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Make your report user-oriented.

As a researcher, you know that your work mostly revolves around the user. You spend a lot of your time understanding user needs and goals, and then using those insights to make design decisions. This approach should also apply to creating your research report for stakeholders. Additionally, while presenting the report, you should not only consider the expectations of the stakeholders, but also what they are accountable for.

The recommendations should be strategic and actionable.

You normally create a list of recommendations for the research report. It’s good to keep them as a record, but don’t include all of them in the final report. You should present only the top 3 recommendations that are most strategic and actionable. Additionally support these recommendations with data and evidence. Make sure stakeholders know that there are more, but these are the top recommendations based on viability, feasibility and desirability.

Record the details, but present the highlights.

The idea that a design research report should be something really comprehensive, is not so relevant to the modern world. Your stakeholders belong to a world that is ever changing and getting faster. So your report needs to be designed in accordance with this pace. It should be brief and focused on what actions will have the most impact. Consider adding cost, user impact and business value to the recommendations.

Align with the stakeholders.

You should always try to quantify the risk. In case you have a stakeholder with a skeptical nature, you will need to design recommendations in a way that quantifies the risk in doing and not doing the recommendation. That is why it’s important to be clear on what your stakeholder accountabilities are.

Present recommendations with confidence.

After you have used your skills in preparing the report, present it with confidence. Your recommendations should be presented like a viewpoint, and not opinion. Your report is not showing personal likes. It is based on expertise, research, client insights and the relevant data.

Listen to your stakeholders' feedback.

When you have presented the research report and recommendations, don’t expect stakeholders to always agree with you. They may have solid business reasons behind going a different direction or choosing to prioritize some recommendations over others. The key is to listen and ask questions. It’s also important to consider opportunities for additional research or deep diving on specific elements.

Record everything for future rethinking.

Now if the stakeholder is not convinced to go ahead with a recommendation, it’s time to go back to the detailed study that you had done. Remember to save and document everything (transcripts, recordings, notes etc.), but it’s not necessary to include them in the final report. The documented information can help you or other researchers to find alternative solutions if the recommendations or plan is not agreed upon or insights are challenged.

Share your recommendations.

Try to make recommendations as shareable as possible. The more comprehensible findings are, the better the chance of them being considered and appreciated.

In conclusion you have to be confident and concise while designing a research report for the stakeholders. Be user-oriented while making the report, but also flexible toward your stakeholders while presenting it. Achieving this balance is the key to your success as a UX researcher

Designing Research Reports Stakeholders Will Appreciate

  • Writer's pictureBalwinder Singh

Writing Effective Design System Documentation

1. Knowing your audience

Writing effective design documentation is all about serving the needs of your audience better. So before starting to write, it’s important for you to know who your audience is, and what exactly they need. Your audience might include product managers, executives, marketers or programmers. Usually it won't be possible to satisfy them all. So it might be better for you to pick the most important group, understand their needs, and then write for them only. If, on the other hand, you prefer to satisfy everybody, it might be better to have a couple of sections for each group created in such a way that other sections don’t bother that particular group.

2. Consistent formatting

An important thing that is often overlooked is the design of the document itself. You would have come across such documents that have excellent content, but their haphazard layout makes it harder for you to study them. The formatting of an effective document needs to be clear and consistent from page to page. It’s not only important for aesthetic reasons, it also ensures that your readers will easily find the things they need to read, and the content will be easy for them to understand.

3. Be smart

While writing and editing your documentation, try to make every statement short and simple. Large-sized paragraphs will look uninviting to your users, so try to convert paragraphs into a list with short sentences whenever possible. Of course there will be situations where you will need to explain something. To ensure you don't get too "wordy" consider incorporating an example in your explanation. And remember, write active voice sentences that start with action verbs.

4. Avoid the absolutes

In most cases, it’s not suitable to phrase guidelines using absolute adverbs. So using terms like 'always' or 'never' should be avoided because usually there will be some exceptions to that 'rule'. Such an absolute way of expression will turn the focus from crafting a great experience to abiding to the rigid rules. Furthermore, readers will start getting habitual of finding the loopholes. This will in turn make them ignore even the most non-negotiable regulations. Actually, the design system is something assistive, not authoritarian. Providing instructions with rationale is more convincing than rigid rules. However, too much rationale will make the readers lose their attention, so a balance is needed.

5. Prefer the positive

Repeated warnings to refrain from negative patterns would put your reader on the defensive. Although there is a lot to tell about not doing something, a good positive communication should also be there to balance it, so the readers don’t find the system oppressive. You would be better off saying ‘Use primary buttons instead of secondary buttons’, rather than saying ‘Don’t use secondary buttons’.

6. Write purposeful headlines

A headline should express a single point that you are trying to assert. Mostly, the readers scan through the headlines to find a keyword related to the problem they are trying to solve.

Every headline has an opportunity to provide the reader with an idea of what they will learn from navigating to the website. You should try to be more explicit to make the content more accessible.

7. Try to empower, not restrain

You should always be mindful that documentation is not something prescriptive. Design Systems are to empower others, not to police against them. Using the Design System as a hammer will make everything look like a nail. Deviations from the established standards are welcome if they have merit. Intuition is a muscle memory that needs to be respected.

8. Add charts and diagrams

Charts often help compare different potential options. Diagrams, as compared to text, usually make it easier and quicker to understand things. Many apps are available to assist you in creating charts and diagrams, such as Google Drawings.

9. Have a partner

No great book or work is usually written without a partner. The design documentation should be no different. You should have someone periodically review the drafts of your design documentation. It would be great if this editing assistant is a teammate who is already familiar with the project and design. Don’t check in with him at the end of your work, rather he should be a regular part of this process. He should be reviewing with you things like: good design description, coverage of all key points and if things are clearly organized. It will be easier to correct the issues with your content or organization scheme if you find them earlier.

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