Incorporating UX Audit Tasks into a User Research plan

Laptop with charts and graphs

The Beyond User Research presentation, from World Information Architecture Day, got me thinking about a related article called The UX Audit: A Beginner’s Guide, from Usability Geek. My other blog post about World IA Day was long enough, so I didn’t mention it then. But, the similarities in the article and the presentation were close and I wanted to mention it.

Alternative Methods for User Research

Unlike the article, the Beyond User Research presentation isn’t a strict guideline. It doesn’t mention any particular research methods to follow. It shows that a UX team can schedule different research methods within a UX research plan. The presentation mentions at least two types of data sources: web metrics and user research.

Web metrics examples included: search query data, logs from a call center, data from analytics reports, voice of the customer reports, CRM applications, and so on. A web analyst might try to reduce the volume of calls to call centers. A user researcher might want to know what most people are calling about. Rather than use this information as a web analyst would, a UX team can use this data as UX research.

UX Audit Methodology

The UX Audit article, being a guide, does mention several methods, including:

  • Review of business and user objectives
  • Conversion metrics
  • Customer care data
  • Sales data
  • Traffic/engagement
  • Compliance with UX standards

It suggests using, for example, conversion metrics this way:

Conversion rates or sales figures: If the premise of your site or app is eCommerce, sales or download figures can be useful to a UX audit. For example, here at Justinmind, we measure how many blog readers download our prototyping tool and from which particular posts…

It breaks down an audit into individual steps and mentions 3 goals that should be clarified before getting started: audit goals, time limit, and resources.

There are a lot of resources in this article, including links to Usability.gov, and even a sample UX audit report. There’s definitely a cross-over between these two information sources.

Differences

The article warns that a UX audit can be time-consuming and expensive. For an external team, which they recommend, it states that a UX audit can cost “upwards of $1000 for a couple of days with a one-person team; the full monty of a UX team coming in for four weeks and providing in-depth, goal-orientated insights could cost up to $10,000”. It presents a UX audit as an official stage of a design cycle, and should be completed early on.

The presentation, meanwhile, makes the case that teams can incorporate a variety of user research methods as an ongoing part of their UX activities. Rather than conduct a full-fledged UX audit, for instance, a UX team could schedule one of these methods periodically. The research cost, in time, money and resources, depends on the method and the goals.

Discussion

Quoting a high price tag for a usability study could be a limitation for teams eager to get started on conducing user research. The article mentions that a UX audit is most beneficial at the beginning of a project. Even with everyone knowing that, the high costs might dissuade a team from getting behind the research. What sounds like a boring activity might push them to just start designing.

And it’s a rare opportunity to have the time and resources to publish an official report, like this. There’s a lot of other work to do.

Instead of treating UX audits as a costly, one-time activities, why not use UX audit methods throughout the year?

Conclusion

These two information sources can work together as complements. The article is very informative with specific guidelines. But the presentation shows how to ‘break the rules’ a little, by conducting research on a regular schedule. This allows a team to keep up with their product throughout the year. A custom approach, such as doing repetitive quick hits seems like the best option.

In any case, I recommend taking a look at the UX audit article. It links to many useful usability resources and websites providing analytics data.

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