An expert audit involves getting an expert in a particular field to assess and report on how your website or app is working based on their experience and/or a set of criteria. For the purposes of this guide we’re talking about experts in the fields of UX/usability, product, branding, copy, or conversion rate optimisation.
Someone who knows their stuff can tell you how your product stacks up against competitors, best practice, and user expectations. They should be able to tell you what data is important to watch and maybe even give an idea of what the conversion rates look like of others in the field.
Whenever you bring an outside expert onto your projects you gain something very important: a fresh pair of eyes who can see things that you may have become blind to, and ask the obvious (and possibly awkward) questions.
Once they've found problems they can also save you a lot of time by helping you prioritise which issues need most effort. They should also be able to offer you suggestions for ways to improve your product and give names of people or software that can help further.
The most important part is finding your expert. You should look for someone who specialises in the area you work in—if you're an ecommerce site you'll want an ecommerce expert, if you're a financial app you'll want someone who knows finance. They'll be able to bring experience of what works in that sector and will understand what users would look for in your product.
Someone who comes recommended is always a good idea: ask around your community, for example if you're a startup try your investors or other companies they’ve invested in. If you’re a business who operates locally, ask similar sized businesses in your area.
Failing that, search online and look out for someone who can write or talk about their area of expertise. Do they keep a regular blog? Have they written books on the subject? Do they talk at conferences? Or teach what they know? These are good signs they will be able to explain things clearly.
Once you've found your person, you should talk to them about their experiences and explain your business to them. If they seem switched on and have a few good references then agree a fee for the work. The amount will vary depending on the size of your site or section of site of it but this shouldn't be something that is charged by the hour/day or they are incentivised to drag things out.
When the audit is complete they should be able to supply some kind of report (it doesn’t have to be long, look for actionable content). It’s also a good idea to get them to present this to you in a session where you can ask plenty of questions and get the most out of their knowledge.
This isn't something that you should need to use often. A good expert audit should leave you with plenty of things (6-12 months worth) to go off and design/put into development.
Experts who promise incredible results might sound impressive but anyone with decent experience should be pragmatic about what they can achieve and how change is dependent on the client’s actions afterwards. They should be able to talk you through the nuance of what they look for rather than speaking in vague terms.
Be worried if they don't ask lots of questions when you first talk with them. They should be using these early opportunities to learn a lot about the business and they should be genuinely inquisitive to learn from the client side. If they aren’t then it might be worth looking elsewhere as they’re probably going to give you a generic report that misses some of the context of your website.
Request that they share their findings in an easily accessible form with you. I like online documents that are easy to refer to. Don’t just let them present to you but get them to share their presentation and any supporting findings or documentation, so you can use it afterwards.
Experts who just tell you to do something (often because it’s best practice) but can’t explain why aren’t much help. It suggests they don’t really know the subject area too well. They should be able to back up their assertions with some evidence.
In this case they should bring the tools, though they might want access to any quantitative data you've been gathering.
Cost is going to massively vary but ask yourself how much is it worth to find areas for improvement and potentially big revenue gain? This ‘worth’ will vary from depending on if you are a tiny company or a massive one.
It's going to depend on just how deep they go, but expect a standard expert audit turnaround time to be a week or two.
A shortcut to help you work out where UX and conversion issues are on any ecommerce website. Covers the full flow from landing pages to checkout.