We hear questions about UX audits all the time.
Questions like, “we just finished launching our website—it’s perfect! So why would we need a user experience audit?” Or “our website’s been working just fine for years; what’s a UX audit going to do for us?”
If you’ve ever owned a car, you probably live somewhere that requires a formal inspection, at least every so often. You know, so your wheels don’t suddenly fly off, or your doors stay in place. (Here in New Jersey, we start inspecting cars every year after they’re five years old. In Pennsylvania, they inspect every year. In Georgia, they don’t inspect—which is why you see many cars with missing hoods and duct-taped bumpers.)
Your website’s a lot like a car that way. Even if it were well constructed, things would change over time. Your web server could be slowing down on you. Designs that worked well at launch could be growing stagnant. You could even violate a various local, national, or international trade laws without realizing it.
A professional user experience audit helps you identify the most critical things that keep your users from accomplishing their goals. Along the way, a good UX audit will also show you opportunities to save money, reduce waste, and improve many of your organization’s key metrics. Here are five of the most common reasons our clients ask us to “pop the hood” for a website inspection:
1. Your customers have changed their behavior
We love to assume that your website checked off every single box of your business requirements when it launched. It surprised and delighted your customers, exceeded your projections, and streamlined your operations.
And yet, the Internet thrives on innovation and disruption. Your state-of-the-art feature from three summers ago no longer works because its developer closed their business. The pixel-perfect design you approved looks mangled on this season’s displays. And the leads and opportunities you used to cultivate quickly from desktop users slowed to a trickle once your traffic pivoted to primarily mobile.
A solid user experience audit allows you to reflect on what’s working and what’s not working without introducing drama or guilt into the process. Instead of blaming your developers or your platform, an audit readout gives you a prioritized list of user stories you can start working on next.
2. An audit tells you where you didn’t realize you’re underperforming
Whatever business you run, you probably check a dashboard or a similar set of key metrics on a routine basis. If your website’s key performance indicators aren’t already in that rundown, a routine user experience audit can highlight gaps between your company’s expectations and your current reality.
By benchmarking your site’s overall performance against your direct competitors and other proven market leaders, you can discover where your technology investment can make the most significant difference for your users.
When done properly, a UX audit won’t result in a declaration to “rebuild the whole website.” In fact, a good audit reveals which parts of your website are doing just fine. Additionally, a thoroughly groomed list of “user stories” gives your development resources (whether they’re in-house or on contract) the ability to work through your priorities through a measured process.
3. You already know your site doesn’t deliver a great user experience
Maybe you already use NetPromoter or another methodology to collect feedback from your customers. Or you’ve been handling customer complaints about something going wrong on your website. Or you’re just listening to your gut about something that may seem a little bit off about what you’re seeing when you visit your site yourself.
UX audits can clarify the feedback you’re probably already hearing, using language that turns complaints into actionable steps. Instead of reacting to what’s in your inbox or on your notepad, you can make prioritization decisions based on real-world research. You can make better decisions about prioritizing your site updates by analyzing what your users are really doing on your site (instead of just what they’re saying).
4. Your customers aren’t closing the deal
Because a thorough user experience audit digs into the nooks and crannies of your website, it can reveal all the potential places your users get blocked from achieving their goals. In many cases, that means identifying tiny details that often get overlooked during a website launch:
- Microcopy and other website elements could make it confusing to complete a registration or a checkout.
- Wayfinding, search, and other website tools help your customers navigate through each site visit.
- Security and performance indicators help your customers trust that their information is safe, and their transactions will be conducted accurately.
By cataloging and prioritizing issues, a UX audit report can sort them into groups that can easily be addressed together instead of making constant ad hoc changes to a website.
5. You’re not meeting security, privacy, or accessibility standards
Security and privacy are major concerns for your customers, your business, and your site’s reputation. If you don’t monitor for security issues, a security breach can happen at any time—and it’s not just about hackers stealing customer information or credit card numbers. Security holes can also allow competitors to steal traffic from you by promoting their sites in place of yours on search engines like Google or Bing.
A user experience audit isn’t a replacement for a full security or privacy audit, but it can highlight issues where users believe they’re at risk. Even if you’re running a fully secure website, the appearance of insecurity can turn someone away from sharing their personal information or completing a transaction.
Likewise, accessibility issues may block users from experiencing your content or transacting on your website. Ensuring your site meets accessibility guidelines isn’t just the right thing to do. Recent court rulings have held site operators liable for damages when their websites don’t provide comparable services to visitors who utilize assistive technology, such as screen readers or alternate input devices.
WCAG guidelines are based on seven principles—whether your website is: perceivable, operable, understandable, robust, device-independent, and content-independent. These guidelines don’t change often, but they do change. So again, a UX audit won’t replace a full accessibility audit. But it can highlight some critical issues that you can address quickly.
Get started with your user experience audit.
If you have been putting off a UX audit due to overburdened resources, we can help.
Leaning on a neutral team to conduct your user experience audit ensures you’re not just getting upsold by an outside development vendor. Using an external auditor can also help you cut through any organizational bias holding you back.
Getting started on your next user experience audit is easy—just schedule a no-pitch discovery session with our team members. We’ll gather a little information in advance, do a cursory inspection of your site, and we’ll share a few top-level focus areas we suggest highlighting in your next deep dive, even if you end up not hiring us to do the work.
Schedule your complimentary discovery session today!