Your quick-start guide to Design Audits
A consistent design is synonymous with a good user experience. It is important not only because it makes the product visually appealing but also because it brings about uniformity and achieves high conversions.
Another benefit good design offers is that it acts as the product’s differentiating factor. Amongst multiple products in the market, the one custom-designed to meet user needs will always stand apart.
In practice, when given a choice between two identical items, users will always select the one with a superior design because they exude confidence, reliability and trust. And trust is essential in digital business.
So, how exactly does one go about bringing uniformity and establishing trust for mobile apps, SaaS applications or eCommerce stores?
Enter Design Audit.
What is a Design Audit?
A design audit analyses a business’s digital and physical assets to ensure uniform branding and messaging across all channels. This is important because inconsistent messaging breeds distrust and distrusting users never become loyal customers.
Moreover, the first impression of a user will always be design-related, which makes design audits even more valuable.
The framework for insightful Design Audits
It is natural for a company’s UX/UI design to become inconsistent as it expands. Multiple employees are involved in a company’s design operations and that usually leads to a lack of coordination.
While the idea of restricting corporate expansion to preserve consistency is absurd, a design audit is the solution to address this problem.
Now that we know what a Design Audit is and why it is important, let us look at the steps to ensure you don’t miss any.
An exceptional Design Audit is a 4 phase process. The first phase involves getting acquainted with the product, the second includes secondary research and the third and fourth phases comprise Heuristic evaluation and Recommendations respectively.
The first step in a Design Audit is to become acquainted with the company, its offerings, users, and stakeholders. Interviewing users and interacting with stakeholders assist you in accomplishing this.
You want to know how stakeholders perceive their company, how they position their product, and who they believe is their target audience. In addition, you want to get feedback and suggestions from users about the app, its usability, usage patterns, problems, and potential remedies.
Post that, you want stakeholders to walk you through their application. This explains the issues they’re dealing with and the goals they hope to achieve through the Audit. Product walkthroughs also help understand the thought process behind the product’s current design in addition to experiencing it.
Armed with information and ideas from both the business and its users, you then proceed to the second stage of the Audit – Secondary Research – of which competitor analysis is the first step.
Competitor analysis is an efficient multi-purpose tool that helps you stay updated with the industry’s design standards, learn where the product stands, highlight strengths and weaknesses viz a viz competition and analyse which one of the user’s feature requests could be realistically implemented in the product.
Once you have the data from the competitor analysis, social media listening will help validate the findings. Checking out the brand’s social channels, product channels, community platforms and all places users would discuss the product.
Then, you compare these findings in parallel with your observations. This aids in bridging the gap between business goals and user expectations, thus, successfully establishing a middle ground.
The third stage of our Design Audit process is the actual Audit. It comprises two parts – Heuristic evaluation and Overall review.
Our 6 year tenure in the discipline of User Experience, across a multitude of projects and industries, has allowed us to cultivate 19 heuristic principles that we employ during our evaluations. But our methodology doesn’t just involve ticking off a checklist; it’s a nuanced process that truly benefits from our depth of expertise.
When we discover an issue, we don’t just identify it; we articulate it in detail, providing a clear and comprehensive picture. But that’s not all. We explain why this issue signals a violation of a particular heuristic principle, ensuring we understand the problem at its root.
We then move beyond mere identification. We assess how the issue could affect crucial metrics, examining potential impacts on user behavior and satisfaction. This thorough analysis empowers us to develop more insightful, targeted solutions.
The goal of our heuristic-driven approach is simple yet profound: to create products that are not just user-friendly and accessible but also intuitively easy to use. By translating these principles into practice, we’re committed to elevating the overall user experience.
Given the fact that stakeholders have given you a walkthrough during the first phase of the Audit, there is a very good chance that bias might seep in. To prevent this from happening, a designer that is not acquainted with the product should evaluate the heuristics.
Once the product has been evaluated against the Heuristics, the next stage of the product audit is reviewing the entire experience through different aspects:
- Information Design
- Visual Design
- UI design and design patterns
- Content and UX Copy
Here, you check the product for UI inconsistencies – do all components used in the product have the same design style? Is the design language used consistently? Wherever the company logo is used, is it standard? Are the fonts used on interfaces, websites, and social posts the same or different?
The visual appeal and the desirability of the product are just as important as its accessibility and usability. Users will only choose to experience your product if it catches their fancy, and a good UI helps do that.
Along with the UI, you also analyse the UX aspect of the product – the product’s onboarding flow, its search and navigation feature, data visualisation capability, ease of use, how efficient the core functions of the application are etc.
When done correctly, by this point, you would have a list of inconsistencies and issues that prevail in the product. Comparing these with the one stakeholders and users had shared during stage 1 of the Audit gives insights on how many of these were actually true.
This is the final stage of the Audit where you provide stakeholders with a document containing your observations and recommendations to solve them. This document would include the heuristics that were violated, UI issues we encountered, and any UX-related problems like an inefficient user flow, difficult navigation etc.
Along with the problems, you should use also Jakob Nielsen’s severity scale to describe the severity of each one. Nielsen’s scale measures the severity of the problem on the basis of its frequency, impact and persistence. This helps prioritise problems and helps stakeholders allocate resources effectively.
Why should you get a Design Audit?
Before becoming a customer, a user encounters multiple touchpoints in the buyer’s journey. If they receive mixed messages across these touchpoints, they will never become a loyal customer.
Consider this: if you want to get to a specific location but the instructions are continually changing, would you ever be able to get there? Of course not.
The same is true for business communications. Design Audit assists you in avoiding this issue and bringing consistency to your identity and messaging across all business channels.
It’s like getting an expert review of your design assets to maximise business conversions and increase user engagement. It may also assist uncover obstacles to boost conversion and assess the functioning of the website/app.
Companies grow and their capabilities increase; a design audit may assist in verifying that the design is keeping up with the company’s growth.
With all this said, if you are a business that hasn’t conducted a Design Audit in a while, you should consider getting one done. You might not even realize it, but it might be having a negative impact on your business.