Basics of User Research Lesson | 20 Minutes
- Understand what to do after a research session
- Understand which methods to use to analyze user research data
- Understand what to include in a user research report
- Understand how to make findings actionable
After conducting user research, you need to synthesize findings, identify insights, and create actionable recommendations. Starting with a team debrief and ending with a research report, the outputs and outcomes of user research led to more human-centered products and services.
Let’s start with our first step, a research session debrief.
After a Research Session
Debrief: After a research session, the team meets to discuss what happened and reflect on what they learned.
Debriefing right after the research session keeps the information fresh. As you and your team discuss the session, share what you heard, observed, and learned. Was anything surprising? Discussing, as a team, helps identify different interpretations and highlights valuable findings.
Before debriefing, your team should set guidelines. Consider the following when creating your guidelines:
- What questions/responses you want to focus on
- How much time to spend debriefing each section
- How/what tool you will use to document your debriefing session
- Next steps after the debrief
During the debrief, you may focus on:
- Initial thoughts and reactions to how the session went
- Participant responses that stood out during the session
- Responses related to your research goals
Initial team interpretations of participant feedback will set the groundwork for analyzing the data more deeply, later.
Retrospective: Time for the team to reflect on the overall research process and lessons learned.
After you’ve completed research and debriefed, hold a retrospective. During the retrospective, discuss and document:
- What went well
- What could be improved
- What you can do next time to improve user research
The purpose of a retrospective is to highlight what is working for your team and ways to improve.
Analyze Your Data
Once you have collected data from your research sessions, you need to analyze it to draft findings and actionable insights. This data can be in multiple forms: observational notes, direct quotes, metrics, etc.
Findings vs insights
- Findings: Factual information that includes descriptions, observations and patterns found in your data. What are you seeing? You can highlight common themes in responses/comments and common statistical data points.
- Insights: Interpretations that explain your findings. Why are you seeing what you are seeing? What is the data telling you? Consider relevant background information, and previous research, as you interpret findings. Insights are based on a deeper and more holistic understanding of the data.
Findings come from your user’s participation during the research session(s) in the form of direct and indirect interactions with your research team. Insights come from interpretations your research team makes when analyzing research data and background information. Interpretations have potential for bias – be aware of yours and/or your team’s as you analyze findings to create insights.
Coding your data
A code is shorthand text, color, and/or symbols used to label and categorize data. Each code should match a description of what each code stands for. Using codes can make your data easier to sort and keep organized. Your code should be explained with a matching key or section in the appendix portion of your research report.
Example: When facilitating a discussion with a focus group, use code to document which participant provided feedback and what kind of feedback was shared.
|Participant #1||Red label|
|Participant #2||Green label|
|Participant #3||Brown label|
|Participant #4||Yellow label|
|Participant #5||Purple label|
|Direct Statement||# Symbol|
|Indirect Statement||& Symbol|
|Group Agreement||$ Symbol|
|Group Disagreement||- Symbol|
Identifying patterns in your data
Affinity mapping is a visual way to organize your data by identifying patterns and groupings among your data points. After your user research session, take all team observations, quotes, findings, etc. and put each of them on a different sticky note (either virtually or physically). Once you have your collection of stickies, you can begin grouping. Your team can either create categories as you group items, or you can use predetermined categories. Both methods help your team visualize patterns and groupings in your data to identify findings and insights.
Create a Report
After you have analyzed your data, it is time to draft a user research report. Your report should include the following:
- Executive Summary: Highlight top insights and actionable recommendations
- Background: Briefly summarize why you completed the study. This should include context as to why it's important to your work
- Recommendations: Present recommendations clearly and concisely. Consider organizing recommendations by priority - which items need to be addressed now? Which can be addressed later?
- Findings & Insights: Include summaries of what you found from the data and insights your team uncovered.
- Methodology: Describe your research approach, including the type and methods you used
Include visuals like charts, graphs, and journey maps to help readers understand your data and recommendations.
Make Findings Actionable
What you learn from user research should be digestible and shared, broadly. The following are ways to visualize, share, and make your findings and insights actionable:
Journey mapping: A journey map is a visual representation of a customer’s interactions with your organization along a scoped journey (what is the experience and when does it begin and end?). Journeys typically include: actions, thoughts, feelings, and pain points. You can include more (or less) individual and organizational elements – it depends on your needs and where you’d like to focus. You can use a journey map to improve or create services and products based on moments that matter across the journey.
Service blueprint: A service blueprint is focused on the organization's operational processes and perspective to deliver a service to customers. A service blueprint uses findings to highlight the what’s working and what can be improved to deliver services that meet your customers’ expectations. You can create multiple service blueprints to represent different users, scenarios and current vs. future states. The process of creating a service blueprint can identify friction points between customers and service delivery.
Prototyping: Uses findings and insights from user research to create a draft version (paper or digital) of a concept, service, or product to explore and test with users. Prototyping should happen early, before anything is developed or created – it minimizes risk by saving time and resources. Prototyping is a proactive and cost-effective way to test multiple versions and iterations of a future service/product.
- Low-fidelity: This version can be made of paper and does not have interactive features. This helps design teams visualize future services/products and improve upon rough concepts (EX: sketches or mock-ups of a service/product).
- High-fidelity: Often a more realistic interactive experience, closer to what the “final” version will look like and how it will function. This helps design teams test a more refined representation of a future service/product. (EX: fully functional digital applications or a usable physical model that can be interacted with).
Communicating with stakeholders and sharing actionable recommendations is just as important as completing the research. User research is beneficial if findings and insights are used to make improvements or take action.
At DHS, user research is an essential practice that gives the public a voice. We learn from the public and use feedback to create more human-centered products and services.