When clients come to us, sometimes they know their products can do better but don’t have a clear picture of what needs to be done. Before designing anything, we usually plan 1 or 2 design sprints to conduct a product UX health check and then come up with the suggested directions.
How to do a UX health check? I would like to share the basics of what & how in this post. Hope you can get inspired and start one soon.
What is a UX health check?
The goal is to understand the as-is situation of a digital product. The expected outcome is the identification of the current challenges and potential opportunities to improve.
Who to conduct?
To conduct a product health check, you can be a UX researcher, UX designer, a Product Owner, or even an engineer. It is even better if you are a team of different roles to review from different perspectives.
No matter the product is a growing platform facing a transformation to its next stage, an established website running for years, or even still as a prototype not sure if ready to go, a UX health check can be helpful. We can do it at any stage and better to start lean and react iteratively.
To do a UX health check, there are three basic steps.
#1 Define: Goals & Scope
The first important moment is to have a kick-off workshop with your team to define together what’s the goal and scope. What outcome can the team expect at the given project duration? What should be the priority that needs a closer look?
To clarify the focus, there are 3 levels of perspectives:
- Strategy level: is the product finding the sweet spot between users’ needs and business goals?
- Interface level: is the design usable, simple, intuitive?
- Visual level: is the design aesthetically appealing, consistent, accessible?
Other typical questions to ask are:
- User group: are we focusing on one persona?
- Use cases: are we focusing on certain tasks?
- Device: shall we focus on desktop or mobile?
- Language: shall we check the English version first?
#2 Analyze: Problems & Opportunities
After the workshop, time for some quiet deep working time. The analysis step consists of three sub-steps: research planning, conduction, and synthesis.
For a UX health check, there are different research methods to use. With the defined goals and scope, we need to first plan what are the proper research methods and who else to involve and support the research conduction.
To get a holistic picture, we can set the research in a framework of three dimensions: User, Content, Context.
Here are some common methods we use in projects.
- To understand the User:
- Quantitative: Data analysis with tools like Google Analytics, Hotjar, Survey, Card sorting
- Qualitative: User interview, Contextual inquiries.
2. To understand the Content: Content audit, to create a content inventory document, as-is site map
3. To understand the Business Context: Desk research, Stakeholder interviews
It is pretty rare that a project has the resources to do all of them. The more important thing is to just start than waiting. One person alone can simply start with:
- Desk research by reading existing material, researching the industry and competitors
- A quick content auditing
- Heuristic review under the guidance of established usability principles
When doing analysis, you can use Google docs or excel to note down findings and thoughts. I would recommend using a tool to visualize everything and organize the info in a way to invite further collaboration from your team.
The example above is from one of my recent projects.
- We created the as-is site map in order to identify information architecture level issues. We also collected screenshots of page samples to analyze single page elements and page connection issues.
- Using color-coded post-its is a good practice to stay structured. In our example, red post-its are the identified problems, blue ones are the questions to further clarify. At the bottom, we created an area for noting down the ideas popping up to us when analyzing. They are in pink color.
- I worked closely with another colleague. In the beginning, each of us reviews some sections. All the work is visible side by side. Afterward, we can easily cross-check each other’s work and leave further post-its.
After conducting each stream of research, the next big moment is the research synthesis. This is the process to consolidate all the findings, look for patterns, and form insights and new concepts.
This is one of the framework templates we used in an internal workshop to organize the key findings.
- Horizontally divide by content categories
- Vertically have three swim lanes: what to keep, what to improve, and suggestions
- The colorful tags are used to indicate which source this finding comes from. Is it from user interview, or benchmarking, or stakeholder interview?
The core research team gather together and exchange the key findings from different streams and further discuss ideas, opinions, and note down what to suggest. This is an essential middle step. It lays a solid ground to further elevate into key guiding principles and concepts. The outcome can be something like this.
There are many ways to synthesize the findings. In the other project, we used the user journey framework to consolidate findings and come up with ideas.
#3 Decide: Directions & Priorities
In this third step, a health check report is ready to share and trigger the future treatment plan.
We suggest having another workshop with the team, to present the outcome and decide what’s next. Keep the presentation short and concise, and allocate enough time to do two other exercises:
- Decision: Ask the team to vote and agree on future directions. They can vote on priorities of problems to address or options of concept to adopt.
- Ideation: Once the direction is clear and agreed upon, please make the best of everyone to get more ideas on further solutions.
Ideally, the team now knows better the overall problems and decide the priority problems to solve, and continue to work on detailed solutions.
Thank you for your reading time.