Beginner’s Guide To Conducting A UX Design Review
Every website has its strengths and weaknesses. This is common across all markets, and performing a UX review can help you identify the weak spots.
Most companies hire UX designers to come in and run these reviews. But if you have the right skillset, you can conduct UX reviews yourself, without any help. They require patience and a keen eye for detail, but you can learn a lot about a website even with 1-2 hours of study.
In this post, I’ll cover the basics of a UX review and how you can run one yourself. A successful UX review identifies potential problem areas and offers solutions on how to improve performance. There are no guaranteed successes, but most websites benefit from a UX review with a competent designer.
What Is A UX Review?
The goal of any UI/UX review is to study goals, objectives, and behaviors to see if they align with the company’s intended goals. User experience pertains to user behaviors and how people interface with a website or web application.
Here’s a direct quote from this 24ways article, written by Joe Leech. In the very first paragraph, he defines a UX review as such:
A UX review is where an expert goes through a website looking for usability and experience problems and makes recommendations on how to fix them.
Since most companies do not have a UX division, they’ll typically hire outside help. But these tests don’t usually involve a panel of users like a user study.
Instead they can be run with a single UI/UX designer and maybe some members of the company. Tests focus on the usability of an interface and how easy it is to complete a certain task.
It’s important to have specific goals in mind while conducting the review. If there’s nothing to study specifically, then there’s no way to review anything. But goals can change drastically, whether the site is a blog, social network, or e-commerce shop.
Once goals are set, the UX designer can run through a site looking for potential pitfalls and usability problems.
Focusing On The User
A great user experience comes from the user’s end. Most users know what they want to accomplish on any given website, and your job as the designer is to give it to them in a clear, straightforward design.
But if you don’t know what the user wants, then you’ll have a tough time. That’s why it’s always smart to do some user research along with UX research. Start by polling users and working with user-centered design ideas.
What sort of features do most users expect? How do they want pages organized? What information are they typically looking for?
These seem like really simple questions, but the answers can dramatically affect a site’s performance.
By focusing on the user first, you may also notice problem-solving becomes a lot easier. Rather than saying, “this doesn’t work,” it’s much more productive to say, “this could work better by doing X”.
In a UX review, you’re always looking for problem areas. These are a given, and you’re bound to have a few. But you won’t always come up with a solid solution on the spot. The solution can take weeks or months to arise, and it may require lots of user testing to find something that works.
If you’re looking for more guides on user research, check out these links:
Study Flows & Behaviors
If you can’t get opinions straight from users, then you’ll have to draw conclusions from analytics. Naturally, the best resource is Google Analytics, but there are other tools you can try.
When studying the numbers, you’ll want to focus on a few key pieces of data.
- Which pages often drive visitors to the site?
- How long do visitors typically stay on a page?
- How many total pageviews per page?
- Where are users going after their entrance?
That last question is a tricky solve, because the answer often involves the follow up question, “why?”. For example, let’s say a high-traffic landing page has a bounce rate of 88%. That’s fairly high, but it may not be bad.
The bounce rate includes visitors going to another site from content links. So a high bounce rate might mean people are reading the content and clicking links in the content. The page might be performing well, but the metrics wouldn’t say so.
All you can do with a UX review is study behavior. Consider how you expect people to behave and how they actually behave. Compare the differences and tinker with strategies to see what works.
You can use the user flow visualization to help map common behaviors. This works best for studying landing page behavior, but it’ll give you a general idea of how people move through your content.
Be willing to adjust your goals as you go through the process. You can’t force the user to do something they don’t want to do.
Instead consider why users are behaving in a certain way. Ask yourself what’s going through their minds while on the website. Are they looking for some piece of information that’s too hard to find? Or are they finding unrelated information that’s actually helpful?
Without user research, there really is no way to answer these questions.
Also take a peek at UI designs and interactive mockups for ideas. You’ll find tons of galleries with mobile UI/UX inspiration you can study and build your own ideas.
Study behaviors and draw your own conclusions. Professional designs will help you craft a user experience that improves your internal metrics and provides exactly what the end user wants.
Best UX Review Tools
There’s nothing wrong with approaching a UX review with just a paper and pencil.
But with UX research tools, you can gather much more information for a UX review. You’ll get much clearer results, and you can work with users through user testing to gauge if certain improvements are really adding value to the experience.
I don’t want to overwhelm this post with too many tools, so I’d say these are the most popular and most valuable tools for UX designers.
If you’ve never heard of UserTesting, then you should familiarize yourself with what they offer. This is the largest UX review tool on the web. UserTesting offers polls, A/B testing, video/audio recordings, and a full dashboard of results for tracking your tests online.
They offer so many services that I couldn’t possibly list them all here. And frankly, a basic UX review wouldn’t even require everything they offer.
But if you do need user feedback then UserTesting can hook you up with an objective audience of testers who offer truthful feedback.
It seems weird to study where users click and how they move on a screen. But when you have assumptions that don’t match the results, you can learn a lot about how people see your website.
A heat mapping tool, like Hotjar, is indispensable for tracking user behaviors. It offers plenty of heatmap info, but you can also track conversion funnels, feedback polls, and even get full video recordings of user behaviors.
I also think this is one of the more affordable tools you can use, so it can work for any size business.
The guys and gals at Zurb have a tool called Verify, specifically made for UX review tests. You select from a handful of different tests, like A/B tests, heatmap tests, user behavior tests, and personal feedback tests.
These results are all curated together, so you can go through and find problem areas in the design. Verify makes it super easy for businesses of all sizes to see success with a simple UX review. It offers a method for testing everything, and the results can directly influence improvements and site performance.
Starting Your Review
Now that you know what a UX review is and how it works, you should pick a site and get started. This can be your own site or a site for a client, but either way, you’ll learn a lot more by doing rather than reading.
If you’ve never done a UX review before, then you should just dive in and learn as you go. There’s so much to take away from the process. By the end of your first review, you’ll understand the value of a real, usable interface design.
And if you’re looking for more info about user experience, be sure to check out our related posts.