What to do with UX Findings and Recommendations

Jim Ross / Thursday, March 13, 2014


Usability testing and expert reviews are both great methods to discover design and usability problems, but it can be overwhelming to receive a deliverable with a long list of problems and recommendations. You can’t fix everything at once, so you may wonder where to begin. Should you focus first on the easy items to fix, or should you try to tackle the most serious problems, even though those require a lot more time and effort?

In this post, I’ll provide advice for project teams in how to best receive and implement usability testing and expert review recommendations.

Provide Enough Time for Analysis

Unless you’re on a tight deadline and need to get the findings as soon as possible, allow the UX professional enough time to do the analysis and prepare the deliverable. Thorough analysis and thoughtful recommendations take time. Rushing to get the deliverable finished with an unrealistic deadline will result in lower quality findings and less thought-out recommendations.

Make Sure Everyone Attends the Findings Presentation

It’s important for everyone on the project team to attend the presentation. Although they could read the report or presentation later, that doesn’t provide the same impact as hearing the findings firsthand. A live presentation provides more context around the findings and allows everyone to ask questions.

Ensure that the Deliverable Provides Enough Detail

Insist on receiving a detailed deliverable. It doesn’t have to be formal or fancy, but it does need to be detailed enough that you’ll be able to clearly understand the problems and recommendations later, when it’s time to implement them.

If the only deliverable you receive is a presentation, it’s especially important to ensure that it will make sense when you read it later. Presentations usually include limited and abbreviated text to avoid being too wordy, which is great for presentation purposes, but that often makes them difficult to understand later. If you only receive a presentation, ensure that it’s understandable when read on its own.

Findings and recommendations deliverables normally provide prioritized findings (high, medium, and low), based on the severity of the problems. Those are usually based on the UX analyst’s professional judgment. That’s useful information, but you still have to do your own prioritization of the issues in terms of how they impact your business and prioritize them based on how you’re going to address them.

Don’t Get Defensive

Although you’ll probably hear about some positive aspects of the interface, the purpose of usability testing and expert reviews is to find problems. Sometimes they reveal a lot of problems, which can feel negative and critical. If it’s your design, it’s natural to feel a little defensive, but don’t let that lead to you dismiss or minimize the findings. Think of it as constructive criticism, and listen with an open mind. Instead of dwelling on the problems, think instead of the opportunities you have to improve the design by implementing the recommendations.

Meet to Discuss the Recommendations

After the presentation, take some time to digest the findings and recommendations, and then meet with everyone on the project team to walk through the recommendations and prioritize which ones to focus on first based on:

· Severity of the problem for the users – how much does it impact their ability to accomplish their goals?

· Severity of the problem for the business – how much does it impact business goals?

· Ease or difficulty of fixing

It’s tempting to only implement the easy recommendations, but that usually only leads to small improvements. The most severe problems are usually the hardest to fix, requiring a major redesign. If you find that you have to make major changes, you could make the easy changes first to the existing interface and then begin work on the redesign.

Conduct User Research

If you do find that you need to do a major redesign, the usability testing or expert review findings will provide a good start, but they won’t give you all the information you need to design an effective user experience. You’ll need to have a better understanding of your users and their tasks, which you can’t get through usability testing alone. Lack of understanding the users and their needs in the first place is probably what led to many of the problems you’re trying to correct.

To get that understanding, conduct user research to learn about your users’ characteristics, needs, and context of use. Go to your users and observe them performing their usual tasks in their own environment. Seeing what people do is far more reliable and provides more comprehensive information than simply asking them what they do.

Conduct Iterative Usability Testing

Even after you’ve implemented the recommendations, you should test again to ensure that the changes have fixed the problems and haven’t caused any other problems. Usability testing is best when it’s done iteratively – in several rounds of design, testing, redesign, testing, redesign, etc.

Have a Plan

If you don’t have a plan of how you’ll handle findings and recommendations, problems often don’t get solved. A usability test or expert review is only the beginning. Finding problems is usually easy, but designing the right solutions is the hart part. If you have a plan for how to address the problems you’ll find, you’ll be closer to implementing the right solutions.

Image of presentation courtesy of Derrick Coetzee on Flickr under Creative Commons license.