If we type into the search box the keywords such as – UX report or research report example – we will get access to many examples of research report templates.
Do they all carry some value? Unfortunately, no.
Contrary to what people may think, a research report – especially a qualitative research report – is governed by its own laws, which we should know and obey.
The research report is an important document that many stakeholders will treat not just as another corporate document but as a working tool.
Of course, as long as its author takes into account the specific needs of the report's reader during its preparation.
Therefore questions like – How to write a research report? What does it need to include? How to correctly prepare it? – become very important.
As is the more fundamental question – What is a research report? Defining the term, determining what a UX research report is, and indicating its subject matter and scope of applicability help to understand its functions much better.
By knowing and understanding the characteristics and functions that UX research reports carry, we can understand their importance. We will also be able to prepare them in a way that will make them more useful.
If you are curious about how to write a qualitative or quantitative research report, what a UX research report should be, and what form it should definitely not take, be sure to read this article.
We invite you to read it!
What is a UX research report?
Every research ends at some point.
No less important than the research results is how these results, data, and conclusions are communicated, presented, and conveyed to various stakeholders.
A research report is usually a document in which a researcher or team of researchers summarizes and communicates to stakeholders the following:
- research results
- collected data
- used research methods
- applied research tools
- results of analysis, interpretation.
Although informal and somewhat anecdotal, a fascinating definition of a UX research report was proposed by Dmitrij Korżow in his article "How to make a strong research report."
According to it, a good research report tells its recipient, the reader, what they did not know before. Of course, the word good is very general.
A slightly more specific approach to the problem of report quality was taken by Polish authors Iga Mościchowska and Barbara Rogoś-Turek.
In their book "Badania jako podstawa projektowania User Experience" (Research as a Basis for User Experience Design), they point out that every research report must be created with its audience in mind.
The party responsible for the communicability, comprehensibility, accessibility, and attractiveness of the research report is always its creator.
We can say, half-jokingly and half-seriously, that there are no terrible audiences for UX reports. There are only incomprehensible, obscure, complicated, chaotic, boring, over-explained, or overly concise research reports.
So what should be done to make a UX research report accessible and attractive to its diverse audience?
Above all, it is necessary to consider three factors:
- available time
- the extent of the researcher's participation in the project.
Recipients have different competencies, are familiar with the project to varying degrees, and represent different interests and goals. Thus, they have very different attitudes to the results of the research. They have distinctly different expectations.
Time is an important variable, as its availability makes it possible to refine the presentation of research results in terms of visuals, which always increases attractiveness, but simultaneously is time- and work-intensive.
The less the researcher participates in the research, the more communicative and understandable the report should be.
Communicability, a kind of obviousness, will make it not a "dead" document demanding a "translator."
Instead, it will be a document that will not require additional explanations from its creator. We will be able to read it and use it without consultation.
Functions of a UX research report
As we mentioned above, the research report is a tool.
At the same time, it is a tool with a unique role because it is addressed to different audiences and, therefore, must meet various needs and account for multiple uses.
The most important functions of a research report include:
- documenting data, conclusions, results, analyses, and interpretations
- documenting methods, techniques, and tools
- clear, understandable communication of information and explanation of results
- presenting data, information, and conclusions in an attractive way (usually visual and textual)
- converting results into knowledge, that is, giving meaning to the data.
Regardless of the type of audience receiving a UX research report, its most important function is to provide knowledge and arguments that will be useful in the decision-making process.
A research report should also be useful in the short and long term.
Research – including UX research – has a cumulative nature, and historical research reports are a valuable source of knowledge and inspiration.
They also provide guidance (not always explicitly) on organizational issues related to the specifics of respondents and challenges that research imposes on UX researchers.
In addition, the research report should help empathize with and understand users. It should provide insight into the needs and motivations of diverse teams, not just the project team (UI/UX Design ).
UX research reports help researchers:
- communicate results, conclusions in a way and form that is easy to understand by people with little or no research competencies
- communicate new research problems and new problem areas that should find understanding among stakeholders
- create a list of recommendations
- briefly and quickly communicate results, which is especially important in the iterative model of digital product development
- accumulate useful knowledge that can be used in the future
- improve the way researchers communicate with stakeholders.
Research reports for UX/UI designers, business owners, and employees of the various departments should be, above all, useful.
They should bring value to their work and make it simpler – to a greater or lesser extent.
However, it is worth remembering that we should not reduce UX research reports to conclusions alone.
In the article "Quality reporting is the key to realizing the full ROI of actionable UX research." Autumn Gilbert reminds us of the broader context of report functions.
Gilbert straightforwardly writes that reporting is more than just a summary of results.
- accounts for contextual considerations, obstacles, barriers, and any unforeseen situations that, when described, are a valuable resource for researchers in the future
- allows us to compile characteristics of given groups of respondents – to describe the challenges the researcher must face
- gives a clear answer to the key question – Why?
- provides conclusions, which cannot replace the decision-making process, although they are an important part of it.
Characteristics of a useful research report
In a standard research report, we will almost always find fixed elements, such as:
- Abstract, summary (Executive Summary)
- Descriptions of methods, techniques, and tools
- Descriptions and characteristics of the respondents
- Presentation of the results
- Discussion of the results
- Key findings
- Review of Literature.
There is also a much more concise format for a UX report, which contains only three main elements:
- Research review
- Next steps.
The content of the various parts depends as much on conventions as on the researcher's ability to present the research in an appealing way.
Undoubtedly, what form the report will take (e.g., a slide presentation, a PDF file), what types of messages it will be filled with (verbal, graphic, animated, photographic, audiovisual), and how these messages will be presented determines everything.
An attractive UX research report should not lack:
- data visualization
- examples, quotes
- charts, models, graphical representations of mechanisms, processes
- suggestions, and links to sources (e.g., other research in a given research area, on a given topic).
However, it is worth remembering that different stakeholders have different expectations and preferences.
In every organization, we can find fans of hard data, charts, and bars and people who are more persuaded by the conclusions drawn from these figures, bars, and graphs.
"Humanizing" quantitative data and "concretizing" qualitative data is always a good thing.
Quantitative data very often seems dry and devoid of emotion, while qualitative data, on the other hand, is perceived as unmeasurable and recognized as illustrative.
When creating a UX research report, make sure it is:
- clear, transparent, and logical
- readable and scannable
- informative, substantive
- comprehensible, and communicative with the help of all kinds of legends, footnotes, explanations, hints
- complete – the report should contain all the information necessary to verify the correctness of the research performed in terms of methodology and to replicate the research, it should also clearly separate data from their interpretation, and information, results from their analysis
- self-critical – the report should acquaint the reader with the full spectrum of results, with what was successfully investigated and what the study failed to investigate; any omissions or understatements are not advisable.
It is also worth remembering that the report will not be equally important to everyone. Usually, different stakeholders familiarize themselves with the content of the reports to varying degrees.
Reading reports from cover to cover is more like wishful thinking than an actual practice we can encounter in companies.
With that said, there is no need to be offended by fellow colleagues. It makes much more sense to make their lives easier and divide the report into parts, sections, chapters, or fragments that are relevant to particular audiences.
It is also worth repeating key information in condensed form rather than referring people to read entire passages.
Taking care of the accessibility of information should also be done by taking care of the readability of reports on different devices and in different forms of presentation.
For example, on desktop computers and mobile phones, on screens and projector screens, video projectors, and – last but not least – in the form of traditional printouts on paper.
The way the report is also shared matters, and this affects the following:
- how many people find out about its existence
- how many people will read it
- how many people will be able to absorb, remember the key information.
Hence, the channel and form of the report's distribution and the presentation should always be addressed. And in this regard, we have several dominant methods.
A UX research report can be:
- presented directly face-to-face and/or remotely
- sent directly to the recipient (via an e-mail or instant messaging) or offered for download from a publicly available or authorization-requiring repository.
In terms of accessibility and efficiency of distribution, we should be guided by the principle of the simplest solutions. At the same time provide the most convenient and natural method for the report recipients.
Another significant element that determines the communication effectiveness of a report is its length.
As a rule, a UX research report should not be:
- too long, wordy
- too short, incomprehensible, and therefore, too hermetic.
It may seem that we are talking about squaring the circle. We can say yes and no. It all depends... On the experience of the person writing the report and on knowing the recipients' needs, expectations, and habits.
The report is helpful not always by itself but always for someone at a particular moment of the development of the project, company, or team. It is supposed to answer questions that are important to its audience.
A report that is too long can be discouraging, and it is easy to lose its meaning. The level of meticulousness should always be a function of the usefulness of the information.
Prioritizing information is of paramount importance, as it allows us to write a report with an audience in mind who isn't expected to expand their knowledge but to be able to use their new knowledge. Perform their tasks thanks to it.
Regarding the length of the report, it's worth heeding the advice of the authors quoted above – Iga Mościchowska and Barbara Rogoś-Turek, who make it clear that the most important thing is to make the report concise, neatly written, on-topic, reader-friendly and relevant to the audience.
The accessibility of UX research reports also refers to their linguistic accessibility and comprehensibility. Jargon, colloquial, and overly poetic language do not help gain attention and understanding of the content.
The standard structure of a research report
Let's start with the obvious. There is no single template, model, or way of writing a research report.
There are fixed components, but the nature of the research, stakeholder expectations, and personal preferences of a researcher largely dictate their configuration, scope, and content.
In its most trimmed version, which in many situations is useful as well as advisable, a report can consist of three parts:
- Study Overview
- Research Findings
- Next Steps
This is precisely the model discussed in the article "Writing a user research report: tips and template slides."
The study overview, the introduction is the part where the author of the report describes and explains the following:
- what was studied
- why was it studied
- what the result of the study was.
In the Overview, we should describe and explain the background of the study, the scope of the research, the methodology, and the characteristics of the respondents.
In the study's results section, the reporting person introduces the stakeholders to the new data, information, and knowledge gained from it.
The Next Steps section is used to formulate recommendations (in terms of design, business, research, and technology).
Of course, the recommendations formulated by the researcher have to be general and represent a set of ideas rather than a set of specific solutions ready for implementation.
Best practices for preparing UX research reports
One of the essential recommendations we can make about creating UX research reports is to get to know the report's audience profoundly.
We have already written about this above, but we can never repeat this remark often enough. A research report is a tool that is supposed to be useful to its audience and to provide value to them. It cannot be just a document.
It must meet the audience's needs, expectations, and experiences to become such.
Therefore, collecting all the requirements is very advisable and useful. These can be collected through interviews with stakeholders.
Knowing all the expectations also allows us to identify the common parts and those areas of need specific to a particular group.
With this approach, creating a much more relevant and desirable report is possible.
Interviews also provide insight into preferences regarding the following issues:
- preferred language
- what, in particular, should be analyzed (e.g., quantitative analysis)
- the proportion between text and visual elements
- preferences regarding the way the data is presented, as well as the report as a whole
- length, form, and manner of delivery of the report.
The language should be as simple and communicative as possible and theoretical concepts, technical terms, methods, tools, and techniques should be presented similarly.
Its effectiveness, the ability to successfully complete a task (e.g., by UI/UX Design), largely depends on this.
Accessibility, descriptiveness, comprehensibility, and simplicity, in the good sense of the word, should be cardinal principles that the researcher follows when writing a report.
It is always necessary to keep in mind the differences in competencies, knowledge, and preferences among stakeholders. When presenting data, it is necessary to explain it, give it meaning and indicate its significance (in terms of project, business, and market).
When formulating recommendations – and the study also serves this purpose – we should avoid making opinions. A far better idea is to make practical recommendations.
Recommendations should answer the question – What can we do? They should not answer the question – Why shouldn't we do it?
How to prepare a research report? Summary
- The study and the UX report created afterward should be a maximally useful working tool. Research reports should be primarily useful to various stakeholders.
- When writing a report, we should think as "its users." The introduction, the described methods, the process, the context in which the research was conducted, and the description of the respondents are intended not to give an account of all the problems but to communicate only those of practical importance.
- The method of presenting and communicating the study results (in the form of data, information, conclusions, analysis, and knowledge) is essential from the perspective of the usefulness of the research report.
- An important reference point of a UX research report is its readers, audience. This goal should never be overlooked when preparing a report.
- The researcher who prepares a research report is always responsible for its communicability, comprehensibility, accessibility, and attractiveness.
- The UX report must meet a variety of needs and accommodate a variety of uses.
- The key issues in the effectiveness of UX reports are their form, content, how they present data, knowledge, results, and how the report is distributed.
- When creating a research report, we should not forget that its recipients have different expectations and needs and represent different groups and categories.
- A key characteristic of a research report is its accessibility, which should be expressed in physical, cognitive, technological, and linguistic accessibility.
- In terms of accessibility and efficiency of distribution, we should be guided by the principle of the simplest solutions. At the same time provide the most convenient and natural method for the report recipients.
- Prioritizing information allows us to write the report with the audience in mind, who will be able to use this new knowledge.
- The accessibility of UX research reports also refers to their linguistic accessibility and comprehensibility. Jargon and colloquial language are equally unsuitable.
- Knowing all the needs and expectations of stakeholders allows us to identify the common parts and those areas of need specific to a particular group.
- Accessibility, descriptiveness, comprehensibility, and simplicity, in the good sense of the word, should be cardinal principles that the researcher follows when writing a report.
- Recommendations should answer the question – What can we do? They should not answer the question – Why shouldn't we do it?