Planning, preparing and conducting user research takes a considerable amount of time even before you start evaluating the data you gathered. So when you come to the point where all you have left to do is to communicate your findings and insights you uncovered in a way that will be heard and create impact. This, however, may not always be as easy or straightforward as it sounds. Processing UX research in a way that makes it presentable, distributable and reaches the relevant decision-makers and development/design teams can be very challenging. To make sure the knowledge you need to share is seen and considered when decisions concerning the product’s future are made, you need to communicate your results accordingly.
Consider the fact, that your audience will have certain goals and interests that should influence how you present your results. Depending on the target group you’re addressing–your team, other teams in your company or even external stakeholders–your report or presentation need a different degree of detail. Another fact that influences the amount of detail you communicate are time restrictions which you have to adhere to when preparing your results.
When it comes to distributing research results the standard way to go is usually a written report. However, it is assumed that a great number of reports aren’t even read by the recipients. On top of that reports aren’t ideal if you’re working with rich, emotional data that is usually the result of qualitative research. Consider alternatives that can provide you with a more visual way to present your findings and their meaning. Do you have a hard time convincing stakeholders of the true value of your insights? In that case, you may want to try adding elements of storytelling. People can grasp intellectual as well as emotional concepts more easily when they are part of a story. Make your audience feel something about your users’ experiences or your data and they will likely remember it.
Alternatives to the UX/User Research report
Assuming you want people to remember your findings you should, by all means, refrain from using detailed reports as your main form of communication. Often qualitative research, methods such as observations, interviews, diary studies, etc. will result in very detailed data sets. It’s not necessary to reproduce that degree of detail. Focus on your five to ten most interesting and actionable findings. This should give your audience a sufficient overview of the part of your findings that is relevant to them. Speaking of audience, if you can, try to communicate your results in person. Other possible ways to communicate results include:
Presentations: try to combine multiple ways to communicate data when presenting your results. Provide teams and stakeholders with some kind of document to keep after your presentation to help them retain information more easily. People usually don’t have a long attention span or a good memory. Make your presentation more appealing and interesting by using videos, pictures, quotes, etc and try to keep it short (no longer than 20 minutes) by focusing on the most important facts. You also may want to build a set of presentation slides with additional information that makes it more understandable for stakeholders who couldn’t attend your presentation.
Personas: Help your team and company’s stakeholders to build a uniform understanding of your users’ problems by developing individual, fictional user profiles based on the data you gathered. Personas make your data come alive and therefore help your team relate your data to your users, understand their problems better and find solutions.
Journey maps: tell your users’ stories and experiences from beginning to end their point of view. This illustration of users’ actions, thoughts, feelings, and experiences at every point of their journey will again make them more alive and relatable.
Visuals: use comics, visual storyboards, sketches or pictures to bring stories to life and communicate information more visually. This will keep your listeners engaged and interested when you’re trying to explain more complex facts and problems.
Photography: photographs of your research setup, tools, and the general process will help you to introduce “outsiders” to the way you conduct research. However, if you’re talking to team members who know exactly how research is done within your company, don’t bore them with unnecessary pictures.
Quotes: Back up your more controversial findings by using text quotes or even video or audio files. Make sure the quotes you chose to represent the opinion of the majority of your participants and the participant whose data you use is fine with you showing their video or audio file.
Examples: if your audience is very data-driven, use chats, diagrams, screenshots or illustrations to make a point. If a certain process you want to illustrate involves multiple steps, screenshots can be especially helpful.
Share creatively: try sharing your results more creatively if you can. Create a research gallery by printing out personas, illustrations, screenshots, journey maps… and putting them up where interested parties will notice them. Try a wall in common areas such as the kitchen or a corridor.
Context: share quick findings by making annotations that point out problems and recommendations directly on a picture of the design you tested. People will understand your thought process more easily if you provide them with context compared to plain text or reports.
Skip the deliverable: sometimes you donÄt need to produce a deliverable (e.g. a report) at all–especially if you’re dealing with a small project involving only a small team. Spend the time you would have used to produce said deliverable more productively: discuss findings and implications directly with your team or start improving the product you tested. Keep in mind, however, that findings that haven’t been documented at all will most likely will be forgotten and lost in the future–especially if you’re dealing with a small project involving only a small team. Spend the time you would have used to produce said deliverable more productively: discuss findings and implications directly with your team or start improving the product you tested. Keep in mind, however, that findings that haven’t been documented at all will most likely will be forgotten and lost in the future.
regardless of which way to communicate your findings you end up choosing, it’s always a good idea to prioritize your findings into categories such as critical problem, highest priority, medium priority, and lowest priority. Doing this will direct your audience’s focus on the most important issues and help them to decide which problem to tackle first. On to of that it will give an estimate of the severity of the problem you present. If you can, provide design recommendations to give a starting point that offers designers guidance. If your data shows work that needs to be done suggest the next steps that should be taken.
Illustrate benefits that come with making certain improvements as well as consequences from not solving obvious problems such as customers, time and money that will be lost. Back these claims up with numbers (from analytics or similar sources) if you have them and make sure to also include findings from the qualitative part of your research. They will provide your audience with the answer to the question “Why did XY happen?”.
In case you need or want to write up a report at the end of your research process, consider writing and additional one-sheeter that can be read quickly and sums up all important findings. If you have to send your research results as an email and simply can’t communicate them in person, provide the recipients with some context–why was the study/survey conducted and what are the key results–directly within the email body.
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