Presenting Research Findings

What is the best way to present the valuable insights you gain from user research? Are there some quick fixes to translate the research itself, and ensuring it’s acted on by the people in charge? I explore ways that research findings can be presented in this post, and pros and cons for each.

The Big Old Report

This one is a classic. If you’ve been around since usability testing first became a ‘thing’, or have ever outsourced your research, you’ll probably have been faced with a BOR (big old report, can also be read as an abbreviation for boring).

Pros

  • All of your information in one (long and boring) place
  • People can pick it up whenever is most convenient for them (hint, the answer will probably be never)
  • You can refer back to it when you’re making changes
  • Saves trying to get lots of people in one room to discuss the findings

Cons

Ok, who guessed that I’m not a fan of the BOR?

  • It’s long, and boring. Nobody will read it or pay attention to it as they should
  • WASTE: in a paper format, the trees and the space in the desk drawer when it gets thrown in there, if it’s digital, the computer memory
  • It kind of undermines your research… you do all of this amazing stuff to gain insights that can change the whole interface of a design, for it to be disregarded and not fully digested by anyone
  • It’s all a bit secret service…user research isn’t a top secret mission. Information should be shared, but boxing it up in one big report seems a bit counter intuitive to this.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve written BOR’s in the past. At first, I thought they were a great idea to have all the insights and appendices in one huge 6000 word document. I’ve wrote BOR’s when I knew changes from a project might not be implemented straight away, or if stakeholders wanted a copy of the process and all the nitty gritty details. However, if your research is really going to be valued, the changes should be being made straight away, and therefore you shouldn’t need to refer back to them (as they may be out of date by then anyway!). If you can, it’s best to save yourself the effort and the energy and put it into something that will have a bit more of an impact. Have you ever heard anybody say that they read a usability report and it changed their life? No? Well, there you go!

Classic Presentations

Here I’m talking about your powerpoints, that go through the method, process, participants, results and maybe even a cheeky video or two if you’re feeling fancy.

Pros

  • You can probably make this exciting (if you’re the right person for the job)
  • All the info that’s needed in an easily digestible format
  • Talking point
  • Everyone gets the same info together at the same time

Cons

  • Probably involves a lot of preparation – you need to first make sense of the results, condense these and visualise them in a way that will be most effective
  • Trying to get everyone in the same place at the same time: for big projects, this might be difficult if your stakeholders are seen as quite important, in-demand people
  • You still have the high ground – you’re sharing info actively, which is great, but you’re still presenting the findings to people and not asking them to do anything with it. You’re still very much in control of the research and if you don’t hold high authority in the organisation, it may not be taken as seriously as you hoped

Workshops

I’m a huge fan of workshops, as I like actively engaging in learning this way and the prep that goes with executing this. I enjoy seeing people get as excited as I am about research, so this is one of my favourite methods (but still doesn’t come without it’s problems!).

Pros

  • Everyone gets the info in one place again
  • Usually quite fun
  • Self-motivated learning: your workshops should be 90% participation and 10% you presenting and guiding. You’re facilitating more than presenting, so your participants are getting to their conclusions on their own and solving problems with you
  • Great talking point (added the ‘great’ because workshops are usually more fun so people spread the news and they creat more of a buzz effectively)

Cons

  • LOTS of prep: while you can relax in there more than a presentation, you need to make sure you have done the preparation beforehand so that it can all run smoothly
  • Can be expensive: depending on your materials… if you host with lots of people you might need lots of post-its/paper/pens etc.
  • Requires a skilled facilitator: not just anybody can run a workshop. The facilitator needs to be confident, have a strong guiding presence but not be too controlling, make respondents feel valued and listened to, and be able to keep the participants to time
  • Might need more than one person to facilitate depending on numbers and format, so more people need to be involved in executing this
  • Lack of control: giving the floor to participants means that you have less control over the responses, so if it is carefully considered actions you want, this may not be the best way to get there
workshop
Me, workshopping

Something a bit more exciting…

Basically, little things that might make a difference to presenting your findings. Take note: a lot of these can be and should be integrated into your method of presentation anyway:

  • Showing user videos: show actual user footage where possible, as it really strengthens the case for user research when stakeholders can see the users struggling with something firsthand
  • Podcasting: portable, can be listened to on the go and can be made engaging with the right people presenting
  • Making your own videos: try your hand at YouTube and create a presentation in advance that people can listen to in their own time – top points for adding graphics here too
  • If in doubt, talk it out: still stuck about techniques? Engage with the LinkedIn community, local meet-up groups or colleagues and professionals at other institutions to see if they have any hacks for presenting results

Avoidance (no – really!)

I have to include this, not as a fad or a joke, but because a conversation I had with someone recently actually made me think really differently about presenting results (in a good way). Why not just avoid presenting completely? This sounds very rogue and out of the box, but it’s not as wild as it sounds. Basically, if you’re lucky enough to be working in an agile environment and keeping your stakeholders involved in the process by letting them ideate planning sessions and observe user testing, they can see the results unfold themselves. You might need to provide a rough summary at the end of a project cycle/sprint, but user research ends up fully incorporated within your product development process, and the results are made clear themselves. This is definitely something to think about to save you time thinking about how to present things at the end. If you do the full process efficiently, you might not have to!

The Take-Away

There are a variety of methods that can be adopted to present research findings. Some of them take more time than others, and might only be possible in certain working environments. The most important thing is to make sure that you do find a way to get your research across, and ensure it is acted upon and reviewed frequently. You won’t go too far wrong if you continue to ask your users and keep them at the centre of your designs, so as long as you find a way to translate what is important to your users, you’ll make a positive difference to your product!

Let me know in the comments if you have any top tips for presenting findings, and what your favourite method is!

Useful links/resources

  • A great concise article by the UK Government about how they present their research findings is here
  • Some useful techniques to visualise qualitative data provided by the Interaction Design Foundation here
  • Adobe UX provide 4 steps for an actionable user research process here to help get you started
  • A short article I really like exploring the other side of presenting UX findings – what NOT to do! Linked here

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