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Unlocking Insights: The Value of UX Audits

Unlocking Insights: The Value of UX Audits

By Samantha Owyang

User Experience (UX) audits – also called heuristic evaluations or usability audits – are an invaluable tool that any UX practitioner can leverage. These are primarily used to identify usability issues in a website, product, prototype, etc. that may have been overlooked or missed in the design process, or - as is often the case - have been introduced as part of ongoing iterative design, development, or functionality changes over time. 

Put simply, UX audits are in-depth assessments conducted to identify where user needs aren’t being met, find design or technical issues, and callout breakdowns in the user journey or experience. UX audits can be used to catch common usability issues, generate test ideas, and inform subsequent stages of design or product development. 

When to Conduct UX Audits

UX audits can really be used at any stage of the process. They are often conducted after design sprints, new iterations or releases, or when testing with real users is not within the budget or timeline of a project.

For consultants, UX audits are especially valuable when working with a new client to get a sense of where the client’s current website or product stands and what areas need improvement. It is also an opportunity to display your UX chops and expertise to clients who are looking for your insights and recommendations on ways to improve their conversion or product performance.

Another use case is to generate test ideas. UX audits are usually a gold mine for strong A/B testing ideas. When a usability breakdown is found, the next steps are to find solutions to that problem, thus leading into new testing and optimization opportunities. A quick, solid website UX audit can usually generate 10-15 test ideas across key pages.  

UX audits can and should be treated as one of many inputs when assessing usability. Other inputs would be analytics information, session replay, task-based user tests and other similar UX research activities.

Who Should Conduct UX Audits

Any UX practitioner familiar with usability heuristics and experience identifying usability issues should be able to develop a strong UX audit. The most likely candidates are often UX Researchers, CRO Specialists, and UX Designers. Or better yet, have all three work together. Oftentimes, getting a small UX team together for a meeting or two is a great way to ensure a broad range of usability issues are identified. You’ll also want to promote diversity among that group: if it was all design people or all product people they might not see as many opportunities as a cross-functional team.

With each member bringing in a slightly different UX perspective, the team can individually find usability issues, and then collaborate to find solutions or steps moving forward. With more eyes and hands on the project, any issue that is called out by more than one UX expert will likely be the more glaring issue that needs to be addressed.

How to Start a UX Audit

The best way to start a UX audit is to consider the following:

• Evaluate each step of the user journey and identify your key user flow or flows

• Ensure relevant usability heuristics are being followed

• Check for functionality - everything must work as intended and be bug-free

• Make sure there is clarity - ensure copy and descriptions are clear and next steps are obvious

For example, when conducting a UX audit on an e-commerce website, it is best to start at the beginning of the user journey with the homepage and navigation, then progress to subsequent product pages and checkout. Throughout the whole experience you want to make sure that it is easy to find and navigate to desired pages, call to action copy is clear and directive, and hero text supports user understanding of the website’s offering.

Challenges and Considerations

As valuable as UX audits can be, it is important to call out the limitations. UX audits will not act as replacements for UX research with real users and data-driven analytics of product performance. UX audits are best at flagging issues quickly and efficiently. Subsequent research and testing then needs to be performed to ensure the items you’re looking to solve are critical.

Additionally, UX audits can have implicit bias. Having multiple team members can help minimize this effect, but consider your UX audit findings as thought starters. As UX professionals evaluating a product, there are issues you may overlook or be blind to, especially if this is a product you have been continuously working on and developing. This is why it is always important to get actual user feedback and to observe the friction that naturally occurs.

Nevertheless, UX audits will help you iterate off quick fixes, help smooth out user journeys, and give you tons of ideas to continue working off of. What can be extremely helpful is getting an outsider’s fresh perspective on your digital experience: enter CXperts. 

We typically do a UX audit with any new customer, regardless of the size of the project. That said, we’ve also done projects with clients that are solely a UX audit. It can be a great tie breaker, idea sparker, or conversation starter. If you’re interested in a UX audit by CXperts drop us a line.