You finally got your boss to buy into user research. Congrats!
You selected research goals, found your ideal research participants, planned and conducted the interviews, and now have some glaring insights you can’t wait to share. But now what?
Sorry to break it to you—now comes the really hard part! You have to tell your colleagues or client what you learned through the research. But you can’t just tell them. Research is easily subject to interpretation, especially qualitative research. Let’s face it, even quantitative research can have room for debate.
So how do you present your research findings in a way that minimizes room for interpretation?
You have to learn to act like a lawyer. Lawyers don’t just walk into a courtroom and make a statement about their position. They use evidence to back up a case. They present tangible facts and findings to support everything they say, leaving no room for debate.
“In research, your goal is to uncover insights you can use to inform your product decisions.”
When you do research, your goal is to uncover insights you can use to inform your product decisions. This helps you avoid feature debates and products built from opinion. And as a researcher, it’s your duty to not share these insights, but to back up them up with evidence.
Think about it for a second. The people who hear about the research findings are likely hearing it for the first time.
They don’t have as much context as you. Plus, they might be skeptical about research to begin with. So you have to work extra hard to present your findings in a way that makes the findings totally obvious.
After I do research, I come up with a list of the big insights. To be honest, sometimes I keep track of insights as I’m doing the research. Many people argue that you shouldn’t start to synthesize anything until you’re done. But I find that I have so many ah-ha moments while I’m conducting research that I like to capture those in the moment.
“You have to work extra hard to present your findings in a way that makes the findings totally obvious.”
Once I have a list of insights, it’s time to find evidence.
Gather evidence to support your insights
For example, imagine you just did research on the checkout flow for an ecommerce company. One of your insights may have been, “Shoppers use the shopping cart as their wishlist.”
But you can’t just put that on a slide in the research presentation. You’ll have to back this up with evidence. Examples of evidence could include:
- A video showing customer reactions to specific questions, such as,“If you wanted to remember this product for later, how would you do that?” Your video could capture them adding the product to the cart instead of using the “wishlist” button adjacent to the “add to cart” button.
- Quotes from people as talking aloud while completing a task. Maybe they’ll say something like, “I never use the wishlist because I know I’ll have to make an account and I don’t want to!”
- Heatmaps to show that people gravitate to “add to cart” and not the “wishlist” button
- Supporting research from other sources, like a research study that had similar findings Hint: Baymard is great for ecommerce research
When you combine insights with evidence you bring credibility to your findings. Evidence helps explain the all-important why behind your insights.
Present your findings the right way
If you have to present your research findings in person, try these helpful tips from my experience.
Tip 1: Approach your presentation as though you’re telling a story
Try to make people feel like they were in the room with you. Tell stories to help take them there. In one presentation I gave, I even described the person’s home office in great detail to really paint a picture and give a ton of context.
Tip 2: Do not read your presentation
This should go for all presentations you give—no one wants you to read it word for word. It should be an aid. You should be armed with stories to tell, but they should be tucked in your mind.
I use stories to emphasize the pain or pleasure that may have come out of the research session. For example, I had a guy say, “I do more research for my dog’s pet hotel than I do to hire a financial planner.” That quote was pure gold. And that story really drove home a key insight when I did the findings presentation.
Tip 3: Always recap the whole project
You want to structure the presentation in a way that captures the original research goals, what you did and the method used, and what you heard. Sometimes I also include a recommendations section depending on the scope of the research project. But remember—people may be forward the presentation later, so you want it to have as much context as possible.
Next time you need to present your research findings, don’t forget to go beyond insights and back your insights up with undeniable evidence. It will make all the difference.
Want to learn more about user research?
I created a UX Research Quickstart Guide that includes 35 questions you can ask in a user research interview as well as a 65-point checklist to help you plan and organize research projects. Since you’re an InVision reader, I’m offering you 20% off my course, User Research Mastery—just request the guide to get the discount code!
by Sarah Doody
Sarah Doody is a User Experience Designer, Entrepreneur, and Educator. She is the founder of The UX Portfolio Formula, a program that helps UX professionals learn how to articulate their work so they can create an awesome portfolio. Sarah also created the popular weekly newsletter, The UX Notebook. She is a contributing author to InVision, UX Magazine, UX Mastery, UX Matters, and has been published in the New York Times. Sarah is committed to helping people learn to think like a designer. She does this through online and in-person courses and workshops on topics including user research, storyboarding, and rapid prototyping. In 2011, she created the curriculum for and taught General Assembly’s first 12-week UX immersive, the genesis of their popular UX programs which are now taught worldwide.