great product experience starts with a good understanding of users. In most
cases, this understanding comes from user research. Without any doubt, user
research is a critical component of the design process; it enables product
teams to design products that people really want. It’s vital to not only
conduct proper user research but also to provide research findings in a meaningful
way. User research won’t generate any profit unless a team understands its
research findings, accepts them, and acts upon them. Unfortunately, many
researchers face problems getting their research results integrated into a
this article, I’ll answer the question, “what is user research” and
focus on how to deliver research findings to product teams and stakeholders. Consider this a short guide on how to bridge
the gap between user research and design.
turn research findings into product changes, you follow a 4-step process:
- Define expected outcomes
- Prepare your research findings (create a report)
- Effectively communicate results
- Plan next steps
1. Define expected outcomes
clearly defining expected outcomes you create a solid foundation for your user
research. Once you’ve established your outcomes, they will act as the North
Star that guides you in this process.
Know your goals
clearly stated goals, your research activity likely won’t bring any value to
the business. That’s why, even before starting user research, you need to work
with product teams and stakeholders to clarify the key goals of your research.
During the planning phase, work collaboratively with product managers and
stakeholders to find out what they want to learn. Try to find answers to
- What do they hope to get out of this research?
- What existing problems do they want to solve?
you have answers to the questions, you can craft your research strategically.
This way it will have a clear, targeted impact.
stakeholders during the planning phase not only helps you better define goals,
but it also makes them feel more invested in the research. This increases the
chances of buy-in from stakeholders when you show them the results.
Write a good brief
you know what stakeholders want to achieve from user research, you will need to
write a research brief and get them to agree to it. A solid brief sets
expectations at the outset, and is important because:
- It defines the key questions your user research
needs to answer.
- It states which methods you plan to use when
conducting user research.
- It defines the timeline for completing the work:
the dates on which you plan to deliver the research results, as well as the
format in which you’ll deliver them (whether it will be a written report, a
presentation, or a workshop).
Engage the whole team in the research process
everyone who has input into design decisions should participate in user
the whole product team gets immersed in the research process, this increases
the chances that results will be valuable for them.
are a few practical recommendations that you can follow to engage the team in
- As soon as you get your first reliable results, it’s a good idea to run a brainstorming session with a product team. During the session you can present and discuss the findings from your user research, and get agreement (or counterarguments) on their implications.
- Encourage project team members and stakeholders to participate as observers in user research and usability testing sessions. There’s a better chance the team will accept the findings when they’ve experienced the research firsthand.
2. Prepare your research findings (create a report)
you’ve collected rich data from your user research sessions, you’ll need to
identify the valuable insights that address your primary goals.
research as a deliverable
it might be tempting to skip over preparing a formal deliverable, it’s better
to avoid that temptation. Not producing any documentation of your user research
findings is the wrong approach; here’s why:
- Firstly, there won’t be any record of your
research findings for later use; the knowledge acquired just stays with the researcher.
It’s wrong to rely on memory because human memory is fallible (even the perfect
researcher can easily forget important details).
- Secondly, the approach won’t work in the
long-term. When a researcher moves on to another project or leaves the company,
the only source of information is lost.
a good user research report is beneficial for both researcher and the
team/stakeholders. Reports can be used as project documentation. Good reports
contain enough detail and context that anyone who isn’t familiar with the
project can read the research findings and understand them.
Keep raw research data to yourself
research data is basically all the data you gather, whether it’s notes from user interviews, results of usability
testing, and so on. While all this information is extremely helpful in getting
insights and preparing a solution to a problem, the final report (the one
you’ll show to the team/stakeholders) shouldn’t be a compilation of raw user
research data. The amount of information can be overwhelming, and you can’t
expect people to read through all of your notes from sessions and understand
them. Remember, your goal should be in identifying and presenting key insights
rather than just reporting facts. That’s why you need to synthesize what you’ve
learned and to communicate the filtered data to the product team.
Tip: When creating a report don’t be
afraid to throw some collected user research data into the garbage. Of course,
it hurts to trash something you’ve spent time on and think is great, but this
is a necessary step to gain clarity. Clarity should be the top priority for you
during the research process.
Visualize your findings
difficult to convey any user research findings through text alone. Whenever you
can, try to supplement the text in your report with screenshots, illustrations,
charts, and any other visuals that will help you more clearly show your
findings. In addition to clarifying points, visualizations make a report appear
more interesting for readers. It’s much easier to read a report with relevant
visuals than it is to read a report that consists entirely of walls of text.
Remember to step back to see the bigger picture
working on a user research report, it’s
relatively easy to become overwhelmed. When you feel overwhelmed, you need to
pause and take a step back. Leave your workspace
and go for a walk or switch to a completely different activity. This simple
exercise will help you declutter your mind,
structure your thoughts on the core goals of your research project, and
you’ll be able to see the bigger picture. And when you look at the bigger
picture, it enables you to make more informed decisions on how to report the
3. Effectively communicate your findings
Make sure your insights resonate with people. It’s crucial to ensure people understand and accept your findings to avoid any unnecessary questions. Consider doing a test run for your presentation to make sure the findings from your user research make sense to people. Give people some initial context, show them the insights, and get their reactions. This will help you understand whether the insights resonate (i.e., Do people get them? Do they value them?).
Deliver your findings in person
One of the worst things you can do with written reports is
sending them as email attachments. While written reports may contain enough information about the
findings of your user research, they have two serious limitations:
- You can’t count on everyone reading them.
- People can easily misinterpret information in
written reports. Since written reports don’t provide the opportunity to ask the
researcher questions to gain clarity, you can’t guarantee that everyone will be
on the same page after reading the report.
why instead of writing up a report and sending it around you should always try
to present your results in person. This way, people involved in the project are
more likely to absorb your findings.
Deliver your findings in a presentation
would be wrong to stand in front of people and simply read your report; you
need to present something. Be ready to prepare slides and a speech. A presentation
can also act as a deliverable; you can share your presentation with your
audience after the talk, so they may delve deeper into the user research if
they feel inclined to.
Tailor your findings to the audience
should tailor any findings from your user research to the needs and interests
of your audience. Those interests may vary significantly: while top management
typically wants to hear just a brief overview with key findings, people
responsible for the implementation of your recommendations (designers and
developers) will definitely want to hear all the technical details of your user
research. That’s why creating several versions of your presentation with
different levels of detail may be a smart decision.
Explain your research methods
The people viewing your work will likely want to know which techniques you used during your user research and why. Have a part in your presentation where you explain your user research methods. Even if you described your research methods before, it’s worth going over them again during the presentation. Your audience may include people who forgot this information or others who just recently joined the team and didn’t have a chance to hear it. There’s no need to cover everything in detail, just give a summary of the goals of your user research and the methods you used.
Keep the audience engaged and focused
not hard to lose the crowd when you’re presenting a lot of detail. It’s
critical to provide enough information without boring your audience. The more
you can help them focus and stay engaged, the more likely you will get positive
results after the presentation.
way to keep your audience focused is by providing your user research findings
in the format of stories. Framing your research findings as stories will allow
you to provide much-needed clarity to people trying to understand the problem.
You can use stories to both describe a problem or propose a solution. Stories
will also help your audience develop empathy for your users.
Pull out user quotes and use videos of how users interact with a product
more convincing than hearing a summary of user problems is letting the audience
actually see real users experiencing those problems:
- Pull out user quotes. User quotations are
powerful tools for stating problems. Let users criticize the product in their
own words. You can use quotes that you heard during user interviews or user
- Play video clips in
which users face problems. Even more efficient than using quotations is
showing users making the comments themselves. Using videos from testing
sessions will help you demonstrate how people perform tasks and what problems
they encounter. You can add more weight to a particular problem by creating a
video that demonstrates how a few different users experience a similar problem.
Add any positive user research findings too.
we communicate our user research findings, we tend to focus on the negative
aspects of a product’s user experience. We often take the positive aspects of a
design for granted and exclude them from our report and presentation. But for
the audience, it might be hard to hear only about problems. Listening to a long
list of issues and user complaints isn’t inspirational. It’s always better to
balance the negative with some positive aspects of a product; be sure to point
out the positive findings.
Back up your findings with metrics
stakeholders hear that users have experienced a problem, their first natural
reaction will be asking how many people experienced it. If you don’t have this
information you won’t be able to prove that it’s important. Thus, always try to
back up your key findings with metrics. Success rates, average time taken to
complete tasks, error rates, satisfaction results are all metrics that will
help you prove your point whenever someone from your audience asks clarifying
questions regarding your research.
4. Plan next steps
research deliverables and adequately presenting them to the audience are
important steps, but your job as a researcher doesn’t end there. “What should
we do next?” is a natural question that arises when the audience comprehends
your findings. Without having a clear answer to this question, you won’t
improve the design. Give your audience a clear plan on how to address the
issues you’ve found.
Prioritize the problems the product team should solve
most cases, it’s impossible to implement all recommendations simultaneously. To
improve a product’s design, product teams need to focus on fixing the most
severe problems first. The first natural step will be to assign priorities to
your findings. You can prioritize issues based on following properties:
- Issue impact: How severe the problem
is. You can use ‘Critical, High, Medium, Low’ rates. An issue that causes
someone to fail at an important task should be considered as Critical. A
problem that annoys users, but does not keep them from completing a task, can
be considered as Low.
- Issue frequency: How often an issue
occurs when a user interacts with a product. You can use ‘All the time,
Frequently, Sometimes, In rare cases’ rates.
consider the effort required to fix the problem. You can use human hours per
task for this.
Provide actionable design recommendations
it comes to suggesting design changes based on your user research, try to find
a balance between providing too general and too prescriptive recommendations.
For example, you might say “provide more information about the order details on
checkout page,” but this recommendation is too vague and doesn’t provide enough
specific information for the designers who will redesign the page. At the same
time, saying “Consider adding a product summary in table format with the
following columns: item ID, name, quantity and price. All should be done in
Roboto fonts with font size 16px,” will be too prescriptive.
Appoint individuals to different design changes
a different person responsible for each design change increases the chances
that problems will be fixed. Work proactively with the product manager and
stakeholders to decide which issues will be addressed and by whom, then
schedule the work to be done.
Validate your decisions by creating a regular feedback loop
As with other aspects of design, your research findings
should be validated. The proper way of validating your design decisions is by
testing design changes with real users. The results of user testing should be
provided in the format of a regular feedback loop. Once you establish a proper
feedback loop, it’ll be much easier to not only validate design decisions but
also to demonstrate the value of your user research to stakeholders.
Good design begins with a proper user research
create a great user experience, design and research need to happen in tandem.
This happens only when researchers inject themselves into the design process
whenever possible. Thus, when executed accordingly, you will have implemented what
is necessary for having a user experience your audience will greatly