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How to conduct a UX audit. Part 1 – Theory, a bit of self-criticism, and a few practical tips…

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Today, we’re putting up a blog post on the topic of usability audits!

The idea for this post arose during the UX audit of our blog. We decided to do it a few months after its opening. And as it’s said, the cobbler’s children go barefoot, so we wanted to check ourselves. And it turned out to be the right decision.

Today, we’re going to kill two birds with one stone. I’ll tell you how we conduct usability audits at Kinaole. And I’ll show a small sample using our blog as an example.

Where did the usability errors in the UX studio’s product come from? Or the confession of UX designers

Well, the answer to this question is very simple. It’s due to a lack of time.

The idea for the blog existed in our minds long before it was created, but our clients’ projects were always more important. We always pushed any side ideas to the back burner.

At some point, we realized that it didn’t make sense to postpone it any longer, so we made a firm decision. We set up the blog and started writing posts.

From the beginning, we were aware that the layout of our blog wasn’t perfect, so it was time to fix the mistakes and do it properly. And we started with a UX audit.

What is a UX audit

As the name suggests, a UX audit is an analysis of a website for potential usability problems. During the audit, a designer or researcher analyzes how specific design decisions can affect the quality of user experiences. Additionally, it checks whether implemented solutions adhere to accepted design patterns. These patterns typically translate into user habits and expectations regarding system behavior.

A UX audit helps identify areas where users may make the most mistakes and solutions that may be unclear to them.

To conduct a usability audit, the researcher must examine the site from two perspectives. They must embody the user and look at the site through their eyes, but they must also use their own UX knowledge.

PRO TIP: It’s best to conduct usability audits in pairs. This way, you’ll detect more problems and clash two points of view.

How we conduct UX audits – methodology

Usability audits can be conducted using several techniques. At Kinaole, we use heuristic analysis, cognitive walkthrough, and expert analysis. Sometimes we also use checklists.

Heuristic analysis is an examination of the site in terms of usability heuristics, or general principles of interface design. Good practices that positively impact user experiences. The most popular set of heuristics is Norman Nielsen’s 10 usability heuristics, but these are not the only heuristics. The topic is quite extensive and very interesting, so I’ll expand on it another time. For now, I highly recommend articles from IDEACTO and Ebrains  on this topic.

Cognitive walkthrough is a method in which the researcher takes on the role of the user. They go through the site using the most popular paths that users take and perform tasks that users must do.

Expert analysis is a method in which the researcher tests the site and evaluates it based on their knowledge and experience. They analyze it based on accepted and proven design practices for a given type of product.

There are also other methods of conducting usability audits, such as checklists. A checklist is a simple checklist of UX principles and best practices that a product must meet. There is no one correct checklist or predetermined points that must be included in it. Checklists can be created by yourself or you can use various ready-made checklists published on the internet. It’s worth taking a look at the UX/UI Audit Checklist from Przeprojektowani (Link opens in a new window). Although the checklist is paid, the free demo version will give you an idea of what such a list might look like.

Step 1. Establishing user paths

First, we consider the paths users take on the site. What are their goals, what might they be looking for, which paths are the most common, and which are the most important?

To establish good paths, we need to take a moment to familiarize ourselves with the tested product. In this task, analysis of data provided by tools like Google Analytics and heatmaps will help us. It’s also a good idea to talk to the client, who should know something about their users. Such a conversation will also help us establish priorities.

Step 2. Audit

When we have established paths, it’s time for the main part of the task, i.e., the audit. We go through the paths step by step, as if we were users. At the same time, we assess whether all heuristics are met and which places may be problematic for users.

It’s best to keep track of all the problems we found on the site. At this point, it’s useful to have a report template that we fill in with descriptions of errors and screenshots from the site.

For novice designers, conducting a UX audit may not be an easy task. It requires both a good intuition for user behavior and solid UX knowledge. However, there’s no need to worry: the more audits we do and the more experience we gain, the easier they become.

Step 3. Describing problems

Detected problems are always described according to the same scheme.

First of all, we upload a screenshot. We also provide the address and title of the page where the error occurred, to make it easier to locate. Then we describe what the problem is. At this point, it’s also worth presenting the user’s perspective, which will make it easier for the client to understand our point of view, and we will evoke empathy in them.

Detecting an error is one thing, fixing it is another, so we always add recommendations and possible solutions to the problem.

Step 4. Some formalities, or analysis report

The results of the audit need to be communicated to our client somehow. At Kinaole, we usually prepare reports in the form of presentations, which makes it easier to showcase them to the client at a meeting.

The first part of the report is the introduction. It should include:

  • table of contents,
  • summary, i.e., a brief description of the content of the report along with the main conclusions,
  • the purpose of the audit,
  • description of the methods we used,
  • scope of analysis, usually just user paths that we checked,
  • technical information, i.e., on what equipment we performed the audit, in what operating system, on what browser, and in what screen resolution – this
  • information may be helpful when some errors result from poor implementation.

The second part of the report is the audit results. How to present the results from the report in detail, I’ve already described in the previous subsection. In short, the most important thing is:

  • uploading a screenshot,
    describing the problem (it’s worth doing it from the user’s perspective as well),
    specifying the page where the problem occurs,
    providing recommendations and possible solutions.

The third part is the conclusion. Here we summarize the audit, gather conclusions and recommendations, and briefly describe them. Additionally, all discovered problems are collected in one table, in which we try to estimate the weight of the problem and the time it takes to solve it on a scale of 1–3. Such a summary table will help the client understand which errors are the most important and the most difficult to fix. Don’t be afraid to group errors if they are related or stem from a common source.

PRO TIP: Don’t forget to ensure the usability of the report itself! Remember that your client is also a user. The report should be accessible, readable, and logically structured. Provide specifics, avoid beating around the bush, write in simple language.

Presentation at the end

As a gift for the upcoming Santa Claus Day, we’ve prepared a usability audit report template that will help you perform it. Thanks to this, you can focus on the content and substance, without worrying about the form 😉

Usability Audit Template