How to Сonduct a UX Audit: 5 Essential Steps

Natalia Borysko

Do you know that feeling of disappointment when your website users walked all the way through to the checkout and...didn’t convert? What did stop them from pushing a “purchase” button? Or, probably, you used to have stable and predictable sales, and then your growth slowed down, and your engagement level decreased. How can you find out the reason for this digital decay? A thorough UX audit helps you determine your product’s weaknesses and provide recommendations on addressing the issues and improving user experience.

This article will shed light on a UX audit process - when to conduct the audit, what outcome to expect, and what steps to take.

And to start with, let’s refresh what we know about the UX audit.

UX/UI audit image
Image credit: Sherocommerce

What is a UX audit?

First and foremost, a user experience or UX audit is a process aimed to uncover usability problems by research and analysis. The ultimate goal of the UX audit is to pinpoint critical gaps in the user journey that prevents customers from executing the target actions they’re supposed to take. 

Besides spotlighting the issues, the effective user experience audit provides businesses with recommendations on building a more seamless user journey that will positively impact customer engagement and increase conversions.

The UX audit is an irreplaceable tool for both mature companies and growing startups. If you feel that your product doesn’t deliver to customers the expected experience, don’t expect the problem will magically evaporate the other day. The more time you’re doing nothing to find out the issue, the bigger your lost profit amount is.

The user experience audit gives companies the possibility to unveil even minor usability issues, which can severely impact customer satisfaction.

A website UX review helps answer crucial questions like:

  • What are the frictions users experience in their customer journey?
  • How do these frictions influence customers’ behavior?
  • Where is that point users leave a website?

The variety of methods used during the UX audit allows one to view problems from different angles and find their most likely reasons. 

How does a UX audit go?

As I’ve just mentioned, there are a bunch of different methods at UX audit’s disposal to identify the cause of your product’s underperformance. 

Here are some tools and metrics often used during the UX audit:

  • traffic and conversion metrics
  • sales and customer engagement data
  • UX conventional standards
  • business and product  
  • usability heuristics
  • mental modeling, wireframing, and prototyping

Being very close to usability testing, the UX audit has its specific direction. Whereas testing derives usability issues from user actions, the UX audit is guided by business goals, product requirements, and user experience standards.

Usability testing can be a part of an audit when there is no access to factual information and metrics. In this case, for fairness, it’s vital to combine gathered over a long time usability testing results with industry standards and business goals.

When should you conduct a UX audit?

Usually, marketing experts advise conducting the UX audit when a website or an application has been live for a while. As the primary purpose of the UI/UX audit is to find out why users don’t convert and where the weak point from the design perspective is, there should have already been some data to walk back and conduct the retrospective analysis. The data-driven analysis will help reveal gaps in a user flow and eliminate bottlenecks your users encounter on their customer journey. 

Also, it’s worth doing the design audit when you plan to implement new functionality and understand if customers face any problems while navigating through your website or app. However, a user experience audit is beneficial not only for existing products. It may be a good move to validate your design idea before the product development stage. 

If, having read these lines, you feel a UX audit is what you need, think about hiring outside consultants to conduct the audit. In case you aren’t on a tight budget, it would be much more efficient to have a fresh eye on your project. First of all, you can avoid biased opinions as it’s pretty hard for the internal teams to stay objective, evaluating the project they’re involved in. The second thing is to find gaps in user experience, you should be in a user’s shoes, walking through the customer journey for the first time, clueless about what to expect from a product at the next step. Quite a challenging task for internal stuff, right?

Whether you delegate a UX audit or decide to conduct it on your own, you should know what questions the auditing of a digital product will help you answer.

a design team brainstorming on a UX audit concept
Image credit: raw.studio

What is a UX audit outcome?

A correctly done UX audit covers a wide range of areas, including:

  • usability
  • product value
  • visual attractiveness
  • usefulness
  • action stimulation

While not being a magic wand designed to heal all UX issues, the UX audit can help to answer the vital questions. 

Here are the main ones:

  • What difficulties do users face interacting with your product?
  • Do they have complications with functionality or navigation?
  • Where is that point in customers’ journey when users abandon your website?
  • What do metrics tell you about users’ behavior?
  • What changes can you implement to make your website or app perform better?

The UX audit findings are usually gathered in a report covering both behavioral, quantitative, and qualitative data. The report may include information derived from traffic and heat map analysis, A/B and usability testing, customer journey mapping, and heuristic evaluation. We’ll talk more about the latter further in this article. 

There is no “one size fits all” report as its format depends much on the audit business goals and information complexity. 

It would be a bit of an overstatement to say your conversion will immediately go up once a UX audit reveals the issues. However, based on the website or app usability audit’s findings and recommendations, you can build a follow-up plan and implement changes that will eventually lead to ROI increase. 

Let’s see what may turn around after the UX audit. 

  1. Your website or app will have clear and easy-to-follow from users’ point of view flow
  2. You will use wordings, images, and CTAs that resonate with customers’ needs
  3. More users will take expected actions (leave contact data, subscribe, or purchase)
  4. You will better understand your users, enhance customer personas, and tailor your marketing communications accordingly

A smooth customer journey and improved functionality entail customer satisfaction level growth. And from the business perspective, satisfied customers mean higher sales.

This graph shows the benefits of the improved user experience.

an image showing benefits of UX design: increased satisfaction rate, reduced development costs, increased conversion rate
Image credit: Uxstudioteam

And now, let’s clarify what essential steps of the UX audit you should follow to make the most out of it.

Step 1: Identify your goals, resources, and budget

Like any other project, a UX audit must have clear goals written to determine what we want to achieve and what we need to get things done. Doing the audit just for putting a tick in a checkbox is a bad idea as it won’t make you any closer to your true business objectives.

Before getting started with the audit itself, make sure you have defined:

  1. What are the UX audit ultimate goals?

Usually, conversion increase is considered as the principal goal. However, you can target other metrics, which correspond to your business specifics.

  1. Who will be involved in the audit?

It’s necessary to make sure that all participants involved in the UX audit have a strong understanding of what you expect customers to experience using your product. Ask every UX audit team member to walk the path a user typically goes through and track every point that can potentially hinder a seamless customer journey. 

  1. What are the budget and the timeline set for the audit?

Parkinson’s law says: “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” Whether your internal team is doing the audit or you decided to outsource this task, establish a project timeline and break it into milestones. Being an analytical process, however, the audit shouldn’t stretch endlessly. 

Also, be aware of the budget you’re ready to spend. In the ballpark, a freelancer can make a quick one-two day audit for $1500 with a short design checklist as a result. If you want a profound analysis, it could cost around $7000 and more depending on the project scope, complexity, and timeframes. 

Step 2: Gather all data or “50 shades of analysis”

This step is probably the most difficult one. If you took Step One seriously, you already know the audit goals and imagine what information you need to achieve them. The next step is to find out how and where to retrieve the necessary data. Below I’m going to name the major sources of information you can refer to during the UX audit. 

Business analysis: stakeholders interviews and product requirements

Whereas UX research aims to better understand the potential users of a product or service (by the way, we have UX research dedicated article on our blog), the UX audit should primarily focus on understanding the audited product’s business goals. It’s hard to imagine a more reliable source of such information than stakeholders and business owners. A quick survey with general questions asking about the product purpose, the problems, and how management wants them to be fixed can be a good starting point of business analysis. 

For deeper insights, one-on-one interviews with stakeholders and product managers, developers, marketers, sales, and customer service people would work better.

It’s also helpful to dig into product requirements and analyze if any of them could lead to usability issues. Understanding why a particular design decision was made will help elaborate on actionable recommendations of user experience improvements.

User analysis: user personas and user flow

Who can tell you better about user experience than if not users themselves? Doing the UX audit, you should gather as much information about customers who use the audited product as possible. Usually, businesses create so-called user or buyer personas, a generalized image of target customers’ groups that you can utilize for getting to know the digital product’s audience. We have a dedicated article about SaaS buyer personas, so I encourage you to take a look to learn more about this marketing concept. 

Besides user personas, you may also extract valuable information about customers from stakeholder interviews if C-levels have good knowledge of their customers.

The best though the most time-consuming way is to conduct interviews directly with end-users putting from five to ten questions about their experience with the product.

Based on the insights you receive from user interviews, you can imagine a flow each user follows to meet their objectives, all the possible difficulties they may face, and wrong paths they may be heading. 

Quantitative analysis: traffic analytics and heatmap analysis

Analytical tools are irreplaceable assistants in useful information gathering. Traffic analytics and heatmap analysis would be the most insightful data sources for the UX audit. For sure, you are familiar with Google Analytics that provides “diagnostic” metrics like bounce rate and on-page (or dwell) time, showing how much time users spend on your website. I called them diagnostics as these metrics can objectively tell us whether users engage with your content or abandon the site soon after they get there, puzzled and frustrated. 

Heatmap analysis is a crucial tool to use during the UX audit. Heatmaps represent the way users interact with your website interface. Some heatmaps track clicks and scrolls; some of them document cursor movements. 

a heatmap image showing click, move, and scroll maps

Regardless of heatmaps mechanics, their main goal is to better understand users’ on-site behavior and unveil potential flaws in a customer journey.

We’ll talk more in detail about the UX audit tools in a separate article.

Qualitative analysis: heuristic evaluation aka common sense

When creating a design for digital products, UX designers follow usability heuristics to make websites or apps user-friendly. Jacob Nielsen, a co-founder of Nielsen Norman Group, a world leader in research-based user experience, worked out ten general principles for interaction design. 

10 heuristics usability principles: visibility of system status, match between system and the real world, user. control and freedom, error preention, recognition rather than recall, flexibility and efficiency of use, aesthetic and minimal design, help user recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors, help and documentation
Image credit: Foxongreen

These principles aren’t some specific guidelines but more rules of thumb based on common sense. Generally speaking, Nielsen’s heuristics is nothing more than a cognitive walkthrough of a product as if you were a user. To make the heuristic evaluation, you should just document every obstacle you encounter when following a customer journey trying to see the product from the user’s point of view.

Even though heuristic evaluation sounds very simple, it is quite tough to perform it doing the audit internally as it’s pretty difficult to stay unbiased and act as a clueless user that came to your website for the first time. Due to this reason, it’s recommended that you involve several people to participate in the audit to form an objective opinion.

Step 3: Organize your findings

At the moment, humanity didn’t invent something more convenient to aggregate findings for further analysis than old good Google spreadsheets. Don’t forget to upload the spreadsheets to the cloud to make them accessible to all the participants for collaboration.

To give you a helping hand I'd like to share some templates you might find useful: 250 best practices for usability and a template for usability goals.

Step 4: Elaborate on actionable advice

Once the analysis is complete, the audit results should be compiled into a comprehensive report providing insights and recommendations on user experience improvement. The report may be up to 50 pages long and contain a quantitative data analysis, screenshots, customer interview recordings, and similar helpful information received during the UX audit.

When doing the UX audit for clients, Eleken designers create a screen-by-screen comparison of the existing design issues and advice on enhancing them. Below are the screenshots from the UI/UX audit we accomplished for TextMagic, who became our long-term client afterward.

a screenshot from Textmagic case study showing the UX audit report Eleken design agency presented to Textmagic
a UX audit's piece of example - recommendations to change design for notifications window
Example of TextMagic UX audit


Step 5: Implement recommendations

Needless to say that whatever valuable insights a UX audit brings to light, they won’t have any sense unless the recommendations are properly followed up. As user experience is built by joint work and effective collaboration of different departments, it’s crucial to make sure that all people engaged know what to do to create a smooth and hassle-free customer journey.

You should also take care of the correct UX audit results interpretation to make them clear to all the teams, from product managers to sales and support.

A final word

Being a time-consuming and relatively expensive process, yet the UX audit can drastically change your product’s performance by identifying the weak points in user experience that prevent customers from taking the expected actions. Powerful insights and thorough recommendations’ implementation may literally take your business to the next level. If you ever need help with auditing the UI/UX of your SaaS, just drop us a line. Also, take a look at our another article talking about how to create a successful product from the design perspective.

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