I remember not being completely confident in the types of reports or outcomes to produce from a project. After one hybrid project, filled with generative and evaluative research, I was stuck. I had no idea how to present the information to the team.
I Googled for hours, and looked through various websites. Had I affinity diagrammed my search results, the biggest pile would be called, "It depends..." Google told me the outcome depended on:
- The research project
- The goal of the presentation
- The audience
- The level of user research maturity of the company
I was ready to rip my hair out.
I ended up writing a report. The report had way too much text (it was embarrassing) because I didn't know my goal and how to address the audience adequately. The story fell flat. There were no questions asked, and little discussion after that. I had failed as a user researcher by not producing an actionable result at the end of a project.
Although there is no one answer on the best deliverable for a particular project, I will give you a small guide on how to determine what deliverable could be helpful.
So, what are research deliverables?
Think of deliverables as any outcome of a user research project. They don't have to be something fancy and can be as basic as a report.
Deliverables are the pieces that take all the research, summarize it, and show it in a format (or more than one). Whatever this format takes, it always has three main components:
- Catered to the audience
Each of those components can seem as frustrating and vague as the phrase, "it depends..." In this case, let's break them down.
Engaging content is the type of information that grabs your attention and compels you to listen or watch. It makes you stop playing on your phone during a work presentation and almost forces you to pay attention.
It’s key to user research deliverables because it helps us transfer empathy. With this type of content, we can get other stakeholders interested in research and the user. Some examples of engaging content include:
- Video or audio clips
- Interactive content (ex: Having a transparent paper over a journey map so people can write on it)
Actionable is a word user researchers love and hate. We, and other stakeholders, use this word very loosely as if everyone knows what it means.
Think about all the information you take in to make a decision. When I was deciding to move to Germany, I didn't want to chat. I wanted actionable advice. Where should I live? How was I going to get a job? What visa did I need? I wanted the insights of an end-to-end journey of someone who had gone through exactly what I was about to embark on.
Whenever I think about actionable content, it is all about guiding teams to make better decisions. You need to give teams the information they need to make better decisions about what to do next. This type of insight is actionable.
If I, as a product manager or designer, could step away and make an informed decision, I have the right information. Some examples of actionable content include:
Just as a note, it is okay for researchers to take a stance after the research. You should stay neutral while analyzing research, but it is fine to recommend what you think would be the team's best next steps.
✔ Catered to the audience
I quickly learned that I could not present the same thing to one singular scrum team as I could a group of teams or the company. While the relevant squad was ready to get into the research details, the C-level wanted a high-level overview of what the study meant.
If people don't find the content relevant, they won't listen, watch, or read later. Some approaches I picked up are:
- When it comes to higher-ups, strategy rings true
- When it is the immediate team, details are more important
- A mix of strategy and overarching trends is helpful for everyone in between
Think about your audience's time and what type of information they would care about. Use this to build the meat of your content.
Deliverables for 6 different methodologies
There are dizzying amounts of deliverables you can choose from when planning the outcome of your project. Since these deliverables matter so much to your project's result, it is crucial to select the best.
Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all. Here is how I break down the different deliverables:
I will use the common methodologies as a guiding principle and offer variations on each.
Before I dive into each methodology, here are the deliverables I use most frequently:
I have linked to several articles that have more information on the majority of these deliverables.
*A note on informational reports: You can use this type of report for any methodology and project you conduct. Just keep in mind the three components from above and ensure you are making the information in the report engaging, actionable, and catering to each audience. Every one of my informational reports is heavy on recommendations, visuals, and video/audio clips. I will not go into detail on reports in this article but will focus on the other deliverables.
Methodology 1: Usability testing (unmoderated or moderated)
The most common deliverables I use for usability tests are:
- Informational reports
- Stoplight charts
- Research snapshots
In usability tests, you are highlighting the problems that went wrong during the usability test. You want to answer:
- Where did the participants fail?
- How badly did they fail?
- Why did they fail?
- What should we do next?
By including this information (in infographics, annotations, and video clips), you can give teams an idea of what is going wrong and what issues need to be solved next.
Methodology 2: 1x1 interviews
Depending on the type of conversation, you can create:
Generative research gives us an understanding of holistic journeys and a glimpse into the life of a user. These deliverables allow you to create a representation of what it's like to be a particular user group. They enable stakeholders to cultivate empathy.
Always keep in mind, these deliverables tend to be much more static, so making them actionable can be difficult. Whenever I hang a persona or journey map up on the wall, I include a bunch of post-it notes for people to write on, and transparent paper where people can draw over the deliverables.
I also hold many workshops where we work with these deliverables, making them much more actionable. You also can create games, such as a Choose Your Adventure, to bring deliverables to life.
Methodology 3: Card sorting
For card sorting, I generally use:
With card sorting, you want to convey how people group and organize different content. The best way I have found to do this is a rainbow chart, as it gives stakeholders an excellent overview of how many people engaged with the content.
Also, wireframes—even if they are simple sketches—can visualize how participants responded to content. You can even have a designer help you turn them into something more appealing!
Methodology 4: Tree testing or first-click tests
- User flow
- Site map
- Rainbow charts
With tree testing and first-click tests, you aim to show stakeholders how users flowed through a particular experience, and where they started. The best way to visualize this information is through user flows or a site map.
You could also use a rainbow chart, but it might be more challenging to convey the overarching message.
Methodology 5: Diary studies
- Customer journey map
- Competitive analysis
- Informational report
Diary studies are fantastic longitudinal investigations that allow you to understand how people act or react over time. Whenever I conduct a diary study, I always try to form a customer journey map about the experience. This map may not be exactly representative of how a participant uses a product/service, but it can show us a bit about day-to-day life for a group of users.
Also, diary studies are a great time to ask about competitors and create a competitive analysis.
Methodology 6: Surveys (or any large gathering of data)
- Informational report (heavy on visuals)
When you're gathering any substantial amount of data, informational
reports can come out on top. The key to making these reports engaging is
to include many infographics, such as those in my template. These
reports should tell stakeholders what the results were and how they
might act on the results.
Now, of course, this isn't an exhaustive list, but hopefully, it will
narrow down the number of choices you have in your next deliverables.
Remember to keep in mind your goal, content, and audience. If you create
an engaging, actionable, and relevant report to your audience, they
will use it.
Nikki Anderson-Stanier is the founder of User Research Academy and a qualitative researcher with 9 years in the field. She loves solving human problems and petting all the dogs.
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