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We like to think of a digital product as a living thing. It has its own cycle of life, each stage having specific characteristics, and the product is defined by the surroundings and its capability to adapt to situations. But the product isn’t really a living thing; the people who own and work with it make it look like one.
Let’s name these people collectively stakeholders. They are responsible for every aspect of the product; they shape it along its lifecycle. Among the stakeholders, there is a group of people with a special dedication to how the product performs usability-wise; they are the UX researchers and designers. As a UX researcher, it’s very important to monitor the product’s surroundings (market, trends, competitors, etc.) and to always have up-to-date information about usability.
Why we need continuous dissemination of research insights with stakeholders
To be up-to-date means to have a system of gathering constant feedback. The information we had about a product and how it performed a year ago — or even 3 months ago — is very likely to be obsolete today. So, if we want to keep a product alive, we need constant monitoring of its usability. In many cases, insight collection falls under the job description of a UX researcher.
But it doesn’t stop here. This is just the first step in a sequence of actions. The insights become valuable information when they are digested and shared with all the stakeholders. Yes, all the stakeholders. Not just the designers, the product owner, the dev team, or the marketing team, or whoever works directly with the product. All the stakeholders. This may sound trivial, but if you’ve worked on a digital product, you surely can name at least one stakeholder who is almost impossible to reach or to schedule a meeting with. Sometimes getting five minutes of their time feels like a heavenly gift.
By experimenting with different methods of continuous dissemination of research insights, we were attempting to change this.
Given that you — a researcher or someone who gathers user behavior-related insights — have a system of doing the UX research and also have a repository for all the insights, at some point you will need to share your findings with the stakeholders.
- Research repository – giving access to your repository of insights (or research system in some places) allows stakeholders to skim through all the research data
- Reports – this is probably the most widespread method, usually a PPT presentation that can be sent even to the VIP stakeholders, and they can use it (or parts of it) later on in their own reports and presentations
- Instant feedback – an adapted version of a report, it’s usually creative because you have to choose a method of quick feedback that you think works the best for you and the stakeholders as well
We chose the three options above because they can cover a wide range of complex situations when it comes to presenting research insights. Maintaining a research repository usually requires extra resources and a high level of engagement from the stakeholders. Meanwhile, quick feedback can be the result of an ad-hoc guerilla test with someone in the cafeteria. And the reports are probably the most common form of sharing synthesized information, mainly in the form of a PPT or an Excel document.
The good news is, we don’t have to choose one of these three methods exclusively. They work quite well when they are combined. So, which one should we use and when? A typical researcher answer for this: it depends.
It depends on what we are trying to achieve with the communicated information, who the receiver is, what resources we have at our disposal, and probably the most important point is sustainability. But the list doesn’t stop here.
All that being said, here is our takeaway from our latest experience, starting with the lowest complexity level method.
As the name suggests, this method relies heavily on quick reactions. When you have an interview, usability test, or anything that generated valuable feedback, use your notes. Create a list with dos and don’ts or pros and cons, and send it to the stakeholders right after the session. Reaction time is of the essence here.
Later on, you may need to re-work your insights (e.g. put them into a report), but the faster you inform the stakeholders, the sooner they can start working with the insights. And speed can truly make a difference when it comes to decision-making. I suggest using instant feedback as often as possible. Besides helping out the product team, it has a secondary benefit: it strengthens the research value. Needless to say, in an ever speeding world, providing instant feedback is a huge advantage.
We recently used this method to quickly provide stakeholders with insights to help them choose between the functions to keep and the ones to let go. The team was a relatively small product team with quick response capability.
Works well: in an environment where the time pressure is high, the communication is fast and the team reacts quickly. However, it can work very well even in a ‘slower’ environment. For example, if there is a need to quickly adjust something on the product such as launching a new SSO module in an application.
Drawbacks: not documented to last, it’s not going to be organized information, really hard to search later on. So if it’s not a problem that these insights might fall into oblivion after use, then go for it.
Recommendations: choose a collaborative tool in which you can share or upload the results quickly and easily. It’s a must for the team members to be able to edit and add their own ideas to it, so something like a collaborative canvas or whiteboard. We used Miro. If you are familiar with other similar tools, then go with them. The point is to have other team members on board and active in using it.
Reports are good when you want to present insights in a visually pleasing manner, and there is a reasonable amount of time to create them. They work very well with a research repository, from which one can extract the information and package it nicely. It doesn’t need many resources, and it can be durable time-wise.
Works well: basically in any situation where quick visualization is essential. The visual reports have a good balance of important information and readability, providing an easy way to quickly understand what matters.
Drawbacks: information is difficult to find (not the best solution searchability-wise), but it lasts for a long time. Sometimes, based on how the information needs to be presented — weekly meetings, during a sprint, or in quarterly reports — the report’s format may vary, making it difficult to merge or create consistency over time.
We used this method in numerous cases, but this time it was combined with a research repository. Insights from a research repository were extracted and presented to the stakeholders who didn’t use the repository directly in a monthly PPT presentation. This helped to bring the C-level management up to speed on the usability front.
It is the most comprehensive solution to support UX research. A research repository is capable of providing all the usability-related information about a product. We can track time-related changes, it’s easy to search content by different variables, we can create different views and reports, or analyze insights. All these functions may be used by anyone on the team without being dependent on other team members. So, if it’s so great, why doesn’t everyone use it?
Drawbacks: it takes a huge load of resources to maintain it in terms of time, which not every company can afford. Even so, it takes time to learn how to use it, needs constant pampering, and most of all, it needs a dedicated team, or at least one person, to “keep it alive”. It’s also very difficult to involve other team members to become editors.
Works well: in a corporate environment, with a dedicated and significant budget for research and development, where sustained research fits the roadmap. It is especially good if there are more teams on a product or even multiple projects since it can combine the insights across products and teams.
But it’s not solely for a corporate environment; it can work in smaller teams as well. Just make sure to have the right amount of time and other resources dedicated to it.
For example, we built and used a research repository with great success on projects in the banking sector, a collaboration with a multi-national sports association, and even on a project for a mid-sized IT company. There can be multiple products and teams or just one small team; it works in either situation.
The research repository provides a common ground of insights for the different teams or stakeholders.
To read more about research repositories, check out our blog post on this topic.
You should always ask yourself which method you should choose for disseminating the research insights. It’s not always easy to figure out how to report research findings, so the following point might be of guidance:
Follow this rule of thumb for report details
- Instant feedback: just send the notes to the team or stakeholders right after the session
- Presentations (PPT): nicely gathered insights, but don’t spend too much time with the eye-candy stuff
- Research Repositories: only if you have the time and budget for it, but if so, then it’s a must
The first option — instant feedback — should be used in almost every situation.
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