How do we keep people excited about user research while everyone is remote? The tactics that used to work—luring everyone into the room with pizza or the occasional beer/wine insight-gallery experience—aren't possible anymore. I used to love pasting photos of personas and journey maps everywhere including the kitchen and bathrooms.
But there is no luring with food or subtle reminders through pictures on the wall with the remote set up. Instead, presentation reports and calendar invites with detailed agendas are the new norm. It makes sense. No one wants to spend extra time on the screen if they aren't getting value.
However, as a user research, you have to be creative with sharing your results, lest they go into the dusty corner of an online cloud-based storage platform. When this happens, teams can't benefit from the research, and important information gets lost. Even if one team sees the report, there may be helpful information for other colleagues that goes unnoticed.
In this situation, how do we keep insights compelling, clear, and engaging?
Why sharing is so important
Sharing insights is a crucial responsibility for user researchers. Without the socialization aspect, a lot of precious information gets lost, and teams cannot move forward as confidently with decisions.
As a researcher, you can make a huge difference in adequately sharing insights with your teams. Here are some things to consider when creating and sharing insights:
- Make them clear. I have written vague insights in the past and was horrified by what happened to them. Insights can get twisted. It is like that game of telephone, and with each read, the insight became something different until we were creating a flow that made no sense and had nothing to do with the original intent.
- Make them compelling. Insights need to be inspiring. Think of what makes you take action. "80% of users couldn't finish the task" is much less exciting than "Users started filling out the form, but when they finally got to the submit button, after an average of 3.5 minutes, 80% of the users were unable to find the submit button. This confusion caused a lot of frustration and anxiety with users, and 65% of them said they would give up and try a different app." Put yourself in your stakeholders' shoes and think about what type of information they need to take action and share with others.
- Make them engaging. Engaging insights help stakeholders form a stronger sense of empathy. When you can relate to and understand what another human is going through, you are more likely to empathize and want to help them. When stakeholders want to help users, research becomes a foundational and worthwhile part of the product development process.
Without the careful distribution of insights, the craft of user research becomes less valuable. We need to be very deliberate when crafting these insights, no matter how we end up sharing them.
Want to learn more about crafting clear and compelling insights? Take a look at how I structure insights in this article.
8 ways to share insights
There are several tried and true ways to share user research insights through presentations and reports. While those sometimes work (and don't fix what isn't broken), you can include more creativity into your socialization of insights.
Since I have been doing remote research for a few years, I knew people didn't want another meeting with a presentation when we dove into the remote set-up. Instead, I considered habits and concepts people like to do outside of work and turned those into sharing methods. Here are a few ways I have tried sharing research in the past:
- Get your gif gloves on. Bite-sized research findings have become more and more popular. So if you haven't done so already, take a look at how you can turn your videos into small gifs. These shorter videos allow colleagues to consume research quickly and understand what is happening. I enjoy putting together clips that are similar to each other across participants. For instance, for that 80% of people who struggled on the above example, I would put together a highlights reel of the struggle they went through.
- Consider Instagram (private, of course). First and foremost, talk to your legal department to see if this is possible. If they say yes, consider creating a private Instagram account for a study or a persona. This Instagram can have short videos (like mentioned above), photos, or quotes from users. Many people scroll through Instagram, so putting the research on such a used platform makes it even more accessible. You can even tag stakeholders in the posts and encourage them to comment.
- Have a remote gallery viewing. Instead of the standard presentation format, you could put your insights into a remote collaboration tool (e.g. Mural, Miro) and host a remote gallery viewing. When I have done this in the past, I asked participants to bring a beverage of their choice. Everyone got a small map (like in a museum) showing the various places they could explore more (e.g. personas, journey maps, most highlighted pain points). Once people voted on the first place they wanted to go, I created breakout rooms for each group to foster a sense of being together and discussion. Each group spent about 10-15 minutes in the area they chose. They could also jump around to other breakout rooms. As a bonus, each room had an Easter Egg in it that awarded a small prize.
- Post an investigative article (like a journalist). This idea requires you to put on the hat of a journalist. You can create an investigative article or police report about the users you have just come to understand. This concept gives the presentation a different spin and allows you to infuse creativity into the process. Many people like to read the news through articles, so I have taken my inspiration from there. For example, a pain point that has come up often could be "BREAKING NEWS" with an investigation into how it is negatively impacting people's lives.
- Invite a panel of users to speak. Similar to a panel at a conference, you could invite a group of users to chat. In this format, depending on your users, it could be an Ask Me Anything, or you could gather the company's questions ahead of time and facilitate. It is almost like the concept of a focus group, but without one particular question. In this session, you can encourage colleagues to ask questions about how the product interacts with (or doesn't) users' day-to-day lives.
- Roleplay to create a Netflix documentary. Roleplay is successful in getting people's attention, which is why it has its own industry. An option may be to roleplay a day in a user's life and create a Netflix-like documentary. Yes, it takes some time and skill, but, to be honest, it captures attention. I keep the documentary to 30-45 minutes. I have also tried "episodes" that split the documentary into 15-minute chunks (with a cliff-hanger at the end, of course).
- Use those videos. One of the most powerful mediums you have as a user researcher is videos. Unfortunately, they don't get used enough. Push them into the forefront of reports, especially if you are presenting. Take the audience out of your slides and into important videos of users for a few minutes. When I was doing some work for HelloFresh, I had a very emotional user research session with a mother, talking about the importance of connecting with her son through cooking. I shared the clip with the team, and everyone was in tears. In the end, it caused a positive change to the product.
- Dedicate a day to your users once a quarter. You can call this "user day" or "customer day," but take one working day a quarter to have many different presentations about your users—almost like a festival or conference. Have time for Q&A sessions with colleagues, include an Ask Me Anything for the researcher(s), present the most intriguing findings of the quarter, have music playing, and include these creative ideas into the presentation formats.
It is clear that some of these ideas take more work than others, but there are always ways to lean them out. If you don't have time to create a full-blown documentary, start with gifs. If you can't have an entire day dedicated to users, try a monthly or bi-monthly one-hour meeting. What I am saying is, get creative! There are so many fantastic ways to share insights beyond the standard presentation and paper. Push your boundaries, go past your comfort zone, and bring your team on an exciting journey with you.
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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