What Is a UX Audit and Why Should You Conduct One?

Cynthia Vinney, contributor to the CareerFoundry blog

As a budding UX designer, you may have heard about UX audits—but what exactly is a UX audit and why should you conduct one?
Say you’ve just landed a big new client. The company runs a successful ecommerce business with millions of daily purchases made through their website and app. Lately, though, sales are down. Users don’t interact with as many product pages as they used to, and even when a user adds something to their shopping cart, they often don’t complete the checkout process. Your client needs you to figure out why this is happening. What is it about their website and app’s existing user experience that’s failing to retain and convert users? And what can be done about it?

To answer these questions, you as the UX designer should conduct a UX audit (also sometimes referred to as a UX review). A UX audit is an assessment of the user experience of a digital product. The goal of the assessment is to gather data that demonstrates where users are running into issues in order to come up with recommendations that will eliminate these problems. This will ultimately improve the product for both users and the business.

Let’s get into the ins and outs of a UX audit. In this article, we’ll cover the following:

  1. Reasons for conducting a UX audit
  2. The benefits and limitations of a UX audit
  3. Key elements of a UX audit
  4. What to do with the findings of a UX audit 
  5. Main takeaways

1. Why conduct a UX audit?

A UX audit is typically conducted once a product has been in use for some time. Of course, both businesses and digital trends evolve, and sometimes this can result in a product that no longer meets business goals the way it used to, even if the product worked perfectly when it was initially launched. This can lead to a host of issues, including lower sales, failure to retain users, or users who overlook key pieces of information. Often it’s difficult to know the reason for these issues, which is why a UX audit is valuable.

A UX audit will uncover the parts of the existing user experience that are and aren’t working. At the same time, it will provide your client with information that will enable them to make informed decisions about what to do to fix their products’ issues. In an article for UX Collective, interaction designer Iris Sprague says a UX audit can help answer the following questions:

  • Where are users getting stuck?
  • Where are they dropping off?
  • Why are they dropping off?
  • What do they not understand?

And these questions are just the tip of the iceberg. A UX audit can answer all sorts of usability questions. The questions you ask during an audit will depend on what the goals of the audit are.

2. The benefits and limitations of a UX audit

By now it should be clear that there are many benefits to conducting a UX audit. The great thing about an audit is that it arms your client (or your design team) with actionable recommendations that are based on data. That means the client will be able to use those recommendations to better understand their users, implement a user-centric redesign, and ultimately, more successfully meet their business goals.

Yet, it’s also important to keep in mind that a UX audit will have some limitations. While a UX audit could go on indefinitely, time and money constraints will limit how long the audit can last. The business and the UX team need to decide where to focus their energies to get the best possible insights during the audit.

The results of a UX audit may also be limited by who conducts it. In an article for Usability Geek, Cassandra Naji points out that even if a business has an internal UX department, they might benefit from bringing in an outside team to conduct the audit. The internal team may simply be too close to the product to objectively uncover user issues during an audit. If the budget doesn’t allow for this, however, the internal UX team should conduct the audit using tools such as usability best practices in order to be as unbiased as possible.

3. What does a UX audit entail?

A UX audit can include a variety of methods and materials. Some of these include:

Stakeholder interviews

At the earliest stages of the audit, interviews with stakeholders should be conducted so the UX designer can understand the stakeholders’ business goals for the product being audited and what they view as the product’s current issues. It’s worth casting a wide net with stakeholder interviews so a variety of insights can be gathered from those at the business who utilize the product, from the CEO to customer service representatives. These insights should help generate a list of goals for the audit that reflect stakeholders’ priorities.

User interviews and surveys

Some companies regularly collect user opinions about the user experience of their digital products. This is incredibly valuable information to analyze during a UX audit. If the company doesn’t collect this kind of information from their customers, user interviews should be conducted in which users provide their thoughts about different parts of the experience and the product as a whole.

Usability heuristic evaluation

There are a number of established usability heuristics that make a digital product work for users. If the product being audited doesn’t follow these heuristics, the user experience will suffer. A heuristic evaluation identifies where these kinds of usability problems exist. The evaluation should be based on a pre-established set of heuristics like the popular usability heuristics specified by Jakob Nielsen of the Nielsen Norman Group. You’ll find more information in this step-by-step guide to heuristic evaluation in UX.

User analytics

Many companies use tools like Google Analytics to evaluate the traffic to their digital products. These analytics provide valuable quantitative information about how many users are visiting a product over time and where they’re going while they’re there. The key to using analytics is to make sure the data goes back far enough that trends become obvious, otherwise the value of the information will be limited.

4. What to do with the findings of a UX audit

It’s important that the UX designer conducting the audit provides recommendations that their client can act on. Simply pointing out the user difficulties uncovered during the audit won’t help the client improve their digital products. So, after gathering and analyzing the data, your findings report should include both the insight that was gained and how that insight can be put into action to improve the product. These recommendations can be written out, but they can also be presented using tools like personas, user flows, site maps, wireframes, or prototypes. Any tool that best communicates a recommendation that arises from the UX audit will be helpful. A UX audit will often precede a website or product redesign; you can learn how to conduct a UX redesign here.

5. Key takeaways

You should now have a basic understanding of what a UX audit is and why they’re beneficial. To sum up:

  • A UX audit is an analysis of a digital product, like a website or an app, that’s conducted after the product has been in use for awhile.
  • If a digital product hasn’t been meeting business goals the way it used to, a UX audit will shed light on the reasons for this by uncovering what features of the existing product are and aren’t working for users.
  • A UX audit will help a business better understand its users and implement a redesign that will more successfully meet user and business goals. However, the UX audit will be limited by time and money.
  • A number of methods and materials can be utilized to conduct a UX audit. Some of the most valuable include: Stakeholder interviews, user interviews and/or surveys, usability heuristic evaluation, and user analytics.
  • The findings of a UX audit should always be accompanied by recommendations that will enable the client to put insights into action.

Ready to conduct a UX audit? Follow our step-by-step guide on how to conduct a UX audit. If you’re keen to learn more about some of the UX tools and techniques mentioned in this article, check out the following:

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