Design Audit: What It’s All About and Why You Need It
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Did you know that a dollar spent on improving User Experience (UX) brings in anywhere between $2 to $100 in return?

Given that seamless user experience has become such an integral part of success in online businesses, it’s very important to make sure that your UI/UX is beyond reproach.

Any discrepancies in your design immediately raises a red flag for a discerning user. This doesn’t just extend to your website but also includes all your online assets including social media, landing pages, and Slideshare presentations.

This is why more and more companies are choosing to undertake a design audit so that their brand design and narratives are consistent across different marketing channels.

What is a design audit?

A design audit is nothing short of a brand checkup. Any UI/UX designer worth their salt knows that consistency is the key to good customer experience.

This means that customers should receive the same messaging wherever a brand is reaching out to them.

A design audit ensures that the brand is expressing itself consistently on all the different channels where it engages in customer outreach.

There are two elements to a thorough design audit- analyzing the brand’s visual/design elements and analyzing its core message.

Both these need to be compared to what’s being put out there and make sure that there are no discrepancies.

To conduct a design audit you need to collect all the communication whether that’s visual, written, or verbal on all channels — from website to webinars to social media to the actual product.

The more predictable and consistent the user experience, the likelier you are to build trust with your audience.

Why do you need an audit?

You may be thinking, why do you really need an audit? Will customers even notice if there is a change in small design elements?

The fact of the matter is that consistency builds trust. And while it’s easy to make sure your design is consistent when you’re a smaller company with limited marketing channels, it becomes much harder when you expand.

Here’s a small example. Say you have sales offices in 5 different cities, each with its own sales team. Now salesperson A may send out an email to a prospective client in one city that may be completely inconsistent in messaging and design elements from that sent by Salesperson B in a different city.

While this is seemingly insignificant in itself, over time these inconsistencies add up and send confusing signals to users.

Once customers are confused, they will subconsciously keep their guard up, at which point it will become very difficult to deliver a satisfactory customer experience.

Therefore, as you scale, it’s important to bring together all the different marketing content across various channels and make sure it is consistent in design and messaging.

If there are any discrepancies, these should be ironed out and prevented in the future.

So how do you conduct a design audit?

Here are the significant steps involved in conducting a thorough design audit.

Step 1: Collect everything

This means you need to gather every single branding collateral that the company has created.

You may have to designate one person or a team of people to make sure everything is collected from different offices, functions, and teams.

Apart from things that have been released also include things that are WIP or scheduled to be released soon.

The list of items is as comprehensive as it gets. You need to rack your brains to make sure nothing is missed.

Here are some items that absolutely must make the list:

  • All web pages including landing pages
  • Style guides
  • Logos in every format
  • Print, TV, and radio ads
  • Stationery, email signatures, and business cards
  • All ads- social media, search engine ads, display ads, etc.
  • All marketing campaigns
  • Brochures/flyers/pamphlets and other marketing/training material
  • Webinars, presentations, workshops
  • All social media posts including stories

Step 2: Analyze the website

The website is the primary online identity of the brand and deserves a special spotlight during a design audit.

A design audit is as easy as looking through the website and finding inconsistencies in the design that goes against the overall brand voice or style guidelines.

You need to keep asking questions until you’re sure that all aspects of the design from voice to tone to the elements have been covered.

Here are some questions that people use while conducting a design audit of the company website:

  • Is the same logo file being used across the site?
  • Are the background styles and patterns consistent across all pages?
  • Does mobile design adhere to brand guidelines? Is the mobile website easy to navigate?
  • Is typography consistent?
  • Does the navigation flow smoothly and consistently?
  • Do the popups and hello bars adhere to the style guide and brand guidelines?
  • Are the landing pages consistent with the main website?

Step 3: Analyze social media channels

The next thing you need to deep dive into is your social media assets. Social media is something most brands use extensively and frequently.

You can use some of these questions as a starting point to conduct a design audit for your social media pages:

  • Are the images designed and sized appropriately?
  • Is the content itself reflecting the brand’s values and mission?
  • Is the language and messaging consistent?
  • Are posts following style guidelines?

Once you’re done with the big two — website and social media— you can proceed to the smaller assets such as business cards, flyers, emails, search ads, and so on.

Keep in mind that the design audit has to cover all your assets; only then is it really meaningful.

The results of a design audit

A design audit can reap long-lasting benefits that can help you craft consistent messaging in the long run.

The results from your audit will depend completely on the number and nature of inconsistencies you find. Here are some possible outcomes:

Just a checkup

If the inconsistencies aren’t glaring, you’re in luck. Make the few changes you need to, update the style guidelines and train your team on how to prevent such mistakes in the future.

After this, you’re good to go.

Systems Upgrade

If the inconsistencies are too many you may need to revamp your design system altogether.

Extensive training of the teams on using this new system will also be required. Make sure you have a mechanism in place whereby additions to the new system can be made in the future.

New Branding

In the worst case scenario, you might find yourself doing a complete re-branding. If your assets are all extremely disparate in their design, this may be your only option.

However, keep in mind that this is a great opportunity to start from scratch and do it right, keeping the core brand values and positioning in mind.

Conclusion

With exemplary UI/UX becoming a necessity for any online business, the bar has to be set high.

Major inconsistencies can cost your brand the trust and credibility it needs to succeed in the long run.

If you ignore design inconsistencies, you will end up paying for it over a period of time.

Conducting a design audit from time to time lets you know where you stand and what needs to change.

If things are really bad, it gives you an opportunity to start from scratch and build a design system that is not only consistent but also reflects your brand’s core values.

Have we missed out on anything? Let us know your ways of design audit in the comments below and if you liked this blog, please subscribe to get such amazing content directly to your inbox.

More posts by Pranay Rathod.

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Design Audit: What It’s All About and Why You Need It
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