Usability rules the Web. Simply stated, if the customer can’t find a product, then he or she will not buy it.

Jakob Nielsen

Usability speaks to the core of the review — is the product usable?

It’s time to make some assumptions about the usability of your project based on business and user needs. Step into the shoes of your users using your persona sheets, userflows and analytical data. Start using the application or service on different devices, browsers or operating systems while following your userflows. You will quickly pick up on journeys that are possibly frustrating or pieces of functionality that do not help you achieve your objective as the user.

You might also come across design flaws, broken or confusing components or responsive issues. Jot all of these potential problems down while taking screen shots. Once you have moved through the project as a user, step into the shoes of the product owner and go through the same process.

Your next challenge is making the feedback easy to understand when consolidated. Remember — your client might not have any understanding of or design and it is your job as a reviewer to make the feedback concise. Explain your thinking verbally in detail if necessary, but keep your written feedback short and to the point. It is also very important to make sure that the feedback is not seen as a list of problems or issues but rather as opportunities for improvement.

Lastly, do not go into solution mode yet. At this point you are only identifying usability problems. I like to consolidate my feedback into buckets:

1. User journeys

This should cover any problems relating to a user’s journey. If you have trouble convincing your stakeholder of these problems, try placing them in the user’s shoes. Some examples of user journey flaws could include:

  • Information needed by a user is too low down a page
  • Important pages are hidden too deeply within the information architecture
  • Information is unnecessary and does not provide value to a user
  • Too many clicks are required to make a purchase
  • Inconsistent user journeys
  • Important information sits below the fold

2. General

What are the consistent problems across the product or service? List anything that is not specific to a journey or device.

3. Design

Having a design background is very useful in this section of the review, but is not necessarily a requirement. There are some aspects of design that are generally obvious to spot:

  • Design inconsistencies (i.e buttons are different sizes on different pages)
  • Problems with alignment
  • Poor page hierarchy

4. Mobile

The accuracy of your mobile review is very dependent on the different types of devices you use to test (both tablet and smart phones). These issues could include:

  • Responsive problems (i.e not mobile friendly)
  • Scale problems such as fonts being too small
  • Pinch or zoom is required on some pages

5. Desktop

For the most part you would have covered any issues on desktop in the other sections, but from time to time there might be issues that are desktop specific. Also keep your analytics in mind — if your traffic is primarily mobile you might want to skip over this section.

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