How To Communicate User Research Feedback

Niamh McGuinness

UI Designer

The results and findings are the most valuable outcome of a Usability Test. This is insightful, rich data than can be used to make or break a product. But sometimes it can be hard to hear bad things about your Design. If you want to fully benefit from the User Research feedback, and make your customers happy, it is necessary to hear it. How you present this information determines how well it is received by the key stakeholders and impacts the Design.

Illustration representing two people giving User Research Feedback

Organised Communication

Usability Testing is a powerful and useful tool in the Design phase of a product. It can throw up a lot of insightful, yet contradictory, information. Skill is required to parse through and analyse all of this. The behaviour of a the test participant can often reveal more than the answers they give. But how do you quantify this? An effective User Experience Researcher is needed. This is someone who can take the qualitative, as well as quantitative, data and derive true insights from them. This analysis is combined into a report or presentation with key findings and recommendations. Once the data is organised in this effective way it needs to be passed onto the key stakeholders. And this is where things can get tricky.

Do Not Take It Personally

Unless your product was really badly designed, it is safe to assume no one died during the test phase. Therefore any feedback should not be taken personally. To quote John Kolko:

“I made a thing, and it’s absolutely terrible. It’s the worst thing. It’s worse than anyone else’s. And I’m the worst thing. I’m worse than anyone else.”

It is hard not to take negative feedback personally. But it is necessary to see beyond the criticism and find out if there is any truth in the feedback. One way to present the findings of the Usability Testing is to follow the “The 4 Questions Retrospective”. Results are presented under the four questions beginning with “What…”:

  • “… went well?”
  • “… didn’t go so well?”
  • “… have I learned?”
  • “… still puzzles me?”

By starting with a positive people are more likely to take the subsequent feedback on board. Also it is the case parts of the Design did work and these should be acknowledged and celebrated. Under the other headings the discussion can focus on the pain-points that were experienced by the test participants, issues that were not considered before and any other areas were further clarity is needed. Following this approach creates a discussion between all key stakeholders and creates greater buy-in to any Design changes that are required.

Actionable Reporting

The above technique works well to present high-level findings in a presentation or summary report. The fully detailed report should be presented to the full team too. This contains detailed findings and backs up the conclusions with the data gathered. It should also outline the research techniques that were employed. It is important to include any incomplete findings or ambiguities that occurred in the testing. Honesty is the best policy and it also helps to build trust. As does being open and transparent about the testing process.

The recommendations in the report must be actionable and clear so everyone knows what is expected of them. Categorisation can help here too, by parsing the findings by department. Developers don’t care about Design problems. The same can be said of designers and development problems. Grouping them by department or role lets people clearly see what they need to work on and start adding items to their sprint backlog immediately. User Research is only as good as the report written and the findings presented, so it is critical this is carried out effectively.

User Research Feedback

Usability Testing is a valuable stage in the Design process. The information gathered can be the difference between a successful and unsuccessful product. How User Research feedback is presented to key stakeholders is an important part if the process. It can determine buy-in and ensure everyone is onboard to make the product the best it can be. Providing access to the data is important as is the quality of the analysis of that data. Precision and clarity is needed, as is recognising what worked and not just the pain-points.

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