Communicating intangible and non-actionable user research findings

User research is becoming a fundamental element of successful digital transformation and organisational change. Having worked with user research and user-centred design in many different fields, we observed a recurring challenge emerging – the communication of intangible and non-actionable user research findings.


Why it’s difficult to communicate user research findings

A fundamental part of user research is to get a deep understanding of how users experience a specific service. This is achieved by interviewing users, observing them in their natural environment or by facilitating focus groups. In addition, an essential part of your work is communicating and sharing findings with your team, enabling you to design a valuable solution for the users.

Communicating user research insights to your team can lead to discussions and doubts around their relevance. We see two main obstacles to communicating user research findings;

  1. making sense of intangible findings
  2. communicating these findings to your multidisciplinary team.


Intangible findings

User research insights can’t be explained as a simple number or score that’s easy to measure and understand. Instead, findings are often difficult to define and may even be contradictory. Findings arise from a variety of conversations, observations and discussions with users and these can be challenging to make sense of. Behavioural observations are often not tied to one specific action, quote or observation but are still important indicators about the users’ motivations, attitudes and experiences.


Communicating to a multidisciplinary team

We sometimes see that members of a team perceive user research insights as an obstruction to a linear and smooth development process, as these may challenge assumptions or work that has already been done. Your team may question the research methods or the type and numbers of users you have talked to. On a recent project, our findings were not acknowledged as evidence as people were not confident that we had interviewed enough, or the right type of, users.

Based on that experience we learned that if you don’t involve the team and get the organisation on board with the methods of qualitative research, there is a risk that the findings will not contribute to the development of a truly user-centred solution.


How to get better at communicating user research findings

Knowing how to make sense of and communicate your findings will enable you and your team to benefit from a user-centred approach and to design valuable solutions for the users.

4 recommendations to help you increase the value of user research findings, by making them understandable, actionable and testable.

  1. Be transparent. Share your findings, also include rapid ‘unfinished findings’ and be transparent in the way you work. Transparency is key in terms of showing the progress made, how findings emerge and how they can be applied. Demystify user research by inviting stakeholders to take part in research sessions and by creating a tangible visualisation of findings in the form of a wall with quotes, observations and research questions
  2. Understand and involve your team. Understand what your team needs from user research and think about how they will use the findings as e.g. Content or UX Designers and Developers. Involve your team in user research downloads where you collaboratively organise and analyse findings and discuss how to apply them.
  3. Be challenging. Posing challenges to your team is part of why user research has become a popular method for qualifying decisions and making sure that you as a team solve the right problem and create as much value as possible for the users of your service. Make sure to highlight recurring themes and be persistent if design decisions are not based on user needs.
  4. Make findings applicable. To help your team apply user research findings it’s important to make them actionable and testable. We have found that by collaborating with your team to identify user needs and transforming those into ‘How might we…?’ questions, helps designers get into solutions mode. To test the proposed solutions you can make hypothesis based on the ‘How might we…?’ questions.

To summarise, it can be hard to communicate user research findings because they are intangible and not necessarily linked to a specific behaviour, quote or observation. However, we believe that by being transparent, understanding and involving your team, challenging assumptions and making findings applicable, will help you communicate intangible user research findings and develop solutions that are user-centred.