tl;dr How you deliver your research insights to your audience is just as important as how you arrived at those insights. Pick your methods of delivery for impact and stickiness.
I have always felt that being a UX researcher is akin to being an investigative journalist. Some of the parallels are obvious, especially when it comes to exploratory research.
In conversation with a product manager, a CEO, a customer, you start to sense there might be a story. You do some digging into the data that exists and realise you might be on to something. You draft up some high-level questions to explore and pick your methods to find those answers. You find the right people to talk to and go chasing down what you hope might be an epic story that people should know while making sure your biases don’t impact your quest for the truth.
But what about after? After you’ve done your interviews. After you’ve synthesised. After you have arrived at your key insights. How do you get your insights out to the world?
Pick the right way to deliver your story for impact and scale
Is this an article? A book? Can I get a Netflix series out of this? As a researcher, you might not get that level of scale but you do have to make a decision on the best way to get your work out into the business.
All researchers want their work to matter, to influence decisions that will make user’s lives better in some way. But a lot of the time we present our work once or, at worst, write it up in a doc, post it in Slack and file it away only to later bemoan its lack of impact on the business before starting the next project. Good insights can be lightbulb moments for product teams, even if what was being explored isn’t straight away visibly relevant to that product team. Good insights also offer a chance to better understand customers, something every part of an organisation should be grasping for.
At Trade Me, we looked at different ways to maximise the impact and scale of our work, telling the stories and insights about our users far and wide so as to really foster a culture where everyone embraced UX research as well as learning more about our users and their world. Be it creating journey maps on the wall in the shared kitchen, creating mock video interviews with personas, presenting our work across the business at different team meetings or afternoon drinks, I have seen lots of amazing ways to spread research findings.
This doesn’t just apply to exploratory research, though. Sometimes the results of concept testing or usability testing can be shared across the business in ways that, when new features are released or design decisions are made, people know why and how this impacts the user. This also gets them to consider how changes might be made to their area of the business that might drive this same outcome.
Make insights sticky
Dissemination of research findings is one way to get people thinking about the user, but good journalists know that a story should be sticky, living long in the memory and so should good research findings. There are plenty of books written about storytelling and how to make stories sticky so I won’t go into too much detail on the how here, other than to say every UX researcher should read Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath to learn about their SUCCESS framework.
Making something memorable is tricky, let alone when it is an insight about users of a product or business. Using visuals, being mindful of the language used and the format of delivery is important. You can even try next level stickiness by looking at using anchoring techniques. Google researcher Alessandra Millar spoke at UX New Zealand about her experience as a UX Researcher focusing on international research. She spoke about the importance of design and product teams anchoring insights through either being brought on the journey in the field or, for team members that can’t be a part of the trip, bringing artefacts back to drive insights home during debriefing sessions. This may mean having insights written on the back of postcards from the places they visited, or having local foods during the sessions. These create memorable experiences that anchor insights into people’s minds.
When writing up your findings, don’t bury the lead
Journalists have a saying — “don’t bury the lead”.
What this means, is stating the most important piece of information first, with each subsequent paragraph elaborating on further details for those who wish to continue reading. This is really important if you are writing up your work in a document, an executive summary or on an internal database. Make sure that the key insight, the one thing you want to leave your audience with is the first thing they see — even if it ends up being the only thing they read. Make sure that the things that really matter stick, and give additional details to those who wish to continue.
Find your next story
There are many things that we can learn from the field of investigative journalism that can be applied to UX research. I have tried to use the parallels to create a mental image of a journalist in your mind to illustrate the argument that the way you tell the story is as important as how you arrive at the story. Hopefully, that image will stick during your next project and get you thinking differently on how you deliver your research findings to maximise impact.