28 Reasons to Invest in UX Research

A common misconception about UX research is that it only involves usability testing websites and apps.

In reality, testing websites and products to ensure they’re easy to use is a very small part of the user research discipline.

Instead, think of UX researchers as business strategists. They live at the intersection of customer needs and business strategy—driving head-turning results. No joke, customer-obsessed companies outperform the S&P 500 by leaps and bounds.

Continue reading “28 Reasons to Invest in UX Research”

How to Persuade Your Leaders to Invest in UX

What can you do when your boss or your organization’s leaders say “no” to design?

An ongoing challenge shared by many UX professionals is getting the green light to move forward on a solution to improve the user experience.

Believing UX is the right thing to do isn’t enough. As UX strategists, we must categorically demonstrate the business value, too.

Continue reading “How to Persuade Your Leaders to Invest in UX”

8 Ways to Share User Research Findings & Customer Insights

Now that your UX research has been synthesized and shaped into a compelling story backed by data — what’s the best way to get it into the hands of decision-makers (and the rest of the team)?

1. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

What’s the saying about repeating something 7 times before it sinks in? True or not, I find repetition is the best method for implanting research findings into others’ brains.

Bring past researching findings forward into new research reports. Never assume older insights are old news.

In cognitive neuroscientist Carmen Simon‘s studies, she found people forget up to 90% of what you communicate.

2. Research Sound Bites

Repackage research insights as infographics or PPT slides that can be used by others throughout the organization in their own deliverables and reports.

3. Research Library

For one of my clients, I uploaded every research report and interview recording into a network directory that was accessible to everyone in their marketing department.

Every research report followed the same naming convention, so that others could easily find relevant findings:


4. Communication Tools

Get research findings out of PowerPoint and into more hands-on communication tools and activities, such as:

  • Customer journey maps
  • Storyboards / comic strips
  • Empathy maps
  • Personas
  • Role-playing exercises
  • Activation workshops

5. Museum

You may have seen the lengths some organizations go to create immersive experiences. Videos, artifacts, and placards detail the insights uncovered about their target audience in a museum-like setting.

You can do something similar for a lot less expense and formality…

Take over an empty office or a blank wall by taping up print-outs of your research findings. Post print-outs of your mock-ups and then write insights directly on them or tag areas with sticky notes.

One time, I created a little vignette about each diary study participant — using their photo, demographics, and diary entries. Using different color markers, I highlighted parts of the diary entries to help casual observers quickly focus on key information and themes.

6. Slack

Slack, or other internal online communities, is a great use for your research sound bites. Create and share infographics to help reinforce insights about your customers.

Another idea: create a channel devoted entirely to research insights.

7. Google Sheets

Using Google Sheets and Docs is a fast way to update data in real-time. Keep the whole team informed by uploading interview notes or recaps at the end of each work day.

Use Google Sheets to track usability issues. Over time, the team can see which usability issues fade away or continue to bedevil users.

Caution: I’ve tried typing my interview notes directly into Google during a session, but have gotten burned. Translation: lost interview notes.

8. Private YouTube

MP3 files are often too big to email, which makes sharing usability sessions difficult, if not impossible. To get around this, I upload the videos to YouTube — set to “private.”

Other storage options: Google Drive, Vimeo, Dropbox.

Bonus Tips

9. Posters

Among my colleagues, I’m well-known for my love of posters. Choose topics that require a highly visual story, then go big! I love printing giant posters for customer journey maps, site maps, complex user flows, and competitive analyses.

At Staples, you can print black and white 3×4-foot posters (called blueprints) for around $4. Color posters also are very reasonably priced.

10. TV Show

Develop your own reality TV show based on your target audience. Whether monthly or quarterly, create episodes that showcase how customers interact with your products in their everyday lives.

UK grocer, Asda has produced a monthly TV show called “Our Home” for the past 2 years. The episodes are storyboarded in advance and are built around themes, such as “Halloween.” The show’s “stars” are 9 real families who were intercepted while shopping in their grocery stores (then vetted via follow-up IDIs).

11. Insights Database

Individual insights quickly become forgotten when they’re trapped in research reports. Ensure research insights remain accessible by inputting and tagging them individually in a searchable database.

Build your own database, or try companies like Airtable, Trello, or Asana.

12. Podcast

For teams on the go, create a podcast series. Interview a UX researcher or product manager about their most recent study, and ask them to share their insights.

If you’re conducting a longer diary study, share IDIs or read aloud participants’ written diary entries. Or, intercut IDI clips with a discussion about what the research participant just talked about.

13. Story Book

Collect photos and stories from real customers, and then publish them in a hardbound, four-color book. The goal of this book is to strengthen the empathy the team has for their users.

Tip: Ensure the team doesn’t mistake these stories for personas—they are significantly different.

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24 Best Practices for Optimizing a Customer Lifecycle Communication Program

Your organization is supported by talented and passionate people who want to deliver the best possible customer communication.

There’s a lot to say. You want customers to renew their subscription or buy more stuff. You’re responding to customer service and tech support questions. There are statuses, receipts, and acknowledgments to send. Satisfaction survey results to gather.

A/B testing helps you improve open-rates and click-throughs, but there’s more to think about when creating a holistic communication strategy that nurtures, engages, and motivates customers to take action throughout the entire lifecycle.

Here are 24 principles to consider as you continue to build out your customer lifecycle communication program:

1. Tracking & Measurement

Understand how communications perform in order to provide a better overall customer experience. Consider how even one-to-one communications could be tracked and measured.

2. User Experience

Deliver clear, concise information. Provide self-service tools. Use a consistent design and voice across all communication. Consider the entire user experience — from email to landing page to action to confirmation and  on and on.

3. Personalization & Segmentation

Only send communication that is relevant and personalized. No email blasts.

4. Awareness & Engagement

Promote and engage customers with support services and tools. Help customers help themselves.

5. Communication Tools

Find the best ways to communicate with customers — email isn’t the only channel.

6. Automation

Automate communication based on timing and customer behaviors.

7. Quality Assurance

Ensure all data and information is 100% accurate before it’s communicated to customers. Make sure all links work, images load, and layouts respond down to mobile as expected.

8. Customer Success

Create content that educates and informs customers about how to be successful using your product.

9. Communication Timing

Send the right communication at the right time.

10. Collaboration

Collaborate with other teams to ensure all communication is aligned (and not redundant or contradictory).

11. Visibility

Give customer-facing teams access to every communication sent to customers so they can better serve them.

12. Content Management

Update, share, and organize existing content for other internal teams to leverage.

13. Customer Service

Ensure support teams are a visible, accessible, and approachable support system to customers.

14. Advocacy

Teach and provide tools to raving fans so they understand how to champion your product. Tell them what else they can do to support you besides referring a friend or retweeting.

15. Staffing

Hire enough staff, and then train them with the right skills to most effectively support your customers.

16. Program Management

Use a formal process to develop and manage communication strategy and execution.

17. Automated Risk Detection

Flag at-risk customers for human intervention to prevent them from falling through the cracks.

18. Profile Management

Update customer contact information in real time, across all systems.

19. Preference Center

Customers can opt-in to only the communications they want and in the channel they want.

20. System Integration

Maintain and support integration between technologies and data.

21. Compliance

Ensure all communication adheres to ADA requirements, and email adheres to the CAN-SPAM Act.

22. Coaching

Provide ongoing coaching to customer-facing teams so they can better communicate with customers.

23. Customer Insights

Fill in knowledge gaps about customers to better support and communicate to them.

24. Community Development

Help customers connect and support each other.

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4 Ways to Analyze Qualitative UX Research

After conducting 8 or more customer interviews, themes will start to bubble up.

But often, there are many more smaller nuances — or even surprises — that remain hidden and need to be unlocked.

To mine these gold nuggets, there can be an enormous amount of effort that goes into prepping qualitative, or unstructured, data. In most cases, I will spend a solid day (or more) getting the data ready for more careful scrutiny.

Unstructured data can come from:

  • Open-ended questions in a survey
  • One-on-one interviews
  • Diary studies
  • Field studies
  • Usability studies
  • Stakeholder workshops
  • Brainstorm sessions
  • Focus groups
  • Customer service logs

Here are 4 ways I analyze unstructured data:

1. Put data into a spreadsheet

When I’m conducting lots of interviews or workshops, I paste the verbatim participant quotes into a spreadsheet. Each participant gets a row. Each interview question gets its own column.

To save myself a step, I sometimes type my interview notes directly into a spreadsheet (rather than in a Word document).

Now, I can easily sort, filter, and code the data.

2. Create word clouds

word cloud

Before hand coding unstructured data, it can be enlightening to first use a word cloud tool. It’s easy to see which words pop using this tool and figure out which keywords to focus on when I return to my spreadsheet.

Prior to using the word cloud tool, I usually do additional data cleaning. For example, I will change supported, supportive, and support to all say “supportive,” and then run the raw text through the word cloud tool. Now, instead of splitting the vote 3 ways, the concept of “supportive” gets the attention it deserves.

A note of caution… a word cloud is an analysis tool, not analysis output. Creating a word cloud isn’t the end of the analysis. Why do people feel anxious? Amazing? Confused? Deeper work is needed to understand what’s really going on.

3. Create affinity maps using sticky notes

Sometimes the number of themes is too overwhelming to report in a meaningful way. Who wants to look at a bullet point list of 50 themes? No one.

When this happens, I’ll write each theme or idea onto a separate sticky note. Next, I arrange the stickies on a wall, and then group similar ideas together.

Now, I can roll up dozens of themes into 3 to 5 key takeaways and create a findings report with more impact.

4. Create a mind map

This is exactly the same method as No. 3, just digitized.

When I’m collecting hundreds of insights over a long period of time or across multiple studies for the same project, then this is my go-to method. As I go through my notes or participant verbatims, I add and organize new insights to a mind map.

My preferred mind mapping tool is MindMeister. What’s yours?

In Conclusion

When interviewing customers, be sure to build in extra time after each session to:

  • Reflect.
  • Clean up your notes.
  • Conduct recap sessions with other observers.
  • Capture your overall impressions about the participant.
  • Take a photo of the participant (to keep all of them straight in your head).

These extra steps will help make analysis easier AND help create richer, more vibrant customer stories for the findings report.

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Inside My Toolkit: UX Research Apps & Tools

Inside My Toolkit: UX Research Apps & Tools

Here are the apps and digital tools that I most frequently use to communicate, conduct, and analyze UX research.


For online surveys and screening, I prefer to use Qualtrics for its powerful branching capabilities and analysis capabilities. I’ve also used SurveyMonkey, SurveyGizmo, and Google Forms.

Microsoft Suite

I use Word mostly for creating research plans and discussion guides.

Excel is used for managing research participants, tracking gratuity payments, research analysis, taking or organizing research notes, calculating project costs, and auditing content.

 I use PowerPoint to create research reports.

Google Drive

Includes: Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides. It’s hard to remember life before Google Drive. I use Google Drive for collaborating on blog posts, diary studies, documenting usability issues in real time with clients, and keeping track of ideas.


Used for diagramming user flows, process flows, use cases, and clickable prototypes. 


Used for diagramming customer journey maps and other UX deliverables.


I primarily use Skype for remote mobile usability tests — using the laptop hug method. 


I use Zoom for remote studies such as usability testing and contextual inquiries. Previously, I used Join.Me until they canceled their monthly subscription option. I’ve also used Adobe Connect, WebEx, and GoToMeeting.


 The jigsaw puzzle of scheduling 30 research participants across multiple time zones is now a piece of cake: Participants schedule themselves.


I’m pretty sure I use SnagIt almost every day to screen grab something for a presentation. With SnagIt, I’m able to easily screen capture long scrolling pages. I also use it to record video walk-throughs.


RealTimeBoard and Mural are both excellent remote collaboration tools. 


My favorite way to use this mindmapping tool is to collect and organize insights from a research study. It’s so much easier to see patterns here than in Excel or on a wall of 1,000 Post-Its (that keep falling off).


I use Treejack for tree testing and OptimalSort for open or closed card sorts.


I use dscout for diary studies.

For B2B qualitative research studies, Respondent uses verified LinkedIn accounts to allow me to target specific professions or job titles. They have an incredible interface to manage participants.

Mental Notes

I was one of the lucky ones to snag a deck of “Mental Notes.” The deck includes 50 cognitive psychology tactics to persuade users to take actions — such as social proof, curiosity, and complete the set.

IDEO Method Cards

This deck of cards includes activities for internal stakeholders to collaborate and look at problems from a different perspective.


At Staples, you can print giant posters (called engineering prints) for just $4. FedEx also prints giant posters, but for considerably more money.

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