What is Design Audit and how it impacts business?

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Introduction

The purpose of design is to facilitate interaction. This interaction comes in all shapes and sizes. It can range from a purchase on an E-commerce website, a download on a content sharing application or a seamless money transfer via a banking app. Each interaction fulfils some inherent need in a user’s life, and by extension, validates the existence of a product or service in today’s digital diaspora.

While there are many intuitive metrics to validate when successful design wins over users, it’s not very easy to figure out where design fails. Inconsistencies in website design can lead to differential messaging across pages of the site. This may seem to be an isolated insignificant occurrence, but over time these divergences add up and send confusing signals to users. Confused users do not ultimately convert or form a long-lasting relationships with the brand.

How do we go about solving it: Enter Design Audit

Design consistency influences the customer experience deeply. It ensures that your customers and your potential customers receive the same message at any given touch point. A Design Audit is a crucial part of the design evaluation and structuring process. Think of it as a product check-up. It’s performed to make sure that the product is expressing itself consistently across all channels.

You might be thinking, “Do I really need an audit? Will customers even notice changes in small design elements?” The startling truth is ‘Yes!’. A design audit can help identify design bottlenecks and suggest alternate UI manoeuvres to ease interaction and/or reduce steps to conversion. A design audit also helps gauge if the functionality of the website or app is in tandem with the growth of the organisation. Simply put, companies grow and capabilities expand. So while a certain design strategy might get the job done at a certain stage of growth, it may not be the case as the organisation matures.

Here’s how a design audit can help your organisation:

  • Conducting a design audit will enable your business to get a complete evaluation of different dimensions of the digital product and reveal areas or features that need restructuring.
  • As with financial audits, a UX audit uses factual methods to improve or help a product grow through offer usability and visual recommendations that can enhance the user experience.
  • A design audit is very useful to evaluate the functionality of the company at every stage of growth. This process will help you manage your visual design, functions and maintain a uniform tone of voice.
  • In a nutshell, a design audit is an opportunity to check the quality of the designs, the products, the user experience and the overall strength of the company’s brand.

What is a Design Audit?

Simply put, a design audit is an enquiry into the user architecture and execution for any website or mobile application to yield actionable business insights.

Here are broad areas of evaluation:

Business & user objectives

The design audit mechanism can reveal whether the business is achieving the set goal for conversion and if there is a shortfall and by how much. User adoption of the business and comparative rates of month on month growth can also prove to be revealing statistics.

Conversion metrics and bounce rates

It might be useful to evaluate what the industry standard on conversion rates is and where your business lies in terms of comparison to competition. Bounce rates signify the rate at which users are leaving your platform without conversion. If bounce rates are seen increasing over time, there is a reason to worry.

Compliance to usability guidelines

When it comes to user design, there are many prevalent guidelines and recommendations that web developers follow for improving the user experience in websites. While they should not be viewed as a line in stone, adherence to UX best practices can lead to usability improvements over time.

User mental models

User perception of a website or application deeply define how they interact with your platform. A design audit checklist can help understand the end user’s point of view better.

Design & Branding evaluation

The audit is a healthy activity to undertake to understand if the current design or branding is clogging the conversion rate or is affecting user sentiment negatively. This is the most important facet of the audit.

Who should undertake the design audit and when?

Most traditional companies don’t house a dedicated UX/UI team that looks into the digital product. In fact, most leading players engage app development companies to design and develop their website and applications, which may need modifications with the passage of time. Such organisations typically gain the most from conducting a digital audit. Conversely, any company that is considering redesigning the product must also consider an external digital audit to chart the path for the future. Digital audits are usually carried out on a product or service that has been live for some time & has sufficient data to examine.

What’s the process of a Design Audit?

Before starting an audit, a business needs to clearly define measurable objectives such as audit goals, ROI, conversion criteria, et cetera. It’s also vital to set a realistic timeline and budget for evaluation since the audit cannot go on forever. The design checklist further includes the process of relevant material gathering, i.e., collating all the branding material and promotion collateral to be considered for divergences in the design thought process.

Here are some metrics to help during an audit:

  • Visual Branding Audit:

We must inspect and understand different design collaterals (ads, social media posts, website- desktop & mobile versions, mobile apps, business cards etc.)  that form important touch points for a customer to notice patterns and deviations. Evaluation of this material will help in recognising inconsistencies in tone and voice that need to be normalised to seem more authentic as a brand.

  • Heuristic Evaluation:

It is a usability inspection method for finding usability problems in a user interface design, thereby making them addressable & solvable as a part of an iterative design process.

  • Website & mobile analytics:

If heuristic evaluation provides you with qualitative data, then analytics tools provide the necessary quantitative information you need. Just make sure that you are going far back enough in the analytics to recognise trends, rather than basing the audit on isolated data points.

  • Stakeholder interviews or user surveys:

There is likely to be a wealth of comments & feedback within these surveys that can be used in the audit. These feedback can be organised into categories- that is, we can segregate findings per screen or task and study them on the basis of the severity of opinion.

  • Previous product requirements:

To understand why design decisions happened the way they did, this information will be useful when it comes to writing up viable recommendations.

What insights we get from Design audit?

A digital audit can help businesses answer compelling questions regarding the business and user satisfaction metrics. Identification of design bottlenecks and usability problems can pave the way for understanding of what works and what doesn’t. What are users looking for, where are they getting stuck and at what point in the design interface do they leave without converting. Broadly speaking, you can categorise the results of the audit the following points:-

  • Relevance

Is the site or app addressing a user pain point? Is there a disconnect between expectation and reality when users find your product?

  • Value proposition

Is the value to the user clear and convincing? Do they feel motivated to return to your website/app?

  • Usability

Are there points of ambiguity or uncertainty in your product interface, or do customers’ intuitively understand what to do?

  • Action

Are calls to action visible & relevant, and do they incentivise users to take action?

Conclusion

A design audit can prove to be a very useful endeavour. Think of it as similar to getting an expert review of your website design to maximise your business conversion and increase user engagement. Understanding the information hierarchy and structuring it in an appealing manner can lead to happier customers who happily spread the word about your product or service. Streamlining the design on the website can make your website more usable and improve the overall perception of the brand. Maximise the potential of your business with a digital audit!

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