UX audit – What is it? Why is it worth conducting a website usability audit?

Let us assume that you run the Internet store or a campaign for an online store. You notice that users find your eCommerce via the search engine and visit the homepage or are referred to a specific product from ads. They browse available items, and even commence the payment process, but do not finalize a transaction, and you are not sure why. Perhaps the time has come to introduce changes? However, how can you know what changes to make and how to check what poses the problem, due to which users do not meet their goal set on a website? The answer lies in conduction of a UX audit.

What is a UX audit?

UX audit, otherwise referred to as a usability audit is nothing else than a user experience expert’s opinion on your website. It allows to discover why users cease to pursue specified goals on a website, what can be done better for a website to generate higher income, and first and foremost for users to make their use of a website easier. Even a preliminary website analysis may lead to the detection of critical problems on your website, which will translate into a significant improvement in terms of usability and its effectiveness.


When should you decide on a usability audit?

As soon as you observe one of the problems below:

  • a low conversion rate,
  • too low sales,
  • poor-quality leads,
  • users do not complete their purchase (abandon shopping carts),
  • your adverts convert poorly,
  • or you spot other problems.

Types of UX audits

Several methods of conducting usability audits may be distinguished. Among the most popular are the following:

  • Heuristic evaluation, using e.g. 10 Nielsen’s heuristics
  • Cognitive Walkthrough,
  • Audit checklist.

Heuristic evaluation

Heuristic evaluation, in short, is checking a website for compliance with heuristics, that is basic principles, which ought to govern every website for it to be called user friendly. It is a simple method and the least demanding, and inspection of a website often begins with it.


The most popular heuristics employed in this method is 10 Nielsen’s heuristics:
1. Visibility of system status – Your website should inform users of what is happening now, where they are. By way of example, the addition of breadcrumbs will indicate users a place in which they are exactly.
2. Match between system and the real world – elements on your website should be clear and evident to users. Use language and symbols your users will easily understand.
3. User control and freedom – users often perform a specific action accidentally, and thus they should be provided with a fair possibility of redoing or undoing it.
4. Consistency and standards – users should not wonder whether various words, events or actions stand for the same operation. By way of example, different contents on buttons leading to the same actions may mislead a user.
5. Error prevention – it is important not to inform users of errors only, but above all prevent them from occurring in the first place. By way of example, when we ask users to create a password and require a capital letter, special character and number – we should notify of it before a user enters a password – thus we will avoid entering a password by a user, confirming it and then receiving a message of a wrongly entered password, which – let us not hide the fact – is quite annoying ;).
6. Recognition rather than recall – reduce the load on user memory and recall by creating visible elements, options and actions.
7. Flexibility and efficiency of use – users often like searching for shortcuts, which will allow them to pursue a specific goal quicker. Therefore, it is relevant to enable them flexible ways of performing a given action.
8. Aesthetic and minimalist design – website interface should not contain useless information. Every additional and unnecessary piece of information will compete with the one being helpful.
9. Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover errors – error message should be presented in a very simple and understandable way, pointing to a problem and suggesting its solution.
10. Help and documentation – in the best-case scenario users do not need any extra explanations and guidelines, however, they are sometimes required. Thus, ensure that users should receive all information necessary for fulfilling a given goal or task.

For more information on Nielsen’s heuristics, visit: https://www.nngroup.com/articles/ten-usability-heuristics/

Cognitive Walkthrough

Cognitive Walkthrough is another method of UX audits. It consists in evaluating whether a new user will be able to easily perform tasks on a website to meet one’s own goal. The majority of people prefer learning how to use a particular product or webpage autonomously to reading the instruction manual and following it step by step.

(This method may be applied already at the product design stage.)

The first step in conducting a UX audit, using cognitive walkthrough is to set a goal for a user to meet, e.g. making a purchase in our Internet store. Then, defined steps and tasks necessary for a user to complete and reach our goal should be listed.
Next, we answer the following questions for each step:
1. Will a user strive to achieve favourable results?
2. Will a user spot an available action relevant to him/her?
3. Will a user associate a proper performance with an anticipated outcome?
4.Given the right action is performed – will a user see progress towards intended results.

This type of audit may be conducted both by an expert or with the help of any outside person, who by executing orders given by auditor, shall be answering the questions asked (a few cognitive walkthrough methods exist).

More detailed information on cognitive walkthrough is available at: https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/how-to-conduct-a-cognitive-walkthrough

Audit checklist

Usability audit may also be conducted by means of an audit checklist. It is a method similar to heuristic evaluation, but instead of 10 heuristics, we have an elaborated audit checklist compiled e.g. by an auditor.
An example of an audit checklist used by us is the checklist prepared by the Baymard Institute. Baymard Institute carries out large-scale e-commerce research into the user experience. On this basis, it prepares guidelines and best practices for online stores. Acting as experts certified by Baymard Institute, we analyze a website taking into account all elements having an impact on user experience pointed out by Baymard Institute (it may even amount to 600 elements!)

The final effect of a UX audit

Depending on a method selected, whether it is a heuristic evaluation or a cognitive walkthrough, a final product of the audit is a report containing discovered errors together with recommendations. Also, such report frequently includes visualizations suggesting in what way the quality and performance of your website should be enhanced.

However, the crucial aspect of audit is its implementation – without doing it, we shall not achieve desired results and will not change anything on a website for better. Therefore, it is essential to review such audit with our developer, check if each instruction is sufficiently clear to our understanding and put guidelines on our website into practice by priority. We should keep in mind that website is a living organism and our duty is to take care of it regularly, hence aside from bringing the recommendations proposed by an expert into effect, it is worthwhile to do some AB testing or tests involving users. We will be then fully convinced and assured that our website operates at the highest possible level.

Scale of errors

We must prioritize detected errors that is why a good audit report will include a scale of errors. An example of a rating scale:

QUICK WIN – Optimization, implementation of which results in an immediate increase in the conversion rate. It has the greatest effect on users’ behaviour on a website.

IMPORTANT – Optimization is important, it has an impact on conversion, however, it does not deliver an immediate effect. It is rather an indirect effect.

OPPORTUNITY – Small optimization. It has an insignificant impact on conversion but is it worth implementing. It can be of greater weight on a large scale.

Why is it worthwhile to conduct a UX audit?

  1. You will redesign your website leaning on reliable data, not on guesswork
  2. You will be following the right direction and will gain a new perspective
  3. You will compare your product with competitive solutions
  4. You will acquire knowledge of how your users behave and become more familiar with them
  5. You will save money on developers’ work
  6. You will increase your profits

Conclusion

Usability audit may be conducted using heuristic evaluation, cognitive walkthrough or audit checklist. A method should be selected depending on the effects you desire to achieve. The quality of a conducted audit depends first and foremost on a person preparing such audit. It is worthwhile to know in the first place what kind of goal we wish to reach by conducting it.

If you need any help and support in conduction of the audit or seek the right person willing to conduct it on your behalf – do not hesitate to contact us.

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