Master Your Design Audit With This 6-Point Checklist
And that is where a design audit comes to the rescue. With its help, you can evaluate all aspects of your design, detect every failure, and discover what improvements will bring actual results.
But how to conduct a result-driven design audit? And what are the key milestones of such reviews? Keep reading this article to find out.
What is a design audit?
A design audit is a comprehensive checkup of a digital product or website design components. Normally, such a review involves a detailed analysis of brand's visual, verbal, and written elements. An audit helps achieve consistency, improve usability, and adapt overall functionality to a company’s current needs.
All in all, a design audit provides valuable insights regarding end-users’ core pain points a business should address when striving to grow and increase conversions. And this is not just about your guesswork. A design audit relies heavily on data and analytics, which allows you to see what works best for your target users.
Sounds a bit fuzzy? Well, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, so the audit’s goals and methods may vary significantly depending on your individual business objectives. But most commonly, a design audit covers the following milestones:
- Discover. Do you understand what your audience actually needs? How did their expectations change over time? And do the current solutions effectively convey your value proposition? A design audit will answer all those questions. It will help you understand what you’re doing right and what should be improved.
- Evaluate. A design audit provides an extensive view of your product’s functionality and helps you stick to the right balance. Instead of getting lost in the details, you can piece it all together and move on.
- Create a plan. After carefully documenting all findings, including qualitative and quantitative information, user interviews, and competitor analysis, you can come up with a viable improvement or redesign strategy. The design team, managers, and stakeholders clearly envision what they should change and how to implement those changes.
When it’s time to conduct a design audit?
A design audit is essential before a major product update or redesign process. It provides the team with valuable insights based on the collected data and predefined branding guidelines. Here’s when it’s a good idea to kick off a design audit:
- If your product is on the verge of significant modifications
- If you want to eliminate design inconsistencies
- If you need to improve the user experience and communicate your product value
How long will it take to conduct a design audit?
The required timeline of an audit entirely depends on the project’s scope and goals. In most cases, a design review consists of several key stages we will soon discuss in more detail. The most time-consuming audits require comprehensive user research and other complex analytics. So while a simple checkup may last several days, the complete evaluation process will likely take 2-4 weeks.
Why does design audit matter for your business?
As mentioned above, a design audit helps your brand achieve consistency, enhance user experience, and improve core metrics, including conversion rates and ROI. It’s critical for companies experiencing growth to align their design across all channels with the current business goals.
Let’s take a closer look at the most significant benefits of a design audit for a business.
It can be quite challenging for product managers and founders to evaluate their products' potential issues objectively. They work within the context for a while and may lack a fresh point of view. And that’s where UX professionals like Tenscope can help. During an audit, experts immerse themselves in many aspects of a product and offer usability improvements based on UI/UX best practices.
Every product consists of multiple small components. Let’s say your web platform and mobile application were built by different teams. Inconsistencies between them may seem minor. But they matter a lot when it comes to user experience. An audit will help you ensure your user experience is smooth on every level and consistent across all platforms.
Every single detail may have a significant influence on how end-users perceive your digital product. Good navigation, convenient search, appealing CTAs, relevant typography, and colors - all these elements can increase customer trust if implemented properly. A comprehensive review will help you balance all design components perfectly.
Did you know that an average user leaves a website in less than 20 seconds? According to a study, this is because most brands fail to communicate their value proposition once a potential customer arrives. High bounce rates lead to poor conversion. And poor conversion results in a lack of revenue.
What does it have to do with design audit? Well, much more than it might seem at first sight. An audit provides many helpful insights on how to improve UX and streamline user flows. As a result, your customers’ journeys will be smoother, and they will clearly understand your product’s benefits. In particular, you will find out how to provide frictionless onboarding and enhance visual language to convey value immediately.
Now that you know the key advantages of a design audit let's see which steps you should take to conduct one.
The design audit process explained
Before the audit starts, it’s crucial to define which aspects of your product will be reviewed. The scope of the upcoming process, as well as its timeline and budget, will depend on the goals you want to achieve. Let’s consider the most common steps a team should take to conduct a complete design audit of your product’s usability.
The key stages of a design audit:
- Define your goals
- Study your competitors and users
- Analyze your product
- Conduct heuristics evaluation
- Prepare a design audit report
- Build a plan
1. Define your core objectives
The initial stage is all about planning. It makes you well aware of all critical aspects the audit should cover. Without a good strategy, your overview will lack consistency, and the team will likely get lost in details. Not to let this happen, document every single step of design evaluation. List all channels and materials that should be assessed. Here is an example of such a list:
- All product screens of mobile and web applications
- Existing user flows and customer journeys
- Design system and style guides
- Website and landing pages
- Logotype and other UI elements
- Social media ads and other promotional materials
- Presentations, business cards, printed materials, and more
Take screenshots, record videos, and put down the initial roadmap. This will help you analyze user journeys, detect potential issues, and spot inconsistencies in your UX. Besides, when documenting each stage, you keep the entire team on the same page. This approach will allow you to compare the initial assumptions with the results of further analysis.
2. Study your competitors and target users
This is another essential design audit stage giving you a clearer idea of the current market specifics and customers’ needs. Competitor and user research will allow you to determine design problems you overlooked before. Here are several techniques you may apply to understand your audience’s specifics and address their pain points more effectively.
By analyzing your direct and indirect competitors, you can define their main strengths and weaknesses. This information will help you see what they did right and find a way to stand out. The competitors’ downsides are also important as they indicate the most critical end-users’ challenges.
A user persona is a fictional character representing your average target user. When creating it, you will define your ideal customers and understand how your product can serve them better. You will be able to put yourself in your users’ shoes and determine their most common needs, goals, and expectations.
Customer journey mapping
With the help of a customer journey map (CJM),you can see how your users interact with your brand. In particular, it will show you which actions customers should take to achieve their goals. At the same time, a CJM makes it easier to analyze the most problematic points of product-user interactions. For example, you can define why users leave your page or app before reaching their destinations.
Customers’ feedback about your product is precious. By conducting several user interviews, you can learn how people perceive your brand, what they find inconvenient, and what they would like to change. The results of such surveys will enormously impact your design audit process.
3. Analyze your product
It’s time to analyze the collected information and make conclusions. For your convenience, you can create art boards and folders to organize all screenshots, videos, and data reports. Grouping and visualizing information will enable you to act gradually and consistently.
Pay attention to every mismatch, inaccuracy, and unsuited pattern. Any inappropriate element can distract users, confuse them, and even make them leave. Make sure to consider each of the following aspects:
- Navigation is clear and consistent
- Contact information is always accessible
- Logo, background colors, and icons are the same everywhere
- There are no typography mismatches
- Website content is reasonable and concise
- All web pages follow responsiveness and accessibility standards
- Buttons and dropdown menus are instantly noticeable and convincing
- All images and videos are of good quality
- Mobile app design is user-friendly and follows UI/UX best practices
- The registration process is quick and straightforward
- All links work properly
- Website architecture is not overwhelming or confusing
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. During an audit, a design team will check these and many other components of your website, applications, and landing pages, adhering to the core UI/UX design principles and your branding guidelines.
4. Conduct a heuristic evaluation
When it comes to the usability of your product and a comprehensive UX review, a design audit should also include a heuristic evaluation.
UX heuristics are a set of criteria experts often use to evaluate a product’s usability and detect the potential flaws or design issues that should be fixed. As Jacob Nielsen states in his article,
“They are called "heuristics" because they are broad rules of thumb and not specific usability guidelines.”
Moreover, he claims these rules remain unchangeable since they were first revealed in 1994. So what are the ten usability heuristics, according to the Nielsen Norman Group? Let’s take a closer look at them to find out.
- Users should be informed. You can only earn customers’ trust by clearly communicating the current “system status.” Every update, change, and new interaction should be presented right away. Provide the necessary help. Make sure users can easily find documentation explaining your system. This support should be appropriate to the context and give straightforward, helpful instruction.
- The design should be understandable. Icons, images, messages, and other written and visual content must be clear, concise, and familiar to the user.
- Both internal and external consistency is crucial. When using other digital products, people get used to a certain logic. Not to confuse them, try to make your product correspond to this logic. At the same time, do not break your brand’s internal consistency.
- Prevent errors. It’s better to avoid potential errors than force users to deal with them. Try to prevent the most critical slips and mistakes. Don’t forget to warn your users and ask them to confirm actions.
- Prioritize recognition over recall. Don’t make users keep too much information in their memory. Instead, help them recognize elements, actions, and options by providing visual clues.
- Stick to flexibility. There are different types of users, and your website should be equally efficient for all of them. Speed up certain processes for expert users and allow inexperienced ones to follow the typical path.
- Keep it simple. The written and visual components of your design should be minimalistic and focused on the basics. Do not overwhelm users with irrelevant or unnecessary information.
- Explain errors precisely. If a user faces an error, they should immediately understand what happened and how to recover. Use simple language empowered with visuals and give clear guidelines.
A heuristic evaluation will help you see if your design meets these core UX principles and reveal inconsistencies.
5. Report your findings
Finally, it’s time to draw conclusions and consider further steps. Once you’ve completed all critical stages of the design audit, present your findings to the team. Keep in mind that your audit report should be documented and well-structured. Later, designers will rely on the discovered information and data reports to implement the required changes.
When preparing your report, use the collected materials and art boards created throughout the audit lifecycle. Visualizing mistakes and inconsistencies will help you get the point across and be more convincing.
6. Build a roadmap
So now, your design audit is over. What’s next? Here are the most probable outcomes you may expect:
Option 1. Change particular UI and UX components
If the conducted review shows no critical inconsistencies, you may keep your current solutions. However, a comprehensive audit will reveal which aspects of your UI/UX design can be optimized. In this case, you will have to make improvements or modify some design components according to the new requirements.
Option 2. Change the entire design system
If your product lacks a clear message, the value proposition is blurry, and there are numerous inconsistencies across the design components, the changes should be drastic. Most likely, the existing design system is inappropriate to your brand’s current requirements. In this case, a complete or partial redesign is necessary.
Option 3. Decide on rebranding
Yes, it’s a big step for your company. But a worthy one if your design, marketing channels, and attempts to communicate the product value are not performing well. Sometimes, it’s better to take a fresh start than try to optimize the existing solutions. A complete change gives you a chance to reconsider your previous experience and build a brand new roadmap.
Key take aways
Let’s make a brief conclusion of what is design audit, why it is important, and how to run one:
- A design audit is a complete evaluation of a brand’s design components. It involves a detailed analysis of the product’s usability, customer flows, visual and written components, value proposition delivery, and more.
- An audit can provide a business with valuable expert insights and detect design inconsistencies. As a result, it helps find a way to boost customer trust, enhance conversions, and increase revenue.
- During an audit, a design team conducts surveys, user interviews, qualitative and quantitative research, and usability tests.
- A design audit defines flaws and mismatches in the entire design system. The conclusions are based on data and analytics rather than opinions and assumptions.
- It’s worth carefully documenting every audit stage and presenting the findings to the team once the audit is over.
- After conducting an audit, you can decide on further improvements. Depending on the findings, you may need to optimize particular design components or completely redesign the existing solutions.
We at Tenscope have ample experience conducting design audits, usability tests, and comprehensive UX analysis. Our experts will gladly help you evaluate your product, define the required improvements, and move on with complete or partial redesign. Book a demo.