How to create impactful UX audits with direct customer insights

By UserTesting | January 12, 2024
People working at a desk with their laptops discussing a sheet of data.

Robust user experience (UX) is a critical driver of an organization’s success. Studies show that poor UX is a deal-breaker, with close to 90% of online customers turning away permanently after negative interactions. This underscores organizations' need to evaluate and enhance their digital platforms accurately. A UX audit is a cornerstone process for going beyond guesswork to using direct customer insights for improvements.

This article explores the art of conducting impactful UX audits, their significance, and how they pave the way for informed decision-making to create a competitive advantage.

What is a UX audit?

A UX audit is an in-depth analysis of a digital platform and an integral part of the design process. It typically explores usability issues that might hinder user experience or deter conversion. Unlike general user experience evaluations, a UX audit focuses specifically on the interaction between the user and a product. Various UX tools and methodologies test how well an application, website, or digital experience meets established usability principles.

The primary goal of conducting a UX audit is to review and enhance how users interact and accomplish their goals with a given product. Designers and researchers pinpoint areas where users struggle and documenting their findings and recommendations in a clear and concise format. From there, the UX team can adjust to improve the user’s experience. Unlike competitive audits which look outward to gauge how a product stacks up against competitors, a UX audit looks inward for ways to improve.

Importance of user feedback in shaping a UX audit

User feedback is the core of an effective UX audit. Without it, audits can only be based on assumptions or comparisons. Customer insights help locate exactly where users encounter friction in the digital experience. These direct inputs give context to quantitative findings by providing qualitative depth and human perspective.

Some studies have shown that testing with just five users can unveil up to 85% of all usability problems within a system. That’s how efficient targeted insight gathering is compared to broad-brush analytics.

After each set of usability tests reveals weaknesses, teams redesign and retest to refine the user experience. This is the definition of iterative design.

A UX audit is not just an endpoint for identifying flaws. It’s part of an ongoing process to elevate the design based on direct customer feedback. This way, organizations aren’t left guessing what works; they hear about it directly from their users. Every decision in the UX roadmap is practically stamped with user approval.

Building the foundation for a UX audit

An insightful UX audit requires a solid foundation established by knowledgeable stakeholders. The evaluation process should align with organization objectives and integrate user perspectives effectively. It’s all about execution and the people pulling it off.

Identifying stakeholders

UX audits are typically managed by an organization's in-house team or external consultants specializing in user experience. Using a consultant may simply depend on resources and expertise available in-house. 

In-house teams can include UX researchers, designers, and digital product managers who understand the brand's vision and goals. Their day-to-day immersion in projects offers valuable context to personalize the audit process.

External consultants provide fresh eyes and specialized expertise. This can make a huge difference in identifying issues internal teams might miss since they see the product daily. External auditors may also be more impartial. Since they don't have the same blood, sweat, and tears invested into the product as an internal team, their insights can be candid and objective.

Effective auditors share a skillset grounded in UX research methodologies, analytical thinking, and empathy toward user needs. These traits help dissect complex interfaces and workflows to illuminate areas to refine.

When to perform a UX audit 

With a team in place, organizations should look at various factors to decide when to perform an actual audit. These include business cycles or specific pain points arising from user feedback. While routine check-ups help maintain optimal user experiences, certain triggers need immediate auditing for quality control.

Periodic audits function like health checks for digital products. They're a proactive approach to verify alignment with user expectations and industry standards. These routine evaluations are critical in sectors where user preferences evolve rapidly, or technological advancements change the game.

However, where there are routine checkups, there could also be emergency room situations. Direct input from users—from usability issues flagged by customer support channels to declines in engagement metrics—often signals underlying problems that need targeted audits.

This reactive auditing is essential after significant updates or overhauls within digital platforms. It confirms that changes are well received and makes user interaction easier. 

In addition to pre-launch usability testing, a post-launch audit identifies any new issues and further validates the changes made in the real world. The audit becomes part of an organization’s commitment to steady improvement.

The anatomy of conducting a quality UX audit

A quality UX audit is a deep dive into the user interface and customers' interactions with it. Its goal is to document issues and identify opportunities for a better overall experience. 

Steps to creating a UX audit

A UX audit can be intricate, requiring attention to detail at every juncture. Here's a high-level overview of the steps involved:

Preliminary research and data collection 

The foundation for any robust UX audit lies in gathering comprehensive data. To start, auditors collect existing analytics like user engagement rates, conversion metrics, and bounce rates. Analytics tools like Google Analytics or Hotjar, are used to unearth quantitative performance and spot trends.

Usability testing 

Following quantitative data collection, teams use platforms like UserTesting to source test participants, send out surveys, conduct interviews, and capture video-based usability tests. 

Analyzing quantitative and qualitative data 

The next phase involves analyzing the data gathered. Comprehensive tools like Tableau, Microsoft Power BI, Kissmetrics and many more help spotlight trends and anomalies on the quantitative side of things.

UserTesting offers a variety of unique features that allow researchers to pull actionable trends, insights, and summaries more quickly and easily — especially when working with a large volume of video and audio-based data. 

Presenting findings and recommendations

There are an infinite variety of tools for presenting a shareable document of findings and recommendations. The most important thing is to tailor your report to the needs and standards of the organization. 

The document should be easy to access, navigate, and collaborate on for your team. All next steps should be clearly outlined and traced back to findings in the data. This allows everyone to quickly get on the same page with proposed next steps. 

Most important factors in a good UX audit

For an audit to be truly beneficial, several key components must align:

  • Comprehensive data collection: An exhaustive data collection is the linchpin of a successful UX audit.
  • Expert analysis: The team of UX professionals needs to be equipped with the expertise to interpret data correctly, identifying patterns that less experienced eyes may overlook.
  • Inclusive user feedback: Direct customer insights through interviews and surveys convey users' emotional responses and personal preferences that numbers alone can’t.
  • Contextual understanding: Auditors can tailor their recommendations more effectively by recognizing the business context and user environment in which the product operates. This means understanding industry standards, competitor offerings, and technological constraints.
  • Actionable recommendations: A UX audit doesn’t just end with a list of problems. It provides clear, prioritized recommendations for improvement that align with organizational objectives and customer needs.

By putting these components in place, a UX audit moves from "just another report" to a strategic tool for user experience enhancements.

The process outlined above illustrates a technical blueprint and encapsulates a significant part of UserTesting’s ethos: true understanding comes from listening closely to what customers have to say about their experiences.

Applying insights from your UX audit

Applying the insights garnered from a comprehensive UX audit can transform customer feedback into actionable strategies, resulting in digital products that not only meet but exceed user expectations. Here's how organizations put these insights to work:

User testing in the real world

Consider an e-commerce platform experiencing a high cart abandonment rate. A UX audit might reveal that users find the checkout process cumbersome. Armed with this insight, the platform could streamline the process by reducing the number of steps or adding a progress indicator to set user expectations.

In healthcare, a patient portal app might be underutilized because it’s too complicated. A UX audit could highlight specific features that confuse users. Simplifying these elements could enhance user engagement and satisfaction significantly.

For educational technology, an audit might uncover that students are struggling to locate resources within an app. By restructuring the information architecture, the platform becomes more intuitive, which can increase usage and improve learning outcomes. 

Business value of UX audits

So what do these real world scenarios tell us? Conducting a UX audit helps seize opportunities for growth.

The business value of improved user satisfaction for organizations is that it often leads to higher retention rates. Satisfied customers are more likely to become repeat users and brand advocates. These audits can also highlight where resources are needed.

Integrating direct customer insights through rigorous UX research informs every level of decision-making within an organization. This ranges from design tweaks in a UX roadmap all the way up to overarching business strategies.

Aligning UserTesting’s role with your organization’s needs

In navigating the complexities of user experience, organizations often oscillate between intuition and insight. UX audits are an important catalyst for informed decision-making grounded in real customer feedback rather than guesswork. Organizations can create products that resonate with users by harnessing direct insights through UX research and analytics. 

UserTesting is a pivotal ally in this journey, offering a suite of tools that illuminate user perspectives, driving organizations toward excellence in every interaction. 

Visit our UX research collection

Access more methods and best practices in our dedicated collection of UX research resources. 

About the author(s)

With UserTesting’s on-demand platform, you uncover ‘the why’ behind customer interactions. In just a few hours, you can capture the critical human insights you need to confidently deliver what your customers want and expect.