The Complete Guide to UX Audits

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Kiran Shahid
Kiran Shahid


Have you ever repeatedly slammed your TV remote against your palm, desperately trying to make it work?

person completes a ux audit for a site

We‘ve all been there. There’s a feeling of complete helplessness and annoyance when tech refuses to comply. A glitchy website isn't far from having a temperamental remote. A poorly designed user experience (UX) can be as frustrating and disorienting.

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UX audits are health checks for your website or app that measure how well they‘re performing. Audits ensure that users have an easy time accessing content, completing tasks, and finding information. In this article, we’ll define UX audits, describe their benefits, and provide an overview of how to conduct one.

Table of Contents

What is a UX audit?

A UX audit reveals how easy it is for users to interact with your website or app. It views your website or app from the user's perspective. Audits measure user satisfaction across usability, accessibility, interface design, information architecture, and performance.

A thorough UX audit also assesses the responsiveness of your content on different devices. You can identify any design issues preventing users from engaging with your product.

For example, suppose you're conducting an audit for an e-commerce website. The audit would consider the ease of navigation, whether customers can find what they need, and if the checkout process is intuitive. You can then find any roadblocks for users.

The Benefits of UX Audits

UX audits help you avoid user experience issues before they become too big to handle. Research shows that 85% of issues can be solved by testing with five users. An active audit process accelerates resolving issues, resulting in the following benefits.

Increased Conversion Rates

UX audits address potential issues that may be causing friction or hindering the user experience on a website. A survey by Statista shows that the longer the wait time, the more a user is willing to leave the site unchecked.

When a website takes too long to load or provide the information, they’re more likely to abandon it and seek alternatives. In fact, research indicates that the threshold for user frustration and increased abandonment rates occurs around the 5-second mark.

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This means that if a website fails to load or provide a clear indication of progress, users are more inclined to leave. UX audits pinpoint issues that may negatively affect how quickly users complete their journey.

Improving navigation, design, and content clarity guides users toward desired actions. UX audits help fix these issues, resulting in a smoother user journey and improved conversion rates.

Better Brand Reputation

When you improve your UX, you better your user’s journey and increase your chances of customer recommendations. Research shows that 72% of customers will share a positive experience with six or more people.

Think about it: A UX audit results in a positive user experience, which translates to increased customer satisfaction, positive reviews, and recommendations. All of these improve your brand’s credibility and attract new customers.

A UX audit also shows a commitment to customer-centricity. This reinforces the brand’s reputation for providing exceptional products or services.

Returning Customers

How many times have you returned to a website that crashed on you at every step? Unless the site offers something you can’t get anywhere else, chances are never.

Research supports this — 88% of customers are less likely to return to a site after a poor user experience. UX audits can highlight gaps to improve personalization. This allows businesses to deliver tailored experiences and meet the unique needs of their customers.

Danielle Thompson is the founder of Design Match, a platform that matches design talent with startups. She highlights how audits give you the customers’ perspective on your product.

“A UX audit lets you see your product or the steps a customer takes from a bird's-eye view. When you work on a product, you often know more than the regular user. A UX audit helps us see the whole picture better,” she says.

“The biggest change I've seen from a UX audit was for an online store. We noticed that the login button confused people when trying to check out. Customers thought they had to log in to buy anything. We moved the button somewhere else to see what would happen and saw a 21% jump in sales!”

Recommended products and automatic logins allow customers to experience a personalized journey. When customers encounter a website catered to their preferences, they’re more likely to feel valued and develop loyalty toward the brand.

Improved SEO

UX audits improve various factors that search engines consider when ranking websites. Page loading speed, for example, is a known ranking factor in search engine algorithms. Sam Underwood summarizes it perfectly:

tweet from Sam Underwood, UX audit

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Page loading speed directly impacts user experience. Search engines prioritize websites that provide fast and seamless experiences for their users. Audits help you identify performance bottlenecks, optimize code, compress images, and implement caching. These factors contribute to faster page loading times.

UX audits also evaluate the website's information architecture, navigation, and content structure. When a site is well-organized and user-friendly, it becomes easier for search engine crawlers to index. This can positively impact search engine rankings and visibility.

Lastly, you can fix usability issues, like broken links, duplicate content, or inaccessible pages when you spot them. These improvements boost the overall user experience, reduce bounce rates, and increase the time spent on the site. Search engines consider these elements when evaluating the relevance of a website.

Lower Costs

UX audits help lower costs in the long run by finding and fixing problems in a website or app that can cost a business money. Slow-loading websites, for example, cost retailers nearly $75.8 billion in lost sales each year.

Audits uncover issues that frustrate users or make it hard to complete a purchase. They make the experience smoother, so customers are more likely to stick around, convert, and keep coming back. This leads to more sales and repeat business, saving the cost of acquiring new customers.

A UX audit can also help you catch usability problems before they become expensive. For example, identifying forms causing customer drop-offs can save you from losing potential sales. This way, you can reduce customer support inquiries and the need for ongoing fixes, which ultimately saves you time and money.

How to Conduct a UX Audit

The steps in a UX audit may vary depending on the type of website or app you’re auditing. In general, however, it involves these steps:

1. Define the audit scope and objectives.

First, you need to decide how much you’re going to cover in the audit, plus what you’re hoping to achieve with it. Establish what areas of your website or app you’ll evaluate. Then, discuss what goals you aim to achieve to establish a roadmap for the audit process.

What problems are you trying to solve? The goal of the audit might be to reduce bounce rates. Knowing your objectives will help you decide which aspects of the user experience to focus on.

Have a look at any data and feedback that's already available. Analytics data, customer surveys, support tickets, and user testing results can help you identify recurring issues.

Then, get stakeholders — like product managers, designers, developers, and customer support reps — on board. Have they noticed any recurring issues? Gather diverse perspectives to ensure alignment with business goals.

Depending on your goals, you might audit the entire user journey or focus on a particular feature. For instance, if you want to increase conversions, you might focus on the checkout process.

When you have a scope, write it down to have a reference point throughout the audit process. Ensure the audit objectives are clear and measurable. Knowing the objectives helps you stay focused and ensures that the audit aligns with your specific needs.

2. Perform user research and analysis.

User research produces excellent data that sheds light on user pain points and needs. Gather insights directly from users for an intimate understanding of their experience and how you can improve. It gives your customer a seat at the table and introduces the diversity of thought.

Here are five research methods you can use during your audit:

  • User interviews. Conduct one-on-one user interviews to gather qualitative feedback about their challenges and suggestions. These stakeholder interviews provide valuable insights into user behaviors, motivations, and expectations.
  • User surveys and questionnaires. Deploy online surveys to collect quantitative data on user satisfaction, preferences, and demographics. This method helps gather a larger sample of user feedback and provides measurable insights.
  • Analytics analysis. Use web analytics tools like Google Analytics to examine user behavior. That includes page views, click-through rates, and conversion rates. This data can reveal patterns, identify high-drop-off points, and highlight areas for improvement.
  • Heatmaps and click tracking. Supplement Google Analytics data with insights from heatmaps and click-tracking tools, like Hotjar. Heatmaps show where users focus their attention. Click tracking provides insights into the elements users engage with the most.
  • Competitor analysis. Evaluate competitors' user experience to gain insights into industry best practices. Identify areas where you can improve your experience.

ux audit: heatmaps show where users focus their attention, while click tracking provides insights into the elements users engage with the most

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A combination of different user research methods gives you a holistic view of user behavior. These insights can help you make data-driven recommendations.

3. Conduct heuristic evaluation and usability testing.

Conduct heuristic evaluation and usability tests. Here, users perform tasks on your website or app while providing feedback. Observing users' actions and listening to their thoughts helps identify opportunities for improvement.

Select a set of usability heuristics or guidelines to evaluate your website or app. Commonly used guidelines include Nielsen's 10 usability heuristics, as shown below.

Nielsen's 10 usability heuristics

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Recruit representative users who match your target audience. Aim for a sample size of five to eight users for each round of testing. Create a testing environment that simulates realistic usage conditions. Evaluate the UI against the heuristics shown above.

When your sample interacts with your website or app, note their interactions. Pay attention to confusion, issues, pain points, and feedback.

Nielsen also highlights three response time limits you should be noting:

  • 0.1 seconds. This is the ideal response time limit that users perceive as instantaneous. When an action or interaction occurs with virtually no delay, users feel that the system is responding immediately. Such quick responses provide a seamless and uninterrupted user experience, which is highly desirable.
  • 1 second. If a response takes up to 1 second, users typically perceive it as a direct and immediate reaction. Although there is a slight perceptible delay, users feel in control, and the interaction feels fluid. This response time is still highly satisfactory and doesn't significantly impact user flow.
  • 10 seconds. Beyond the 1-second mark, users notice the delay and may feel that the system is not responding adequately. If a response takes up to 10 seconds, users tend to lose focus and may question the system's reliability. Longer response times often result in frustration, lower engagement, and potential abandonment.

When you have this time, evaluate it with a team of UX experts or experienced evaluators for a well-rounded perspective.

4. Evaluate visual design and branding elements.

Evaluate all aspects of the design, from typography to color palette selection. Ensure these elements align with your design principles and brand identity.

Ever heard of the aesthetic usability effect? It shows that users are more likely to perceive your website as usable if it's visually and aesthetically appealing.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Assess the visual consistency. Review the visual elements across the website or app, like color schemes, typography, icons, and imagery. Ensure they’re consistent with the brand identity, and create cohesive visual language.
  • Examine readability and hierarchy. Check the readability of text elements, including font size, contrast, and spacing. Consider the hierarchy of information. Are important elements appropriately emphasized to guide users' attention?
  • Evaluate visual aesthetics. Analyze the overall aesthetics of the design, including the use of whitespace, visual balance, and the overall look. Consider whether the design evokes the desired emotional response.
  • Check brand representation. Evaluate how well the design elements reflect the brand's personality, values, and positioning. Ensure the brand identity is consistent and resonates with the intended audience.

Your design evaluation should consider all aspects of the website or app, from accessibility to visual design to branding. Here are some design tips to check for with examples of how Apple implements them:

  • Picture superiority. Users are more likely to remember images than plain text. Pair visuals with short descriptions to make the content easier to digest.
  • Use the Von Restorff effect. Also known as the “isolation effect,” this technique states that items that stand out from others in a list are more likely to be remembered. Make important information or key actions visually distinctive to increase their visibility.
  • Apply the Law of Proximity. Objects near each other appear to be grouped together. Place related objects close to each other to create a connection between them.

Apple’s MacBook Pro website

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Apple’s Mac accessories

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use Law of Proximity to group objects together, Apple example

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5. Analyze information architecture and navigation.

Information architecture is the structure, organization, and labeling of your content. It helps users understand the purpose of the interface and find what they need quickly.

tweet from Erica Schneider about information architecture

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Navigation helps users understand where they are within a system by providing visual cues that indicate how to move around it. Claire White, Information Architect and UX Consultant, highlights the importance of information architecture:

“In 2020, I was tasked with repurposing an Enterprise Identity Access Management on-prem desktop application as a SaaS application. Initially, an overwhelming task, especially given the application consisted of multiple desktop applications which all fulfilled different functions, I went back to basics with IA,” she says.

“By displaying the as-is system as a sitemap, it became clear it simply consisted of a number of objects — or entities in the database, (e.g., a ‘Group’) — with associated actions which could be undertaken on the object (moving, deleting, etc.).

From this point onwards, it became clear how the system could be redesigned to ensure a consistent user experience by applying atomic design principles to create templates for the ‘Create, Read, Update, Delete’ views for each object and other associated actions.”

Menu design, active states, breadcrumbs, and other navigational elements can help users find their way. Here are some additional tips:

  • Use Hick's Law as a reference for menu structure and organization. Hick's Law states that the time it takes to make a decision increases with the number of options available. Offer an intuitive menu system with fewer items to reduce decision-making time.
  • Eliminate visual clutter. Keep your design minimalist by removing unnecessary elements from the page or screen.
  • Establish a clear information hierarchy. Structure your content in logical groups. Use visual cues, like headings, icons, and colors, to highlight essential information. For example, use a larger font size for headings and bold colors for calls to action.
  • Check internal links. Internal links help visitors find more relevant information and give them a way to explore the website or app. Make sure all of your internal links are working properly and point to the right content.

A well-structured design can make a huge difference in the user experience. Evaluate your design with these guidelines to ensure an optimal navigation system.

  1. Ensure Accessibility Compliance and Inclusivity

Accessibility compliance improves the user experience for everyone. Make sure the design meets Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) accessibility criteria and works well with assistive technologies, like screen readers.

Use this checklist to identify any accessibility issues. An accessible website improves UX, which translates to better rankings. Here's what you need to look out for:

  • Confirm that all images have ALT text. Screen readers convert the ALT text into audio, so make sure all visuals are properly labeled.
  • Verify keyboard navigation and tab order. Make sure users can navigate the page using only the keyboard. Confirm that all interactive elements are focused in a logical order.
  • Test forms for support of accessibility features. Confirm that labels are connected with their corresponding inputs. Make sure form fields can be read by screen readers.

How to Make a UX Audit Report

When you have your analysis, the next step is consolidating everything in an easy-to-understand UX audit report. This document should provide a concise overview of user experience issues. You'll also include recommendations for improving them.

Create a well-organized structure for the report that is easy to navigate. Use clear headings, subheadings, and sections to address different aspects of the audit.

Here’s a step-by-step template for a UX audit report that you can use to inspire your own.

1. Add a summary section.

Summarize key findings from the audit. Highlight the main issues with user experience. If possible, include stats or numbers to back up your points.

ux audit, summary section

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2. Add UX takeaways.

List the key takeaways from the UX audit, including flow issues, pain points, and areas of improvement.

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Pro Tip

"Prioritize the issues you raise and ensure any insights are actionable.

For example, you might present one or two ‘show-stopper’ or high-priority issues — where the user isn't able to complete a goal, or the issue is widespread across the system; some medium-priority items—where the goal is achieved, but with some friction or confusion/complication; and lower priority…items —where best practice is not being implemented but the impact on the user is minimal." — Josie Downey, freelance designer.

3. Add UI Takeaways

List the key takeaways from the UI audit, like visual design elements that need improvement.

ux audit, ux takeaways

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4. Add Quotes

Highlight quotes from the interviews or surveys that give insight into user experience.

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5. Add a Design Audit for Each Page

Create an audit page for each section of the website or app. Show screenshots. Provide a brief explanation of the design elements that need improvement.

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6. Create an Action Plan

Create an action plan that outlines the steps necessary to address each issue. Include deadlines and responsible parties for each task.

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Tips for Conducting a UX Audit

A UX audit is a complex process, and it’s important to consider all aspects of the user experience. Here are some tips for conducting a comprehensive UX audit:

Collaborate with different teams.

Get stakeholders involved to get a holistic view. That includes content strategists, developers, and marketers. Product Designer Marko Aleksic highlights how different stakeholders can provide valuable insights during an audit.

"Reach out to the support team to get their take on what are the most common issues users are reporting. The data team can provide valuable analytics that can guide some of the decisions. Business and product teams can help you understand the goals and development to get a clearer picture of the feasibility and limits," he says.

It‘s crucial to establish relationships with different experts in the organizations. Involved teams are more likely to suggest and implement changes. It also emphasizes how crucial UX is to the product’s life cycle.

Employ discount inspection methods.

Discount inspection methods — like heuristic evaluations and expert reviews — can help UX teams audit websites with fewer resources. A heuristic evaluation is a quick way to assess usability problems on a website or app. An expert review offers more comprehensive feedback through an in-depth analysis of the entire user experience.

In the NN/g Podcast by the Nielsen Norman Group, Evan Sunwall details how to use discount methods in the UX audit process. He highlights the importance of using multiple expert evaluators to get an objective view.

"It's very helpful to have about three evaluators doing this independently and getting together to determine the heuristics and tasks, then doing the analysis and bringing it back and summarizing," he says.

“One evaluator is only going to find so much, and it's gonna be a little dependent on how well they know the space and their years of experience practicing using the technique. So you're really not dividing up the work because you're doing it in parallel. You're getting multiple perspectives to get a more well-rounded approach to the final results, and then sharing that and having a more accurate and deeper perspective of the experience.”

Map and analyze customer journeys.

Every product or service has multiple user personas. Every persona has a unique customer journey. As teams mature in their UX practices, the number of journeys being tracked grows. This may occur faster than teams can manage, leading to scattered and uncoordinated redesign efforts.

Mapping and analyzing customer journeys help uncover roadblocks that should be addressed. Here's a step-by-step guide to mapping customer journeys based on an ecommerce website for sports shoes.

  • Identify user personas. Survey customers about their motivations, goals, needs, struggles, and preferences to create personas. For example, the Sports Shoes store may have user personas like “The Athlete” and “The Bargain Hunter.”
  • Define touchpoints. Map out all customer touchpoints on your product or service, from first contact to sign-up. For example, for a sports shoe store, this could include online ads, website visits, product searches, and checkout pages.
  • Gather data. Collect data from the customer journey to identify any areas where customers are dropping off. This could include bounce rates, time spent on each page, and abandonment rates at certain points in the journey.
  • Analyze results. Use the data to identify any areas that need improvement or optimization. For example, if customers are dropping off when they reach the product description page, it could indicate an issue with the copy or visuals.
  • Test and optimize. Using A/B testing, experiment with different versions of content on each page to see which performs better. Monitor the results to see which ones lead to higher conversions.

Head over to HubSpot’s Customer Journey Analytics tool to get started today.

Hubspot customer journey analytics

Get started with HubSpot's Customer Journey Analytics

What to Do After a UX Audit

So, the hard part is over. You have your insights, and you have your report with an action plan. How do you move forward? Here are some key steps to take.

1. Conduct post-audit user testing and validation.

Before you proceed with any redesign, it's best practice to validate your insights with post-audit user testing. Post-audit user testing refers to testing after the UX audit is complete. It helps to uncover any blind spots that may have been missed during the initial process.

Let's say you’ve identified a usability issue with the checkout page. Run a few quick tests to ensure that your proposed solution actually fixes the issue. Make sure to document any changes and keep track of the results.

2. Continuously iterate and refine the audit process.

UX audits aren't one-time affairs. They should be regularly conducted and updated to ensure the user experience stays on point. As your product or service changes, revisit the steps outlined in the previous sections to check for any new issues.

Also, monitor your post-audit results over time and make changes as needed. This way, you can be sure you’re continually improving the user experience.

3. Present your findings.

Communicate your findings to relevant stakeholders, including managers, executives, designers, developers, or clients. The goal is to provide a comprehensive understanding of the user experience state and propose potential solutions.

Start with a summary of the most impactful insights. Then, present your findings in a clear, structured, and understandable way. Ensure you avoid technical jargon whenever possible. Here are some tips from Dr. Ari Zelmanow, Head of UX Research at Twilio:

LinkedIn post from Dr. Ari Zelmanov, ux audit

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Use compelling visual representations, like diagrams, flowcharts, or graphs, to make data digestible. Ensure your presentation provides clear pathways to address the identified issues.

Lastly, listen and respond to feedback. Discussions with stakeholders can often provide further insight for implementing your suggestions. By the end of your presentation, everyone should have a clear understanding of the audit's findings and the next steps.

Nurturing a Culture of User-Centric Design

Your customers are at the core of your business’ success. An empathetic approach that prioritizes user satisfaction helps you sustain loyalty.

A UX audit is a piece of the puzzle that enables you to understand your customers and make informed decisions. Foster a culture of user-centric design and use UX audits to improve your offerings.

ux templates

Topics: User Experience

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