the last UX audit, auditors can determine whether the changes solved the problem and impacted user experience.

Audit Constraints, Deliverables, Deadline, and Stakeholders

Lastly, auditors must understand the audit’s budget/resource constraints, deliverables, deadline, and stakeholders for reporting. This information is as important as the audit itself because it will determine how auditors conduct the review to meet constraints and expectations.

Conducting a UX Design Audit

Once you have completed your preparation, it’s time to conduct a UX design audit. Auditors will examine four key elements of a digital product, including:

  • Usability heuristics
  • User experience
  • Design system evaluation
  • Accessibility

Usability Heuristics

Jakob Nielsen’s 10 general principles for interaction design form the basis for many UX design audits. Developed in the early 90s, Nielsen’s list of ten heuristics outlines a broad “rule of thumb” rather than specific usability guidelines auditors must follow.

  1. Visibility of system status—ensure users know the current system status to understand the impact of their interactions and next steps.
  2. Match between system and the real world—designs must speak users’ language with familiar words, phrases, and concepts. Products must feel logical and intuitive so users can achieve tasks and goals effortlessly.
  3. User control and freedom—designs should give users complete control to change their minds, exit, or redo tasks and flows. For example, providing a “back” button during user flows or a way to update/delete shopping cart items.
  4. Consistency and standards—design inconsistency can increase users’ cognitive load resulting in a poor product experience. Minimize what users must learn to use your product by following industry standards and maintaining design consistency.
  5. Error prevention—designers must do everything they can to prevent or eliminate error-prone conditions. 
  6. Recognition rather than recall—users should not have to remember what buttons, actions, and elements do. User interfaces must promote recognition (explicit labels & instructions) to reduce users’ cognitive load.
  7. Flexibility and efficiency of use—a digital product should provide users with the flexibility to customize their preferred workflow. For example, allowing users to create easily retrievable “favorite” links to their most-used features.
  8. Aesthetic and minimalist design—avoid redundant content and UI elements that don’t serve users. A minimalist screen layout will help users find what they need with minimal effort.
  9. Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors—error messages should guide users with straightforward steps to solve the problem. Avoid meaningless error codes and instead provide links to product documentation or customer support.
  10. Help and documentation—product documentation must help users understand the product’s features and complete desired tasks.

Auditors might need to evaluate a mix of user testing and product analytics to audit these ten usability heuristics.

User Experience

As UX design follows a human-centered approach, auditing your product’s user experience is probably the most critical part of a design audit.

Auditors will examine analytics and interaction data to determine the design’s impact on user flows, navigation, and the overall user experience. If something stands out in analytics data, auditors may conduct or recommend usability testing to fully understand the problem.

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Design System Evaluation

A company’s design system is vital for maintaining continuity and consistency. Auditors must examine the product’s design system to ensure UI components and design patterns meet user experience goals and branding guidelines.

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Accessibility

Accessibility is a vital factor in ensuring a product is inclusive for all users. Auditors need to consider whether the color palette, fonts, and components serve users with visual impairments. They may also look at whether the product allows users to switch between light/dark modes to accommodate users with sensitive eyesight.

UXPin’s built-in accessibility features help designers follow best practices, so products pass WCAG standards before the design handoff. Sign up for a 14-day free trial to discover more of UXPin’s built-in features to help optimize your UX workflow.

UX Audit Checklist

A UX audit checklist must take auditors through the necessary preparation through to the final audit report. 

UXPin’s 23-Point UX Checklist will help you avoid common design issues before reaching your final product to improve the overall user experience. You can also use this 23-point checklist as a guideline for creating your audit checklist.

5 Tips to Perform a Successful UX Audit

  1. Record everything: take notes, screenshots, and provide links to every flagged issue. These records will ensure you don’t forget anything and provide thorough, actionable feedback to stakeholders.
  2. Stay organized: depending on the scale of the product, you’re likely to collect a lot of data, including notes, images, metrics, etc. Use a spreadsheet to organize and analyze analytics data, and use cloud storage to save corresponding assets, like screenshots.
  3. Actionable recommendations: provide stakeholders with actions they can take to fix the problems you identify. These actions must align with real insights rather than guesses or assumptions.
  4. Be exact: when reporting, tell stakeholders the specific problem, where to find it, and recommendations to fix.
  5. Prioritize findings: let stakeholders know the importance of issues you identify—for example, low, medium, and high. You would typically prioritize these based on the severity of the problem and how it impacts the user experience.

Summary

Regular design audits are vital to determine how products align with user experience and business goals. If you are conducting your first UX audit, you must have a clear UX strategy, so auditors have benchmarks, objectives, and KPIs to measure against.

Jakob Nielsen’s ten usability heuristics provide a fantastic foundation for auditors to test a product’s components and features. Auditors should use these usability heuristics to look at a product objectively and ask questions from a user’s perspective.

Improve Your UX Audit UXPin

Here are three ways to improve your UX audits with UXPin:

  1. Code-based prototypes: UXPin’s code-based design editor allows teams to create high-fidelity prototypes that look and feel like the final product. Auditors can use these prototypes for usability studies to test assumptions based on data and analytics.
  2. Comments: UXPin’s Comments feature lets auditors describe problems and assign tasks directly on user interfaces.
  3. Built-in accessibility: auditors can use UXPin’s built-in accessibility features like our contrast checker and blindness simulator to quickly evaluate the product’s accessibility.

Ready to get started with the world’s best user experience design tool? Sign up for a 14-day free trial and discover how UXPin’s code-based design tool can improve UX workflows and produce better user experiences for your customers.

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