As online competition increases, making the decision to implement an optimization strategy is now a relatively straightforward one. Deciding where to start your optimization, however, remains a hurdle that even the largest blue chip corporations struggle to get over.
To know where to start your optimization strategy, you need to know the areas in which your website is currently failing. This doesn’t mean asking managers and other stakeholders for their opinion, however. While executives may know the business, and indeed the website, better than anyone else, they are not best placed to offer an impartial opinion on why your website is not converting customers as well as it should.
The best way to obtain an unbiased view of your site’s usability is to perform a UX audit. This is an experienced-based process that uses real people to uncover major usability issues on your website. It can be done across the website as a whole or just focused on key sales funnels.
Why Perform An Audit?
Every online enterprise should be performing UX audits on a regular basis. Why? Because the internet is constantly evolving and so are your customers’ expectations. New functionality in apps, competitor websites, or just tech advances in general can alter the way your customers would prefer to use your site and the web in general. As they evolve, your UI may become dated or create confusion and frustrate people who have started to adapt to new interfaces.
Through experience-based analysis with real users, you will be able to establish a baseline of user experience issues. By carrying out an audit at the start of an optimization campaign, the issues that you identify can be used to generate testing themes and ideas that will guide the direction of the campaign going forward.
Who Should Perform An Audit?
Ideally, a UX audit will be performed by customers you have recruited from your target demographic. You don’t need a huge number of people. In fact, 85% of major issues can be discovered with as little as five users. This not only removes any underlying bias team members may have, it also ensures that the results will be as accurate as possible. Remember, your target demographic may use your site in a completely different way than you do. Failing that, you can conduct an audit with your internal UX team. If you choose this option, it is imperative that you develop a process that divorces you from your existing biases and try your best to approach the audit as though you are an end user.
When it comes to overseeing the audit itself, you may wish to hire an experimentation consultancy or let your in-house team handle the project. Your team will know your brand and product better than anyone else and it will be cheaper than hiring an agency. That being said, many teams simply don’t have the bandwidth necessary to carry out an in-depth audit, particularly if it is across the entire website. That’s why an agency might be a better option for some companies. By using a consultant, the audit will be carried out faster and will allow your team more time to implement the findings. The project may also benefit from a fresh set of eyes.
When is the Best Time To Perform An Audit?
A UX audit is not a one off. If you are implementing a long-term optimization strategy, then a UX audit should be completed in conjunction with A/B testing at the beginning, the middle and/or end or your optimization timeframe to get the most useful data.
UX insights at the start of a job can identify the most critical issues that you will need to address first with A/B testing. If you have already used quantitative data to identify the issues you want to address in your test, you can run your concepts through user research to help you narrow the number of challengers in your test or identify any that might bomb before initiating a live test.
If, after having completed a series of tests, you have results that are flat or ended in a loss, you can run those tests through user research to try and determine the cause for the poor performance. This can generate new test ideas or educate your team on the parts of the test that were working versus the parts that were not.
The Process Of An Audit
There are three main considerations of any good UX audit. These are:
- The user
- The task
- The environment
Read more about these three UX audit considerations as methods for testing – check out our whitepaper, “3 UX Research Methods to Enhance Your Testing Strategy.”
With the user, understand their demographic first and foremost. Then, you can start to consider more advanced questions. What information or experience are they bringing to your site? What are their goals? Are they behaving in a practical or emotional manner? What are they coming to your website to achieve? Why are they leaving?
When it comes to the task, pinpoint the objective of each of your site’s pages and how the tasks change between them. Does the task change between demographics? How often are tasks achieved? Are some tasks achieved more easily than others? It is important to focus on one task per evaluation so that you can focus on a singular testing strategy.
For the environment, you want to examine the user interface by understanding what they actually have to interact with in order to complete their task.
Once you understand these things, you can start to identify usability issues and rate them based on severity. Anything that is rated severe to unusable should be addressed in your initial tests.
Analytics Holds The Key
No matter what approach you take to gathering qualitative data, the real key is to combine that information with the traditional quantitative data that you can collect through analytics platforms. Neither data type is superior on individual merit, but combined, they create priceless information on what your customers are doing and why they are doing it. A true optimization roadmap can only be developed by using both qualitative and quantitative data to inform your testing growth strategy.
Want to learn more about UX testing and experimentation? Contact the experts at Brooks Bell today!