User Research Report: Key Components and Best Practices
Learn about a user research report and its important components. Understand the best practices for writing a report and presenting it effectively.
Written by RamotionFeb 21, 202318 min read
Last updated: Aug 22, 2023
The field of UI/UX design relies heavily on research and analysis. Whether it is gathering useful data from the users to understand their needs, conducting market research to identify trends, working on collaborative reports, or presenting findings of the analysis, designers have to cover all the aspects of research. When the research team has gathered and analyzed the data, it is also important to organize and present the findings in a way that the information is helpful and can be acted upon to create effective solutions for the target audience.
One of the most frequently conducted research by UI/UX designers deals with the users, such as understanding their expectations, highlighting their concerns, and recommending solutions that can better meet their needs. The end goal of UX research is to produce a usability report which can then help in improving the designs of products and services. For UX researchers, it is important not only to conduct user research but also to learn the art of creating an effective research report.
In this article, we introduce UX research reports and discuss them in detail. This article starts with an introduction to UX research reports. We then cover all the major components of a UX research report, followed by the art of writing an effective report and the best practices to present the research findings.
Read along as we talk about this essential skill for all designers and learn how you can create effective user research reports.
What is a UX research report?
A UX research report – also referred to as a user research report – is a comprehensive document developed to present and explain the findings of the extensive work conducted by the design team. A UX research report includes all the important information about the purpose of the research, the methods used to gather data from the target audience, the major findings and takeaways, and recommendations that can help in improving the design. It is important to be clear about the purpose of conducting UX research and to clarify that in the report. Additionally, methods such as surveys, user testing, and interviews, need to be specified and explained in the report.
What should be included in a user research report?
A user research report includes a thorough discussion of the methods used to conduct the research, followed by the key learnings and recommendations. The purpose of the report is to highlight actionable items that can be taken up to improve the user experience.
User research reports serve various purposes. On the one hand, these reports help in understanding the shortcomings of a design and the needs of the users, thus providing recommendations to improve the products and services. On the other hand, these reports also serve as guiding documents for designers and researchers working on similar projects in the future. Leading design firms and consultancy providing user experience design services rely heavily on the findings of user research, thus improving their process along the way.
If the researchers do all the work without properly documenting the findings and recommendations, it will not be possible to understand the entire process and methodology, thus leaving huge gaps between research and its application. A research report fills this gap, serving as an excellent resource for the organization and the students of design. For all aspiring designers, it is important to understand how to effectively write a research report. In the next section, we discuss the important components of a UX research report, providing a better understanding of the document.
Components of a UX research report
UX research reports are formal documents that are not always restricted to the design team or the executives of an organization. For example, if you’re working on a public project, the report, or key findings, might be shared on social media and other public platforms. There are some standard elements necessary to create an effective research report. These elements provide a template to present the findings in an understandable manner. If a user researcher gathers data without such guiding principles, the quality and impact of findings will get impacted.
What are the major components of a UX research report?
A UX report contains the following major components.
- Executive summary
- Goals and objectives
The following elements are considered to be essential elements for any research report.
An executive summary, as the name indicates, is created for the executives in an organization. It is an essential part of any formal report, where the purpose of the research, methods, key findings, and recommendations are neatly summarized.
The purpose of an executive summary is to provide a quick and comprehensive overview of the entire report. This part comes right after the table of contents, making sure that the audience interacts with this section first. An executive summary can leave a very good impression on the readers by preparing them for the entire report, and also saving them from a lot of technical details.
Like any report, a UX research report starts with an introduction. This is the section where all the background information and context are provided. In the introduction, it is a good practice to introduce the product or service that is being tested.
Additionally, a mention of the organization’s values helps in understanding the purpose of the research. The information in the introduction section helps in laying the foundation for all the technical content that follows. Understanding a research report without an introduction could be quite challenging.
Goals and objectives
To add more value to, and provide context for, the user research report, the goals and objectives for the entire study must be clearly stated. The overall research goals can be as simple as understanding the pain points of the users and getting their feedback for improving the design of the product or service. These goals give a clear idea of the research plan and indicate that all the designers and researchers are on the same page.
It is also a good practice to refer to the research question – or questions – when talking about the goals and objectives. This way the readers know what the entire report is about and what the major questions will be answered as they move along with the analysis.
In order to find the answers to the research questions and meet the objectives, UX researchers need to follow certain methods and techniques. It is important to discuss those methods in a clear and concise manner when writing research reports. These can include a variety of qualitative methods, such as interviews and focus groups, and quantitative techniques, such as surveys and correlational studies. It is a good research practice to explain these methods in a way that the general public can comprehend the information.
The value of UX research is strictly determined by the types of research methods involved in the process. If wrong methods are used, the findings can be misleading. Additionally, it is also important to discuss these methods for future researchers and aspiring designers, so they know which techniques are appropriate to achieve their goals.
The results section of any UX research report is, arguably, the one that gets the most attention. This is where all the research findings are presented in an understandable manner, so the audience can understand the key takeaways, thus getting a better idea of the needs of the target audience. The research findings do not include any discussions or opinions of the UX designers. Instead, this is where facts are reported based on the data gathered from user research.
Leaving a report merely by reporting the research findings does not help anyone, let alone the decision-makers. Good reports are the ones that do not leave the audience stranded but provide information on the next steps. This is where recommendations come into play. The recommendations section in a UX research report is the one that includes guidance on how to improve a design.
These recommendations must always be backed by the findings. Additionally, the recommendations must always be actionable and realistic. Ideal solutions that seem to solve all the problems are not helpful for the design team. It is also a good idea to identify the limitations and indicated areas where additional research is needed.
When conducting UX research, several materials are created. These can include survey questionnaires, interview scripts, observation sheets, and a lot more documents. These materials can be extremely helpful for future researchers working on similar projects, particularly those working in the same organization.
Providing all of these materials in the body of the report can be overwhelming and confusing for the audience as a user research report is not only read by UX designers. Therefore, it is important to consider providing this information in the appendices – something that interested readers can access if needed.
How to write a UX research report
Writing a research report can always seem to be a daunting task. On the one hand, there is all the background work that goes into conducting research, gathering the data, analyzing the results, and providing meaningful recommendations. On the other hand, there is the process of writing itself, where the information needs to be presented in a way that is clear, easy to understand, and helpful. The components of a UX research report mentioned above serve as a good template for the writing process.
What are some best practices to write a UX research report?
The best practices for writing a UX research report are as follows.
- Define your goals
- Understand your audience
- Use plain language
- Explain your methods
- Focus on findings
- Discuss and analyze the results
- Always provide recommendations
- State your limitations
There are certain best practices that can help in creating effective research reports.
Define your goals
Like any UI/UX design project, writing a research report has to start with the goals. Before even starting the user research, it is important to identify and clarify research goals. These goals are decided in a way that they coincide with the overall vision and mission of the organization, and also cater to the needs of the target audience. Individuals from different teams, such as product development, marketing, design, and other related personnel need to be involved in the process, to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Once the goals have been defined, it gets easier to define the research questions and write a report that is more focused.
Understand your audience
Considering the audience of a research report is extremely important. UX research reports are read by designers, but they are not the only target audience group. These reports play a significant role in decision-making and, therefore, make their way up to the executive offices. Similarly, other teams involved in the design process also benefit from the user research reports. This means that not everyone will be able to understand the design processes, methods, and technical aspects of the report. Therefore, it is important to consider the varying needs of these audience groups to write effective reports.
Use plain language
One of the key aspects of good reports is that they are easy to read and understand. Whether it is the technical information in the methods section or the more interesting UX research findings and recommendations, it is always beneficial to explain things in a simple manner.
The use of plain and clear language ensures that non-researchers and the general public can also make the most out of these otherwise complicated documents. All UI/UX designers should get some training and experience in the principles of clear and effective writing so that they can add more value to their reports.
Explain your methods
As mentioned above, the methods section can always be tricky to understand, particularly for individuals who do not have a background in UX research and design. There are several steps that designers can take to explain their methods in a better way. One of those is to be specific with their research questions and to state them in a clear manner.
Another important research practice is to provide as many details about the research methods as possible. These details can be as simple and trivial as the need for technology, such as laptops and mobile phones, in conducting the research, and as sophisticated as eye-tracking software. If the readers know about all the techniques, they will be better able to understand the overall goals and findings of the research.
Focus on findings
The section containing UX research findings demands a lot of attention and care when writing a report. This is where designers bring all the data and insights together, to present their findings from the extensive research. When writing about research findings, it is important to be clear and specific.
Any ambiguity in reporting the findings can confuse and overwhelm the audience, thus jeopardizing the overall goals of the UX research report. It is also essential for designers to leave their biases aside when reporting the findings. The opinions of the design and research teams should not be mixed with the results, as this can be misleading for the target audience. Remember, the goal of user research is to get insights from, and about, the users, in order to improve the design.
Discuss and analyze the results
All good research reports include some sort of discussion on the results and insights obtained from the data. One of the best practices, when writing a report, is to shed some light on the research findings.
The most effective way to analyze and discuss results is to tie them back to the research questions and goals of the study. This practice keeps the memory of the audience refreshed, and adds to their understanding. Discussion of results in a user research report also helps other researchers in understanding the thought process behind the overall process.
Always provide recommendations
One of the sections of a user research report that often gets overlooked is recommendations. Many quality reports, sometimes, do not give attention to this aspect, and, thus, leave the audience hanging with some technical details and findings of the report. Successful and effective reports are the ones that discuss the findings and provide guidance for the future.
It is important to ensure that the recommendations consist of actionable items. For example, if the users find it hard to interact with the “sign in” button because of its color, the report should clearly state the reason and recommend possible edits to improve this button. The more specific the recommendations are, the more helpful will be to the design and product development teams.
State your limitations
A single user research project cannot possibly cover every single need and pain point of the target audience. There are several factors involved in a UX research project that can limit the data collection and analysis phases. For example, research might be restricted because of budgetary constraints, time limitations, confidentiality, and other policies of the organization.
It is always helpful to acknowledge these limitations while writing a UX research report. These limitations can help in identifying the areas where more work is needed, thus serving as a guiding section for future research studies.
Presenting UX research findings
Conducting good research, working with users, and gathering valuable data constitute one part of UX research. Then comes the report writing phase, where all the information is brought together, along with insights of the designers and researchers, thus helping in making sense of the data. This process provides good content for a UX research report. However, researchers must not stop at just reporting facts.
There is one more question that needs to be considered: How to present research findings? This is where designers have to wear multiple hats and look at the report from different perspectives. Even if the information is valuable, but it is not presented in an effective way, the usefulness of the report can take a hit.
How can UX researchers improve the presentation of their findings?
Some ways in which the presentation of UX research can be improved are as follows.
- Use consistent language
- Summarize and discuss the findings
- Use effective illustrations
- Avoid excessive use of jargon
- Make the report aesthetically pleasing
- Ensure easy navigation
There are certain best practices that designers can follow to present the findings of UX research in a comprehensive manner. The skills from document design, aesthetics, illustration, and information management come in handy when presenting the findings of any research project. Some of the key aspects to consider are as follows.
Use consistent language
All presentable and understandable research reports using consistent language, one that is easy to follow with clear explanations. In this sense, a research report is similar to any other design project, where consistency is a key principle. The use of consistent language means that the voice and tone throughout the report are the same, so the readers do not get confused in the middle.
This can be a concern when the projects and, therefore, the reports are long and written by multiple authors. In such cases, it is important to assign editing to one person who can ensure consistency throughout the document. An inconsistent report is hard to read and can greatly impact the overall quality of any research project.
Summarize and discuss the findings
As mentioned above, UX research findings are the most read section of any report. This is the section that gets equal attention from the technical and non-technical audiences. Therefore, it is important to present the findings in a way that can be easily understood by all groups of audiences.
In order to add more value to the report, it is always a good practice to summarize the findings and discuss them, expanding on their relationship with the research questions. When discussing the results, the UI/UX designers can make use of real-world examples to make the findings more relatable and understandable.
Use effective illustrations
In research reports – and almost all other documents – words can only do so much. The power of media elements, such as images, schematics, graphs, and illustrations can never be underestimated. When working on the presentation of a report, illustrations must be given due attention. With the help of powerful visuals, designers can explain their quantitative and qualitative research results, making the information easily digestible.
Illustrations also make the content more accessible, leaving an overall good impact on the readability of the report. Modern organizations with well-established design teams have specific branding guidelines for their employees when it comes to creating and distributing illustrations, thus creating more avenues for creating a stronger brand image.
Avoid excessive use of jargon
One important aspect, when it comes to the presentation and perception of a user research report, is limiting the use of jargon. This is something that gets ignored in many reports and is noticed only after a report is published or distributed.
Therefore, when working on the presentation of a report, it is important to get feedback from non-researchers and individuals from other teams, such as marketing and product development. Feedback from someone outside of the research team can help in strengthening the presentation of the report, thus making it more understandable and readable.
Make the report aesthetically pleasing
A report is only well-received when it is attractive and pleasing to the eye. This might sound like a small element, but if you stop and ask yourself how many times you left a report in the middle because it was not eye-catching, you will find the answer right away. There are several ways to improve the aesthetics of a report. This is where UI/UX designers can bring their creativity and principles of document design into play.
The use of colors, infographics, visual and textual hierarchy, icons, and quality images are some of the ways in which a report can be made aesthetically pleasing. Researchers can make use of the elements in a component library that designers frequently use for various projects. This will ensure consistency and also create a better brand image.
Ensure easy navigation
When distributing a report, it is important to consider the way readers will interact with it, and navigate through the entire document. In shorter reports, this might not be a big concern, but when the documents get longer (over 20 pages), it gets tricky for the readers to scroll all the way up and find the desired section.
Therefore, when presenting a report, researchers should always focus on the way navigation can be improved. If the headings, subheadings, and captions are appropriate, and the table of contents is free of errors, then the digital documents can be easily navigated. If the reports are being hosted on an organization’s online portal or a blog, it is always a good idea to create a searchable repository, so the users can find the desired information quickly.
Working with people, understanding their needs, getting their feedback, and incorporating it into future designs are one of the most interesting parts of being a UX researcher and designer. However, this means that as a designer, you have to produce several reports to document your findings, provide recommendations, and make a case for the practice of UX research in the first place.
The reports thus created should be comprehensive, pleasing, useful, and helpful at the same time. This is a challenging task as not all designers are good at writing UX research reports. To be fair, writing and documentation are not easy tasks either. It is a skill that can be learned with time and by focusing on the right areas.
In this article, we covered the basic principles of writing an effective user research report. In order to make your report stand out, you have to focus on the efficacy of your research findings, the quality of writing, and the presentation of the report itself. With the help of the best practices and guidelines discussed above, you can start creating comprehensive reports that are not hard to read and have all the required information.
If you’re an aspiring UI/UX designer and have not been exposed to the report-writing process yet, now is the time to pay attention to this part of the job. The art of good report writing and having better presentation skills can make you more marketable, thus helping you land better job opportunities.