The Ultimate Guide to Design Audits

{ 📒 } – What are design audits, why you need one, and how to do them

The ultimate guide to design audits

The word “audit” doesn’t generally inspire excitement, but when it comes to a design audit, well… conducting one can at least lead to some exciting outcomes for your product and brand.

A design audit involves analyzing all the design elements used across your organization in order to ensure that branding is consistent across all channels and outlets. That not only means taking stock of your visual design elements, but also the verbal and written portions of your user experience.

Design audits have gained popularity in recent years, and for good reason. Let’s break down the components of a design audit, then dive into how to do one of your own.

What is a design audit?

Every good product designer knows one thing always holds true: consistency in design has a huge influence on your customer experience. As designers, we need to ensure that the customers receive the same message at any given touchpoint. That brings us to the design audit.

A website design audit is basically a checkup to make sure that the company is expressing itself consistently across all channels.

By analyzing your organization’s visual elements, as well as its core messages, you can compare that to what users are actually seeing throughout their user journey, and remedy any inconsistencies.

At its core, a design audit requires you to gather and assess all forms of visual, written, and verbal communication, from the website to ads to social media — including any workshops or webinars you host—to the actual product itself. Users go through dozens, if not hundreds, of touch points in their journey to and through your product. Is their experience consistent and trustworthy, or erratic and unpredictable?

Why is a design audit important?

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Imagine that your organization and product’s visual elements are your brand’s “wardrobe.” The public-facing ‘look’ constructed by your visual assets plays a crucial part in how your brand is perceived by the public, thus forming a big part of your company’s identity. This is usually much easier to handle when you own a small business, but as the company grows, you can avoid any inconsistency hiccups down the road with a thorough audit.

For example, imagine your materials are printed in various remote locations rather than one primary location. An audit can help you ensure that all the selected visual elements have been used consistently across all marketing materials, and you haven’t ended up with different fonts on your business cards. That’s enough to make a good designer want to tear their hair out.

You have to keep your user experience consistent if you want to build trust. And as your organization grows and you add more and more features and elements to your product, this becomes harder and harder to keep a handle on. Enter the design audit.

Consistency helps build trust

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The thing we have been talking about since the beginning of this article is consistency.


Because the importance of consistency in building trust with your audience cannot be stressed enough. It is one of the core components of good product design and it needs to stay on the top of your mind at all times. But users aren’t the only audience you’re thinking about—we’re also helping build trust and consistency internally.

If you want to make sure that all of your team members are on the same page, you have to guide them in the right direction. A design audit can help your team better understand both direction and goals, making them a fun and effective way to bring your team together.

How to audit your website

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Every website audit design checklist starts with gathering every asset you can to get a near-perfect overview of your organization’s external communication.

Every single detail is essential and should not be overlooked. Yes, it can be a complicated process to gather everything, but it’s essential.

So what elements should you pay particular attention to? Here’s a list of places to start:

  • Any style guides or existing design systems
  • Website pages (yup—all of them)
  • Logo in all formats and use cases
  • Web ads
  • Standalone landing pages, marketing campaigns, and all their collateral
  • Classes, workshops, presentations, promotional speaking engagements
  • Social media content
  • Original design files vs. what’s live right now

Don’t forget to include the things that you haven’t released yet but are planning to release soon.

Once you have all of that in one place, take a good look at everything to get a better idea of the bigger picture.

Search for inconsistencies by examining all your existing properties

Analyze the website

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Before you get all caught up in analyzing the visual elements of your product and organization, you need to have a clear idea of what the brand direction is (or should be).

A website design audit checklist will help you find the inconsistencies, flaws, and other design issues that work against the brand idea and direction that you have in mind.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Is the navigation the same throughout all pages?
  • Is the same logo file always used across assets?
  • Are the background patterns consistent? The background styles?
  • Is the mobile design usable and accessible? Does it follow branding guidelines?
  • Are the icons all from the same set?
  • Do similar sections adhere to the same design conventions and styles?
  • Is the typography always the same?
  • Are the popups and hello bars in alignment with the branding?
  • How do the landing pages stack compared to the main website? Do they adhere to branding guidelines? Do they use the correct logo and colors?

Analyzing your social media

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Taking a better look at your website isn’t enough. You also have to analyze your social media pages to ensure you are sending the right message.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are the messages expressed in social media aligned, both across social and with the messages you share on your website and in advertising?
  • Is the wording consistent across platforms and brand guidelines?
  • Are the images adequately designed and sized to fit with your brand standards?
  • Are you creating content that is an extension of your brand’s values, or does it feel standalone?

Analyze posts on 3rd party sites

Don’t forget about your posts on 3rd party sites, like Product Hunt and others. These channels are some of the biggest traffic funnels to your site and product. You want readers to navigate from one to the other without experiencing a jarring transition.

Screenshot everything you have gathered

This isn’t necessarily required for design audit success, but screenshotting all the pages, all the interactions, and the rest will make your job a lot easier down the road.

There is a chance you will want to go back and check on something sometime in the future and having screenshots is easier than digging it all up again. Plus, it makes for an interesting portfolio to look back on as your company grows and matures.

Create a report of what’s good, what’s bad, and how to fix it

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Now comes the most time-consuming part: analyze everything you have gathered and create a report of what’s good—and what needs to be fixed.

Document and synthesize all of it to share with your team.

Doing so will help them understand why you made certain decisions.

Review everything you have captured

At this point, you have looked at your website, apps, and social media, and made a bunch of screenshots. Now it’s time to review all of that to have a better idea of what your next steps should be.

Look for patterns

Organize the elements into buckets by searching for the patterns that will emerge during the analysis process.

Look for the commonalities that will help you recognize the standard convention that users are already familiar with.

Tone, voice, and message

Now that you have taken a closer look at all the visual elements, don’t forget to consider the tone, voice, and the general message of the content in question.

Once again, pay attention to the patterns that may emerge, and just like with the visual elements, ensure that the tone, voice, and message are consistent. This process can feel endless, but don’t be tempted to skip over or “accidentally” ignore anything; you’ll thank yourself (and your organization and product would too if they could) later.

There is also a good chance that the general message and tone has evolved over time, so look at the older elements and adjust or remove them if they don’t fit in anymore.

Maybe you’ll even realize that you are not happy with the tone, voice, and message of your company in general and will decide to change it entirely. Now is a good time to do so, since you’re knee deep in revising all of it anyway.

Present your findings

Once the design audit is completed, you should present a detailed report of the findings to the whole team. Show what’s right, what’s wrong, what needs fixing, and your ideas on how to fix them.

Present the patterns you’ve noticed, show the extent of the inconsistencies, and give suggestions on how to avoid similar inconsistencies in the future.

Take your team members’ ideas into consideration too; having a quick brainstorming session can result in a number of great ideas for new improvements.

Even if you decide not to do this immediately, creating a documented report can be highly useful down the road. For example, other designers on your team can benefit from your findings when conducting their own audit.

Create a clear improvement plan

In order to really benefit from the audit you have just completed, you need to create a solid plan for improvements—piece by piece.

Remember that in order to create consistency, you need to ensure that all your team members are on the same page. An improvement plan won’t create much improvement if you’re the only one using it! One simple way to do this is to create or update your brand and style guides and conduct a team-wide training on it.

Make sure all members of your team understand different brand assets; from logo usage to a list of vocabulary you have decided to adopt in your written communication. Remember it’s not just about consistency within your visual elements, but within your tone, voice, and message as well. And don’t just consider it one-and-done—you’ll need to revisit these topics over time to make sure they stick.

Create an ongoing schedule

Once you have finished your fist design audit, you can make things a lot easier for yourself in the future if you create an ongoing schedule for check-ins, to minimize the chance of developing future communication inconsistencies.

One of the easiest ways to do this is by creating a compilation of rules for any future design changes to your site. This is also known as a design standards manual.

This manual keeps everyone on your team on the same page(s) and makes your common goals crystal clear.

Once everybody in your organization really understands your visual branding as well as the overall message you are trying to communicate to your audience, the number of inconsistencies will decrease dramatically.

What’re you waiting for?

So how should you conduct a website audit and why? In this article, we went over the basic things every designer should know about a design audit and the benefits that it comes with.

The most important things to remember are:

  • You must analyze both the visual elements as well as the overall message, tone, and voice of your company
  • Consistent communication with your audience is one of the critical components of good design and a trustworthy user experience
  • Keep all your team members on the same page by ensuring that they understand your visual branding and the type of communication you are aiming to establish with your audience
  • Follow our simple manual on each step of a proper design audit, discover any inconsistencies in your own company and nip them in the bud!

Good luck!

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Kayleigh Karutis Avatar

Kayleigh Karutis / Head of Growth @ Mason

Kayleigh leads growth and marketing at Mason, the world's first front-end-as-a-service platform. She got her start in SaaS and design at InVision, where she led content strategy and product launch content. Her career began as a beat reporter at a small-town newspaper—and she still considers that time she wrote the entire paper as one of her greatest achievements. Follow her on Twitter at @kayleighkarutis.