What is a usability review and why do you need one?

We take an in-depth look at our Usability review offering and why your digital product needs one.

Written by: Ellie Barrett
Services 06

The human body, a Lamborghini, your credit score, and school dinners all need a health check every once in a while, to see if they still work as they should for the people that use them. Your digital product, app or website is no different.

Excellent User Experience (UX) expertise should be baked into the whole design and development pipeline, with solid research, time for regular reviews and testing. But what if it hasn’t always been? What if you know your digital products usability could improve but you don’t have a road map of what to start and end with? What if you’ve been staring at the same website for so long it’s hard to look at it with fresh eyes? That’s where a usability review shines. 

Usability reviews, or “expert reviews” as they are sometimes known, come in many different shapes and sizes. A good usability review uses well understood, established principles of accessibility, cognition, psychology and design to assess the areas of your website that can improve. But, a great usability review also builds on hands-on experience of sites similar to yours, pays attention to your brand's key values and goals and generates actionable recommendations as to how you can solve the issues found, rather than leaving you to figure out the rest.

What is a Usability review?

There are many schools of thought and methods for conducting usability reviews. The most popular method of doing so is what’s known as a “heuristic evaluation”. The word heuristic means different things to people in different industries. But, generally speaking it means a well established set of rules, or a system for thinking that allows people to make decisions about complex situations in the most time-efficient way possible. Heuristics in usability, constitute a check-list of the ways that a website could be violating user’s expectations or needs. They work well when used alongside critical thinking, UX experience and plenty of context about the users involved. 

At Yoyo, our usability review draws on two sets of established heuristics, our agencies collective experience of working with a wide variety of industries and user needs, and wider context such as client’s analytics and medium-long term business goals. You can read more here about how we designed our own Yoyo usability principles.

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What a Usability review isn't

  • A usability review, and any other form of heuristic evaluation, is not an effective substitute for real user-testing. 
  • A usability review is not a guaranteed solution to your metric-based woes, it identifies issues and recommended actions that can contribute to fixing them.
  • A usability review is not without bias, it utilises collective expertise and experience.
  • A usability review alone is not an alternative to ideation and creative innovation, it supports and drives it.
  • User Interface reviews that focus only on subjective aesthetic choices, are not usability reviews.
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The beauty of a Usability review is how easy it is to scale to your project's needs, your budget and your challenges.

When is a good time for a Usability review?

The beauty of a usability review is how easy it is to scale to your project’s needs, your budget and your challenges. However, it’s important that a UX professional make an informed decision about which of these activities will effectively generate the answers you need efficiently. Choosing the scale of your review should always be led by the problem you’re hoping to solve first, the big solutions and quick wins will follow.

1. Feature usability review

It can be used to assess one key feature of your site, such as your most visited pages, a new important tool or a particular section of your users journey. 

2. Page usability review

It can be used to assess the usability of one particular page to investigate why it may be falling behind in terms of metrics.

3. Website/product Usability review

It can be used to assess your entire site or product, to provide a full, prioritised road map of improvements and further activities for development, UX and design. 

4. Competitive research

It can be used to assess a competitor's approach to a particular site or product feature, such as how they order their homepage content, or how they handle customer questions, to generate recommendations that would give your feature the edge over theirs. 

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Neat! What do I get?

Depending on the scale of your review, and whether it will be a genuinely excellent use of your time and budget, we will provide you and you teams with:

  • Usability rating, which outlines where improvements should be targeted according to our usability principles. This helps your team's direct your resources precisely and efficiently, without guesswork.
  • Usability report, separated into principal sections and numbered so that it can be used as a reference document by other teams. We understand that not everyone has time to read the report in full, and will need to be able to find information they need, fast.
  • Usability review presentation, outlining a summary of the most important issues and recommendations on how to address them, in a way everyone can understand at a glance. This is delivered so that business minds, developers and designers are all singing from the same hymn sheet.
  • Usability solutions tracker, listing the issues and recommendations detailed within the Usability Review Report in priority order in a Google sheet document. This sets you up for success, and helps your teams stay abreast of what is done, what needs doing and where you’re headed next.


There is no one-size-fits-all in UX activities, be suspicious of those who say otherwise. At Yoyo, the UX team gathers the various complex moving parts that make up a problem or hypothesis. We then untangle it, create a tailored response for your business's scale and needs, and deliver the findings in a way that can be understood, and used by all. We make the complex simple, without compromising on value.

Get in touch to explore how we can help your teams to deliver digital experiences with impact.

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