User experience, ux audit, service design – these are keywords that have received a significant increase in interest over the past several months.
More and more companies are realizing – that you need to take care of your user first, learn about their needs and meet them.
It is very likely that you have come across these concepts. However, if you have no idea what exactly is behind them, you have come to the right place. In this article, I will introduce the concept of an expert user experience audit and show you how important this tool is.
So what is a user experience audit? And what is it definitely not?
A user experience audit is a process designed to identify potential usability issues with a product. So much says the theory – but what is an audit in practice?
A ux audit is a check of a product (application, website or system) for ease of use. When conducting an audit, you should be a bit like a strict teacher – look for errors, oversights, places where the product deviates from the standards of user experience, usabillity or accesibility.
What does this process look like?
The course of the audit largely depends on the product involved.
I will compare the case of an existing product and a new product entering the market.
If it is a product that exists on the market and has users, then we have more data and, without a doubt, we should reach for it.
This data most often are:
Business goals (are they defined? What are these goals? Does the product in its current state satisfy them?)
User goals (is there a defined target group? If so, what kind? If not, what are the statistics on the people using our service? Are the users’ needs known? Are they being met by the current product?). Any sales data, statistics (in what situations is our product most often used? What is the percentage of shopping cart abandonment? Data collected by customer service and help desk – this is very valuable information to locate the so-called pain points, i.e. places/situations where our users encounter problems with achieving the goal
Stored data about the product, collected and analyzed in an appropriate manner, are an excellent start to conducting an audit. They can be key clues when conducting a heuristic analysis, but about that in a moment.
What if the product is new and we don’t have all the above information?
In this case, a good starting point would be to analyze usability tests, if they were conducted on the product. What if the tests have not been conducted (or we simply do not have the data collected during the tests)? Nothing lost. The common denominator for any usability audit is heuristic analysis. One of its advantages is that it can be carried out at very early stages of a product’s life (a single designed screen or even a high-fidelity or low-fidelity mockup alone is enough for analysis).
The heuristic analysis is based on Nielsen’s 10 Heuristics.
These are a set of principles that define how interfaces should be designed.
Nielsen, who is considered a guru of the field of user experience, co-authored the following heuristics, which can be boldly described as a UX decalogue.
1. Show system status
The system should inform the user about what is happening and where he or she is. When interacting with the system, it should provide feedback.
Thus, according to this heuristic, the user will learn about a long-loading page by means of, for example, an animated loader, and he will learn about the addition of a product to the shopping cart from a small icon with the number of products in the cart (called badge).
2. Keep the system in line with reality
It’s not easy to guess what this principle is all about. Niels idea was to make the website/system/app understandable to any Internet user. The product should use the language of the user. In other words – the content should be tailored to the target audience as much as possible. Difficult language full of technical words will not appeal to an amateur photographer looking for his first camera. Likewise, overly colloquial language aimed at professionals may result in a loss of confidence in our product.
3. Give the user full control
This heuristic states that the user, when interacting with the system, should have full control. Mistakenly landed a product in the shopping cart that the user does not want to buy? Or maybe he or she has made up his or her mind? That user should be able to remove the product from the shopping cart in an intuitive, thought-free way.
4. Meet standards and maintain consistency
It is important to remember that our product is not a lonely island. Our users use many other applications, systems or websites. By using them, each of us learns certain standards; a mental model is created. What is it? In a nutshell, it is our idea of how an object, product or service should look like. A simple example is the design of a website; most of us will look for navigation at the top of the page. Using accepted standards will speed up the process of „learning” a system/website or application that is new to the user.
5. Prevent errors
The simplest example is a situation that has happened to each of us: setting a new password. If it must meet the requirements – tell the user about them. For example: the password should consist of at least eight characters, upper and lower case letters, etc.
In addition, it is good practice to allow the user to preview the password.
These simple measures will help avoid mistakes and, consequently, frustration.
6. Give a choice instead of requiring memorization
Our users’ satisfaction will skyrocket if we don’t require them to memorize and cache information. Processes should be designed to avoid this.
An example? Imagine a situation where a user is faced with choosing a subscription plan. If we present each subscription plan on a separate page, the user, wanting to compare them, will have to remember some of the information. This should be avoided. What about when memorizing information is essential? You should make sure that this information consists of a maximum of 4-7 elements (e.g. the Pin for verification of registration will have 4 digits). Why exactly 4? Miller’s law states that a person on average is able to store information consisting of 4-7 elements. The smaller the number, the easier and longer the information will be remembered.
7. Ensure flexibility and efficiency
This heuristic reminds us that our product will be used by both novice users and so-called super users (i.e., more advanced users. How to meet the needs of both groups? We should include features both to make the system easier to use (e.g., Hints, tutorial, etc.) and functionalities to speed up the use of the system (all keyboard shortcuts, personalization of certain elements, etc.). Additionally, think about flexibility in terms of accessibility. Will a person with low vision be able to enlarge the font?
8. Ensure aesthetics and minimalism
One of the most enigmatic heuristics to evaluate. For each of us, aesthetics will be something different. Fortunately, in this case too, we can answer the same questions:
Are the interface elements consistent? Is consistency maintained? Do the colors used provide adequate contrast? Are the test sizes appropriately sized? Are we sure all interface elements are necessary? Many times, dropping an interface element improves both its appearance and intuitiveness.
9. Handle errors
A product should anticipate as many scenarios as possible. One of them is making an error. In such a situation, the user should be prompted where the error is and how to fix it. Error handling is very sensitive to what language you use. Avoid technical jargon, and instead explain in simple terms where the problem lies.
10. Provide help and documentation
This is all about providing help on how to use the system. Even the best-designed website, application or system can be incomprehensible to someone. What practices should you follow when trying to meet this?
There are many solutions: they can be FAQs, a link to contact the help desk or the use of a chatbot that solves problems.
The ux decalogue precisely defines what should be taken into account when analyzing a product.
What, on the other hand, is not an audit?
All subjective opinions unsupported by research and analysis of found data. A heuristic analysis that does not address all heuristics will not be an audit either.
So when should you conduct a ux audit?
Without a doubt, an audit will save time and money during the redesign of an existing product. It will precisely indicate what needs to be changed, which elements work well, what is missing and what can be abandoned. Information obtained by means of the audit can positively influence the productivity of designers.
A ux audit will be an invaluable tool when you want to launch a new product on the market. As you know, the first impression can be made only once. Therefore, it is worth subjecting the finished product to an audit to avoid slip-ups.
And how can the abandonment of an audit during redesign result?
This was painfully discovered by Avon when, in 2013, after introducing changes to the system for consultants… it faced a wave of layoffs. The reason for this phenomenon turned out to be an overly complicated system (the ipad version, which was most often used by salespeople).
In conclusion, ux audit is a powerful tool. It can change the fate of a product, save resources such as time, money. It’s worth remembering, especially at key moments in the life of a product.
Author: Kaja Kozuch