What is a Usability Audit and how can it help you as a website owner?
A Usability Audit is a deep professional review of the design of your website, taking into careful consideration how easy it will be for the most important people, the users of your website, to use it. So essentially the audit reviews and critiques the design of your website, producing a series of suggestions to make it easier for the users who actually use your site to carry out it's core and intended functions. This in turn vastly improves the performance of your website (sales, conversions etc.).
The audit is very much focussed on 'optimising' the current design as opposed to making radical suggestions to completely redesign it. So it may suggest a series of small-medium tweaks or to do something in a more efficient and user friendly way. These small changes can transform the performance of your website.
You may be thinking what are these suggestions and recommendations based on? The suggestions I make are based on recognised usability principles (usability theory, UX theory, web heuristics), a deep understanding of how users interact with websites, modern web design best practice, psychological principles that impact user behaviour online and common sense. For example did you know that only 28% of copy (text) is read on average on a website? Therefore one essential criteria for a user friendly website is to 'eliminate needless words' and not overwhelm users with too much text. Additionally reverse copy (lighter font and darker background) is 12% harder to read than 'normal' copy. It is therefore advised to use it sparingly. Statistics and theory such as this dictate how users interact with websites and ultimately how your website performs.
What is the output of the web usability audit?
The output is a 2 hour video of me interacting with the test website and carrying out a series of planned tests. This video will show me interacting with the website (screen recording) and giving audio feedback and commentary. Here is a very short, non-technical example of the style you can expect:
This is accompanied by a 60-slide PowerPoint presentation. I like to think of the video side as being the nitty-gritty testing, the time of finding and identifying the usability issues and the areas of 'friction'. The PowerPoint presentation is the stage of presenting the findings in an orderly fashion and working on solutions. Therefore the PowerPoint presentation will include several 'mock-ups' of proposed changes, your web design with the suggested changes implemented. This is very useful to visualise the changes I am suggesting. There will be further testing on real users (video), speed testing, basic browser testing (finding major bugs) and anything else that I feel is relevant. Here is a sample of the output:
What are the phases of testing? What is covered?
I approach testing any website with the same basic process. Both the video and PowerPoint presentation follow this flow:
Testing first impressions - Studies show that users of a website form very quick impressions and interpretations of a website, often in less than even one second. Ideally we want users to quickly understand what you are offering them (exactly), feel positive about the design and company, trust the website, be able to see how to navigate further into the site and also to feel confident their needs will be met. There is a fine art to ensuring all these criteria are met and in the correct balance.
Testing the homepage design (with no time constraints) - I then test the homepage design, going through every element with no time constraints. The homepage is frequently (but not always) the first page users see. It is therefore vital it communicates exactly what the purpose of the site is about. I test to ensure the content flows well, the website goals are clear and that each element complies with recognised usability principles.
Testing the sales funnel - I then test the sales funnel, including (hopefully) the search box, the primary navigation and any alternative routes (home page links, main content search box etc.). I test the process of getting users onto your product / service pages and discuss strategies to make it more efficient. There are areas of friction and barriers to conversion at all these different stages.
Testing the product and/or service pages - I then test the product or service pages and apply relevant theory. What do users expect at this point? How should the information be portrayed? This stage focuses on optimising the user experience here and ensuring the product/service is optimised for conversions.
Testing the checkout and/or contact form(s) - What is the current process to contact the website? How can it be optimised to improve conversions / sales / sign-ups? This is also an area where functionality issues can commonly occur.
Testing all other pages of the website - The other pages are arguably not as important to the core performance of your website. However it is important they remain high quality and consistent with your brand. They will be analysed and reviewed in full.
The PowerPoint presentation will go on to test:
The speed of your website - This is an important for your website in many ways.
Pyschological Strategies to improve conversions - This discusses some proven techniques that can be used to improve conversions and click through rates within key forms and buttons.
Any basic bugs found during testing - These are unprofessional and need to be addressed. Deeper testing is offered within my UX testing services.
Your website on real users - It is important and valuable to see videos of real users using your website. What issues and frustrations do they have?