Many people are familiar with the term UX Design, but they seem to raise an eyebrow when they hear the term “UX Design Audit”.
The term ‘audit’ is often used in financial lingo. Audit usually is an inspection of financial records, to make sure that these records are a fair and accurate representation of the transactions they claim to represent. In other words, an Audit is an examination to make sure that the information that is displayed conveys the right message to those who consume it.
It is an inspection performed on your product to analyze and find out whether it is performing in the desired way and how your product can be improved to achieve your goals or measurable KPIs.
“But I already have a dedicated design team working on my product, shouldn’t my product be performing well even without an audit? Shouldn’t the designers know what’s wrong if anything doesn’t do as well as expected?”
The answer is: not necessarily. The designers in your team require some dedicated time to run this audit every once in a while to make sure the product runs smoothly.
Every digital product is unique. Although we might access millions of them with a single click, each of them is built differently. Many different components are put together to serve a specific purpose on each and every screen or flow of your product. And everything is supposed to work seamlessly when it’s all put together. However, when the purpose behind putting together a specific interface or experience is not met, finding out which elements contribute to the inadequate performance of a product is meticulous work that requires time and expertise.
There are various ways and techniques to perform an audit. How do we choose the most suitable method to be done in a limited time frame? It all depends on your end goal and priority. Since every method has its own advantages and disadvantages, we need to choose carefully which method can accommodate the most answers you might be looking for. We’re saying ‘the most’ because there is no such method that would cover every answer you are looking for with limited resources. So buckle up, prioritize, and weigh in on these methods.
If you are looking for a thorough, overall view of your product, you can perform a heuristic evaluation. It is a general rule of thumb to run a heurestic evaluation in order to check on your product’s performance. It is usually carried out by people with expertise in usability. However, it is important to communicate here that the evaluation might not be too specific for each flow inside of your product.
When should you conduct a heuristic evaluation:
Heuristic evaluation can be performed whenever you want to improve the overall usability of your product. A heuristic evaluation is best performed on live products or a developed prototype because it emulates the real journey that a user will go through. Performing a heuristic evaluation on static UI screens can also be done with some limitations, but we need to make sure that we have a complete flow of all the screens in the particular user scenario that needs to be tested.
Data analytics is a fancy word that might sound quite scary and unfamiliar for some designers. However, it is a good starting point to determine which problem is the most urgent one that needs to be solved as soon as possible. For example, if data shows there is a significant drop off rate on the checkout page of an e-commerce website, then we can decide to perform a UX design audit focusing around the check out flow and pages/screens leading up to it. It is only after we figure out the “what” will we be able to dive into the “why” factor.
When should you run a data analysis
Since it is used to find the “what” factor, it is better if you can run a data analysis at the start of any redesign exercise (whether that’s a redesign of one feature, multiple features or the entire product), so that the analysis validates our assumption that a redesign might solve a particular problem in the product. This data can be again be used at later stages to compare how the redesign helped the product’s performance after the redesign was implemented.
We would define a cognitive walkthrough as putting ourselves inside the shoes of a user while wearing stakeholder helmets. We go through the journey a user would typically go through in a certain flow and at the same time assess the challenges and pain points that would be a hindrance for them to complete a task easily. This will be followed by suggestions of how the flow might be optimized.
Although a cognitive walkthrough is a faster and cheaper process compared to usability testing, it would be challenging to execute this method on a product that is designed for a very specific target audience with specific technical skills or a specific way of thinking (for example a b2b product designed for engineers or an enterprise dashboard designed for data analysts or doctors). In such cases, we would need to dive deeper by conducting usability tests or user interviews in order to see how a user behaves or thinks while performing certain tasks through the flow of the product.
When should you conduct a cognitive walkthrough
A Cognitive walkthrough can be performed on live apps, static UI screens or even wireframes. Cognitive walkthrough outcomes would depend on the fidelity as well. For example, if we are doing a cognitive walkthrough on wireframes, the further development of UI can’t be assessed right away. It would be better to include improvement suggestions as notes for the UI Designer based on the insights gathered on the wireframes.
According to NN Group, Usability Testing is the practice of testing how easy a design is to use with a group of representative users. It usually involves observing users as they attempt to complete tasks and can be done for different types of designs. It is crucial to make sure that we recruit the right participants in order to see how a typical targeted user would behave with the product.
What can we observe during usability testing?
Usability can be measured in 3 perspectives, this can be specified further into the following categories:
Can users complete the task easily? What do they accomplish after completing the task?
How much time, energy, and effort does the user have to spend in order to complete the task?
How do they feel when they are using the product? Do they see the value after completing the task?
Other things to be observed would include:
When should you conduct a usability testing?
We strongly suggest doing usability testing with a live product or a high fidelity prototype. Usability testing with wireframes would not give the maximum outcome since wireframes and UI may differ greatly from each other and may be giving a very different message to the user, resulting in very different reactions from users. Conducting a usability test on the wireframing stage would require us to recruit extra participants as well if we plan to do it again during UI stage.
Nevertheless, any testing is better than no testing at all. If the resources and time is limited, the least we can do would be to make sure the copywriting is complete inside the wireframes by the time usability testing is conducted.
Usability is not just a checkbox you need to tick, it is a mindset. So ideally, the answer to ‘when is the right timing to conduct a UX audit?’ would be — Constantly. While designing any interface or user experience, a designer should always be asking “is this easy enough to be understood?” “Does it fulfill the end goal we are aiming for?”
A UX Design audit is a suitable way to make sure your product is usable and provides a great experience for your potential users before you develop and launch it. It acts like a health checkup with a doctor, you would expect everything to go smoothly, but at the same time you will be thankful if the doctor diagnoses any major or minor health issues as early on as possible.
Running a UX audit can be tricky and may seem overwhelming too, however, with a clear goal and good communication, we can perform a UX audit that can identify the pain points a user might face in the future and provide a far more superior product experience than we initially planned.
Thanks to Ritika Bhagya
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