I remember the first time I worked for a company who put the user research report in a drawer and walked away.
Yes, the research was invested in, conducted rigorously and paid for — but ultimately it was ignored.
And predictably, because the findings weren’t understood or implemented, research as a whole didn’t have a perceived benefit, and was subsequently cut from the project budget.
From that point I knew that part of my career would be in convincing people not only to do research, but in persistently socialising research findings… and getting stakeholders to act upon them.
Here are my top tips for one of the biggest tasks in UX — explaining the hell out of everything you do.
Whatever your findings, you need to make them:
1. Easy to understand
People don’t ‘buy’ things they don’t understand.
Your audience (the users of your research!) need to understand what you’ve found as quickly as possible. So findings need to be designed to be as usable as possible. How clearly can you communicate — the part of the experience effected, what is happening, to whom and what it looks like.
Depending on your audience, their seniority and attention span (often related), I recommend high level statements illustrated with examples, walkthroughs, stories, photos or videos. Once you’ve hooked them into the problem and they’re asking questions, that’s the time to go into more detail or complex variants.
2. Easy to care
People don’t act if they don’t care.
Your audience needs to empathise with the user pain. Ideally your stakeholders will care passionately about users but realistically, that’s not always the case.
How can you communicate the findings in a way that the audience will feel it? How can you increase their empathy? And what will hurt them enough to make them fix it?
Can you relate findings to a certain audience group, can you bring that to life as affecting someone the audience might know such as a relative or friend? If your client or stakeholder has no empathy (it happens), can you find a business problem related to user pain such as brand impact, reduced trust or loyalty.
3. Easy to action
People don’t like to feel overwhelmed.
For many stakeholders, once they get the problem, they leap into solutions mode. They need to understand as quickly as possible what the ask is — what do you want them to change to fix this, and how expensive (time, resource, money) is it going to be. Their jobs are complicated enough — you can’t be the person who makes it harder.
What can we do to give our audience options? How can we communicate not only the finding, but multiple fixes, at multiple price points. Often stakeholders and POs just want a clear decision they can make. Have that in mind before you even start to present findings and come prepared.
4. Easy to champion
People need someone else to believe.
User needs rarely get listened to if there is just one person evangelising them. Especially if that person is an external agency who will go away at some point. Who can we find in the project team, or in the stakeholder network who can become our user champion. What toolkits, processes and support can we give them to make that as easy as possible?
5. Easy to share
People don’t care about things they don’t see.
The research findings need to be so easy to share and access that there’s no excuse for not having seen them. As you’ve already considered how to make them understandable, emotional, actionable and you’ve got your champion(s) ready to go, you now need the toolkit.
One massive, dense research report is most likely not going to cut it. But there are many different ways to present your findings, and these can be designed to support different audiences’ needs and preferences:
- Highlights reels — short videos of 2–5 mins each. Either of a theme, a problem or a round of testing. They take effort to create but are massively beneficial at landing a simple, emotive, evidence-based method. I’ve seen these things turn round a boardroom and unlock budget for major digital investment.
- Top 10s — or Top 5s, of things you found, things they should do, biggest user pains, biggest opportunities — whatever you want to land. These can also be designed as infographics to support visual thinkers.
- Specialist takeouts — just as you might adapt a presentation for a different client or stakeholder audience, you can create short takeout summaries with a specific lens — marketing, finance, web, comms — if you’ve been working with stakeholder groups across the client’s business and especially if you’re in-house, making your findings relevant to these user needs will have much greater impact. For example — talking to HR about ecommerce conversion rates is less impactful perhaps that talking about the impact of poor usability on brand perception.
- Content hubs and wikis— If you use something like Notion, you can create browsable, bitesized findings and videos in a single hub, with an easily shareable URL. This can also build over time so that different stakeholders can see visual benefit of their investment. It gives you a single location to send anyone, following any corridor conversation.
Even with all of the activities and toolkits above, one thing that’s important to accept is that you won’t be able to implement every evidence-based change. What is important is that you communicate the findings, the implications and your recommendations.
Your client or product owner still has the option to wilfully ignore your recommendation and let users suffer — your job is not win, it is to ensure that even a stupid decision is made with eyes wide open regarding user impact, and no excuses.