Writing user research reports
As a user researcher, one of your most important roles is sharing what you discover. I’ve written before about how we share research more generally, but in this article I want to focus on reports.
A research report is a document that contains all the juicy data and descriptions from a research project. It covers how the study was set up and conducted, and breaks down all the discoveries made by the research team.
With our limited attention spans, getting someone to read a report in full is a difficult task. But that doesn’t mean that reports are pointless. Documents that cover all the details are great for referencing as and when you need them. They’re also good evidence for showing the value of user research.
But it can be tricky to know where to begin when writing one. When I was starting out I got my templates from usability.gov. Now that I’ve had years’ worth of practice, I wanted to explain the steps I take to make my own reports.
Understanding the research process
Like any good story, a research project has a solid start, middle, and end. Understanding this framework is always important for knowing how to structure your reports.
There are a variety of methods in a user researcher’s toolkit. From interviews with users, to workshops and testing prototypes in a lab setting. For each method there are these common steps:
- Define the problem. Where does the problem exist and who does it affect? What is the benefit of investigating this problem?
- Design the study. What type of data are you going to collect, and how are you going to do it?
- Collect the data. Follow the steps in the study, and gather relevant information about the problem.
- Analyse the data. Find patterns and insights, highlight interesting points.
- Share the results. Tell other people about the above steps, in a way that’s useful to them.
Your report needs to cover the first four points. Someone should be able to read the document on its own and know all the steps you took to get to your conclusions.