Decrease risk by changing the way you think about user research findings.

Most user research findings are used the wrong way.

Findings are used incorrectly because it isn’t immediately obvious what to do with them. It’s unclear what needs to happen next.

The root cause of this problem? Not knowing how to translate a finding into a clear decision or next step.

Translating research findings is a hard skill to master. Here’s why:

  1. You need to trust in both the researcher and their process, which can be overwhelming

  2. A “smart-sounding” finding can fool you. It’s hard to know what is credible without thinking deeply about a finding.

  3. A finding alone doesn't dictate action; it requires interpretation to guide the next steps.

And so, while knowing how to translate findings is useful. It isn’t enough.

You also need to shift how you think about findings in the first place -- that way you can feel certain that you’re reliably translating findings.

Here’s how to think about findings so that you can reduce decision-making risk

1/ Before you start any research, develop a shared understanding of what findings are, why they’re important, and how they’ll be used.

The researcher is responsible for educating their team, advocating for the research, and establishing a strategy for translating findings. While there's no single 'right' way to interpret findings, it's essential that the team agrees on a specific approach.

Answer these questions:

  • What is a finding? What is a finding not?

  • Why are findings important?

  • How can we apply what we learn? In response to our findings, what decisions might we need to make?

    • Consider the potential impact of your findings on your product or business strategy. What specific changes are you ready to undertake? Clearly define the range of changes you are willing to make in response to the research.
  • In what contexts should our findings not be applied, and where are they most relevant?

    • Determine the limits of research findings. Recognize that findings relevant in one context may not transfer well to others.

Again, the goal is to make sure everyone thinks about findings in similar ways.

2/ Once your research is finished, translate findings into decisions

1 - Examine context

It’s easy to find facts. But it’s hard to figure out what those facts mean for your product/business. That takes a special skill. Without this skill, people will do what they can with the knowledge and biases they have to move forward. And this may not lead to favourable outcomes. This is why you need to examine context.


Because it’s risky to generalize a finding. And it’s even riskier to just “wing it”.

So, ask questions like:

  • Does this finding fit in the context of the decision we need to make?

  • Where does this finding not apply?

  • What’s the “shelf-life” of this finding?

2 - Once you understand context, think critically about what needs to happen next.

Don’t make immediate and irreversible changes based on a research finding without first thinking about what the finding means. Avoid being reactive. Be reflective.

Reflect on the finding to figure out what it means for your business and the implications of applying this finding.

Ask questions like:

  • What is the decision that needs to be made?

    • Why does it need to be made?

    • Is it the most important decision that needs to be made?

    • Is there finding x decision fit? Does the finding help inform the decision that needs to be made?

  • If we use this finding, what are the knock-on effects?

  • What are the risks of using this finding? What are the risks if we don’t use it?

Once you’ve gotten answers to these questions, and it still makes sense to act on the findings…

3 - Make the decision and move on.

If you’re a small-team building a new product, you don’t have 2 weeks to think about findings. As soon as you feel good about the decision, make it and move forward.

Your decision might mean a change to the product or business. It might also mean you need to do more research. Both are okay.

All that matters is that you make some type of decision because making no decision wastes a lot of time. Time that you may not have. So make the decision and move on to the next adventure.

Wrapping up

You now have everything you need to use user research findings correctly. The next time you need to do some user research, use these guidelines to help establish a shared understanding and reduce your decision-making risks.

If you need support applying findings, OpenUX offers complimentary office hours for products trying to level-up their UX practice. Click here to find time.

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