Krissy Scoufis / Digital Strategy / February 6th, 2014

User Experience Auditing: 6 Vital Things To Evaluate Before You Drive Visitors Away

In the past, many business owners thought you could slap together a website, and it would be good to go for years. These days, we know that your website must live and grow with your business, and with your customers. So how do you know what areas of your site need to be refreshed, rebuilt or rethought? It all starts with a User Experience Audit to identify areas that are causing grief for site visitors or ways to help users accomplish the goals you want. It’s an exhaustive process, but by taking a deep dive into your business’ website,  you can identify actionable takeaways and a plan for improving the site and ultimately, increasing conversions.

Here we want to focus on a heuristic, or experience-based, analysis of a website to identify what is working well and which areas of the site need improvement to better enhance the user experience (UX). Tomorrow, we’ll show you how to perform a Marketing Audit of your site, but today we’re all about UX.

From a UX perspective this analysis considers design best practices, usability compliance, functionality, information architecture and pattern use.  If you’re looking to scratch the surface and complete an audit on your own, here are the six most important things to consider in terms of your site’s user experience will get you started.

1. Homepage

Image by Juhan SoninUsers will make judgments about your site within a split second of arriving at the homepage. With that, there are a few things you should be asking yourself about the homepage of your website.

  • Does the site clearly explain what your company or product does and what site visitors can do here?
  • Do the graphics and architecture on the page encourage users to explore deeper into the site?
  • Is there a healthy balance between content density and white space?

Don’t just ask yourself. Have someone unfamiliar with your site give you feedback as well. Based on this analysis you should make changes to the site content or design to promote more favorable reactions in your users.

 2. Task Orientation

Every page on the site should have a main objective or path users should follow. Start off with the top navigation level pages for this evaluation. Design, layout and organization can contribute to how users flow through the pages of a site, so take a hard look at how clearly this information is presented. You should ask yourself if the action you want users to take is clear, or if there are distractions inhibiting the user from completing the task you want them to accomplish.

3. Navigation & Information Architecture

In the simplest terms, site navigation allows user to get from one place to another on your site.  While a person in a physical space can rely on an innate sense of direction to get from place to place, the web is not able to benefit from these mechanisms, so effective web navigation is critical.

A high-level analysis will help you determine if there is a convenient and obvious way to move within the site.  When it comes to the navigation, you should ask yourself:

  • Do all the navigation buttons and tabs follow a design and terminology convention?
  • Is there an obvious relationship between the navigation and the page the user is currently viewing?

If your navigation isn’t living up to these standards, you may want to consider making design changes so it is clear for users at all times where they are on the site and where they should be headed next.

YouCaring Contact Form

4. Forms and Data Entry

Forms on a website provide an opportunity to extract valuable information from site users and allow you to form the basis of a relationship. They can also provide troublesome roadblocks for users to navigate to get to the content they want. If forms are not working well on your site, you may miss the opportunity to connect with your customers.

  • Review forms on your website to ensure that form fields are clearly labeled, that clues are provided to the users about expected input values and that information is checked for accuracy before the user moves on to the next step.

If you find your site does not comply to these best practices for web forms, you may need the assistance of a developer to make edits to improve the usability of these forms, which should lead to more conversions from your customers. Don’t let a faulty web form get in the way of a customer achieving a goal.

5. Trust & Credibility

Credibility is an essential tenet to web design.  The success of your site is an outcome of how your customers perceive their experience interacting with your company.  Credibility also fosters customer loyalty and facilitates positive word of mouth sharing.

An expert review will examine site content to determine if it is up to date and has an authoritative voice that is inline with your company brand. To start, you can just make sure that your site is free of things that would cause users to feel uneasy about the site.

  • Is the content free from errors?
  • Does the site use advertisements in a professional way?
  • Is the content written for humans or over-stuffed with keywords?

Creating content for a website is a time-consuming, but extremely important process. If your site content is guilty of any of the faux pas listed above you should create an action plan to make improvements, starting with your most visited pages.

6. Page Layout & Visualization

Customers will make snap judgments about a site largely based on the site’s visual appeal.  Many design styles can be applied to a site however; all sites should adhere to the established design best practices.

  • Site layout should assist the user in knowing where to focus and what is most important on the page. 
  • Items that are clickable should appear to be so and items that are not clickable should not look like they are.
  • Fonts should be used consistently throughout the site.
  • There should be a balance between white space and content.
  • Overall the site should be pleasant to look at and navigate.

By examining a site with a critical and trained eye, we are able to get a pretty good idea of the quality of the website and which areas could be improved to enhance the customer experience. Typically, enhancements to page layout and visualization issues will call for the help of a designer.

A true UX Site Audit will dive much deeper than we did today, but reviewing these 6 common trouble spots will help you diagnose the most pressing issues with your site. Make sure to check back tomorrow to see how you can perform a Marketing and SEO Audit to ensure your site is performing at peak performance.