How a quick Design Audit can help you realize "What is going wrong"

how to do design audit

Design Audit : Why is it effective?

All of us come across websites or mobile apps and feel frustrated of the shortcomings like, “I cannot make out what to click on to complete my goal ” or “I don’t know how to go back to the page that I came from?”. This is because sometimes the design of the sites can puzzle us and we would end up by not knowing what to do exactly on that site. It is a design audit which will help you identify common problems that are causing agony for site visitors and help you identify the simplest ways to in turn help the users easily accomplish the goals they want.

Design audit is an examination of all the visual and interactive elements that you use to interact with customers, clients, vendors and other audiences. The term Design Audit aka Heuristic Evaluation was coined by Jakob Nielsen in 1995.

Design audit is nothing more than identifying problem areas that need to be prioritized. The idea is to analyze visual and interaction style and message with a concern for uniformity and execution.

Why does design need to be evaluated? Why is design audit a necessity?

Impact of design evaluation(1)

Not many people know it, that your website/digital experience must grow with your business and must have high conversion rates. Perhaps, how will you know what areas of your site need to be refreshed, redesigned or rethought?

A functionally sound visual design coupled with a good user experience is of utmost importance in building trust between the user and the company. Good design speaks on behalf of the company and helps the company to turn their visitors into customers and also encourages them to return to a website.

The main purpose to evaluate design is to determine the qualitative and quantitative impacts of design. It allows for pinpointing and prioritizing visual and functional design issues right at the beginning of a redesign effort.

What we do in a design audit?

We take a deep dive into your business apps/experiences and:

  • Familiarize ourselves with the app/experience
  • Document the problem areas
  • Identify actionable takeaways to improve the same and
  • Ultimately help in increasing conversion rates
Through a design audit you’ll discover how to enhance onboarding, why conversions are low, why retention may be low, or any other issue you’re currently experiencing.

How do we do it?

We follow a fourfold process to conduct a design audit.

1. Identification

Various clients come to us to re-design their apps/experience. But in most cases they are unable to justify what is working well or not working well for them. This is where Design audit plays a major role. We help the client identify the issues and concerns of their app/experience by conducting a design audit and then work around them to improve the overall experience of their product/service.

2. Scope of the project

Based on our identification of the re-design, we scope the project and counter in the limitations. Post this we set the expectations with our client as to what they would get at the end of the analysis. We discuss in-depth all the usability functions and journeys that we will be analysing with the client so that we our on the same page.

3. Group evaluation

Once the scope of the audit is frozen, we review the project and different components on which the audit has to be performed, accordingly we form an audit team of novice users to achieve these goals and document their experience in detail. This gives us the entire set of issues that they face while trying to achieve their goals, these issues are then classified based on a predefined set of categories and severity to drill them down further.

4. Heuristic evaluation

One or more Human Factors experts uses the inspection method to identify usability problems in the app/experience. Evaluators measure the usability, efficiency, and effectiveness of the interface based on 10 usability heuristics originally defined by Jakob Nielsen in 1994.

Under Heuristic Evaluation we perform the below steps. They are:

  • Identify issues based on Jakob Nielsen’s usability principles
  • Categorize these issues to further drill them down
  • Assign Severity to focus and prioritize the issues

1. Principles

We use Jakob Nielsen’s heuristics which are ten principles for user interface design. They are as follows:

  • Visibility of system status
  • Match between system and the real world
  • User control and freedom
  • Consistency and standards
  • Error prevention
  • Recognition rather than recall
  • Flexibility and efficiency of use
  • Aesthetic and minimalist design
  • Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors
  • Help and documentation

2. Categorizing issues


Once we have the list, we categorize the issues in pre-defined list of categories.

  • IA/Navigation
  • Visual Design
  • Interface Design
  • Language
  • Functionality

3. Assigning severity

We then assign a severity to each of the issue based on how each issue will effect the user:

  • HIGH: Usability catastrophe which is imperative to fix
  • MEDIUM: Major usability problem which is important to fix
  • LOW: Minor usability problem

We recommend our clients to focus on the issues that are categorized under HIGH with utmost urgency so that the experience of their users is not flawed.

Competitor analysis

Competitive analysis(1)

Here we identify competitors of the client and evaluate their strategies to determine their strengths to those of current client’s product or service. This evaluation helps to establish what attributes of competitors are better than the client’s service. It also helps in understanding the current state of the client and how they offer certain services which might not be offered by their competitors. Hence, how better they can market and showcase their additional services.


In the design audit report, we propose different possible solutions to each of the issues which are enlisted. The recommendations that we provide helps the client to sift through the evidence and make rational choices to improve the experience of their app/service and in-turn increase conversions.

Sharing with the clients

We create an exhaustive list of all the issues, category and severity and share the report with our clients. We break them down in to what needs to be immediately fixed as well as share recommendations and competitor analysis for similar lines of work to help our clients understand, replicate and fix the issue before they create huge damages.

The summary report also guides us through our redesign process to create streamlined experiences which appeal visually as well for the users.


The benefits of design audit are now well known. They lead to more cohesive, consistent user experiences. If you know there is friction in your website, a design audit of your current website can help create a short-term roadmap. Through a design audit you’ll discover how to enhance onboarding, why conversions are low, why retention may be low, or any other issue you’re currently experiencing.

Most importantly, design audit also helps you in figuring out what not to fix and what not to do. It gives you a heads up on what will work and what will not work for your service. This definitely helps you focus your energy on the most important stuff.

The ROI of design is clear, so auditing to find out where you’re deficient will pay dividends. At best , it’s about finding a balance between UX, UI, interaction design, usability, accessibility and web performance.

Need a Design audit for your mobile app or website?  Talk to us!