ARTICLE: Sarah Freitag

The formula for clear & effective UX research reports

EdTech companies like yours rely on UX research to make important decisions about your product. Each of your key stakeholders — including your product and executive leadership teams — must clearly understand your research findings and the recommendations that flow from them.  So it’s critical that your research reports are clear and effective. 

Like the EdTech products you build, research reports are only effective to the extent that they serve their end users. Unfortunately, they are too frequently only formulated with a researcher’s mindset. That is, they are so focused on documenting the individual trees that they fail to also tell a compelling story about the forest. Because of this, VPs and other “once removed” stakeholders often struggle to make sense of the average research report. They can’t reliably identify the high-level takeaways amidst all the details. 

On the other end of the spectrum, many teams that use agile methodologies don’t take the time to prepare detailed reports at all. They quickly jot down a single-page list of bullets and keep moving. While this saves time (and makes for an easy scan), it can cause problems down the line. If their future selves or a new designer added to the project were to look back on the report, they would have trouble reconstructing the details of their research.  

At Openfield, we’ve spent years honing our approach to UX research reporting. We’ve developed a template that allows each stakeholder to quickly identify the information they need to make confident decisions. Read on to learn the ins and outs of effective UX research reports. 

Why UX Research Reports Need Layers of Context for Multiple Audiences

Product teams and executives come to research reports with a different set of needs. Needs that must be addressed seamlessly within the same document. 

Product teams are already immersed in the details. They may not even need to read a research report to get up to speed on the latest findings. But they do need to document the details of their research methods and findings for future reference. The truth is that for product teams, research reports are usually most useful in retrospect. All that detail is incredibly useful if they need to reconstruct the reasons behind the decisions they previously made. 

But executive-level stakeholders are a different story. They aren’t dialed into the daily rhythms of your product team’s work. They typically don’t attend UX research sessions. And they may not even be present for the meetings in which research findings are presented. But they do see your UX research reports. Which means those reports have a big job to do. 

To be effective, UX research reports must meet the needs of both executives and product teams alike. And the only way to do that is to present findings strategically, in multiple layers of prioritized context. 

The Qualities of Effective UX Research Reporting 

So, what exactly makes for an effective UX research report? A good report should: 

  • Help higher-up stakeholders quickly identify the most important recommendations and findings first, without digging through a long report. 
  • Enable the product team to find fast answers to their research questions, such as which methodologies were used and what features were tested. 
  • Tell a compelling story using quotes and observations. 
  • Engender confidence about the data by aligning findings to goals and pointing out any biasing factors or gaps in the research. 
  • Reinforce the power of research to help stakeholders alter the product roadmap and even MVP plans confidently — if the conclusions are important enough. When UX research uncovers a strong enough user need, EdTech companies can justify the decision to adjust their product roadmap and MVP plans accordingly.  
  • Help stakeholders understand the weight of various recommendations. Would a particular finding be catastrophic if it went unaddressed? Or is it something that only one person struggled with? Statistics can be used to convey how findings might apply on a larger scale. In addition, it may help to differentiate between recommendations (high priority items that must be addressed) and considerations (defined as lower-priority issues that may warrant further testing or discussion). 

The UX Agency Approach to EdTech Research Reporting  

At Openfield, we strive to create UX research reports that clearly speak for themselves. That is, any one of our client’s internal stakeholders could pick up the report and make sense of it without knowing the details beforehand. More than that, we craft our reports so that they tell a story — one in which both the forest and the trees can be clearly seen. 

In addition, our research reports (like our research itself) are neutral. We never skew our findings to please someone or play to internal politics. While we strive to minimize biases in our research, we always mention the possible existence of biases if we have reason to believe they could be impacting results.  

Finally, our reports include clearly prioritized recommendations, including details that make them actionable. 

As you will see, our reports lead with a prioritized set of actionable recommendations. This allows executive-level stakeholders to find key takeaways at a glance. Our reports include the following elements in the following order. 

  1. A high-level executive summary of our research findings, including direct quotes from test users 
  2. The single most important finding or recommendation
  3. A grouping of other high-priority recommendations
  4. A grouping of lower-priority recommendations and/or considerations 
  5. Comprehensive reporting regarding test design, features tested, and findings and recommendations. 

Want to learn more about how Openfield approaches UX research and reporting for EdTech companies around the country? We’d love to chat

  • Photo of Sarah Freitag
    Sarah Freitag

    As Director of UX Research, Sarah draws on her deep understanding of EdTech users and her background in research, design and business strategy to enable our clients to make confident decisions that result in products that solve real needs and create demonstrable impacts on their business’ bottom lines. Like her design-side counterpart at Openfield, Sarah is responsible for fostering collaboration, team development and for bringing new strategic initiatives and methodologies that allow our company to stay ahead of the curve of what EdTech users truly need to realize higher levels of learning and teaching success. Sarah is an avid reader and an adventurous explorer. Highlights from her favorite travels include Morocco, Peru, Italy, Denmark and France. With the recent pandemic-induced reduction in travel, she makes it a point to fulfill her wanderlust with another one of her passions, cooking and baking, by experimenting with recipes inspired by cultures around the world.

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