Delving deeper into UX: in a world of UX where the customer is at the centre of everything, it is a cardinal sin to give recommendations, findings, or outcomes that are not clear, and with little relevance to the real world.
I’ve been fortunate in my career to have had the opportunity to work with some world-renowned professors, academics, thinkers, and authors who had spent a career in conducting research, synthesising the findings, and turning the data into actionable recommendations that could improve people’s lives.
Bit of a geek alert, but I have a genuine interest in particle physics and quantum mechanics and people like Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein, and Richard Feynman (probably less well known to many than the first two, but his book, The Feynman Lectures on Physics, is considered one of the greatest works of all time) had a unique ability to make the often unfathomably complex seem simple.
Delving deeper into UX
For me, this is the art of turning data into something meaningful and it is no mean feat.
Being conscious of this is the first step and I have always found asking myself the question, ‘so what can the client do with these insights?’, an important reality check. If the answer is ‘well very little’, then it gets amended or, on occasion, scrapped.
So how do we turn insights into something meaningful?
To do this, it is important to understand what we mean by insights, and what we mean by meaningful.
What is insight and how is it defined?
‘Insight’ is one of those buzzwords that gets ubiquitously used but is rarely defined. It means different things to different people and across sectors, it often holds different values.
In 2017, I came across an article by Paul Laughlin titled, Holistic customer insight as an engine for growth, that helped crystallise the term for me and ever since, I have used it as a starting point when devising research for clients.
Laughlin defines insight as:
A non-obvious understanding of your customers which, if acted upon, has the potential to change their behaviour for mutual benefit.
Within this definition, there are four key parts:
- Insight is ‘non-obvious’ so it does not normally come from just one source of information. Rather, there is a need to converge evidence to glean insights.
- True insights need to be actionable — hypotheses that stay theoretical and cannot be tested in practice are not insights.
- Customer insights should be powerful enough that, when they are acted upon, they can persuade individuals to change their behaviour.
- To be sustainable, the goal of such customer change must be for mutual benefit.
Adopting this approach has helped me recognise that insight is a synthesis of data from all relevant sources (primary and secondary), and must be actionable, measurable, and sustainable over time.
This, however, is only half of the challenge. The other half is then how you present your findings back in a meaningful way to clients.
Creating meaning: The golden thread and the 6Cs
As most researchers have experienced, creating meaning out of large volumes of data is a daunting task and one made all the more difficult by demanding clients who are looking to you for answers.
One trick I was taught during my PhD days was to remember that every report should have a golden thread that runs from the start and neatly ties off at the end, linking everything in between. Some talk of having a beginning, a middle, and an end, but I have always preferred the golden thread analogy as it conjures images of how the sections stitch together and how one section informs the next.
To weave this golden thread, I have developed the 6Cs approach. These are:
- Have a clear plan of what the report structure should look like. You should be able to clearly demonstrate how the golden thread weaves from one section to the next, and what each section contributes to the overarching goal of the research.
- Cut any data that does not further the story, make a unique point, or target a specific research question. This is the most difficult thing for researchers to do as they often get so intertwined with the data that they think everything is useful.
- Contextualise every piece of data with outside literature. By doing this, you are creating greater depth of understanding that will be useful to the client. Make sure to present this neatly and as clearly separate to your findings by using in-text referencing. A trick I always use is to create an ‘insights bar’ on the right-hand side of PowerPoint presentations.
- (Be) Concise with every piece of data or text you include in your deliverables. Like cutting, this can also be difficult as researchers tend to unnecessarily elaborate on data they think is important but is only tangential to the research.
- Communicate findings clearly using simple language written in the active voice. This will help to emphasise the points you want to make and present you as authoritative and knowledgeable.
- Commit to what you are saying. The client is looking to you for answers so have courage in your convictions and make bold statements (providing they are back by evidence).
Weaving a golden thread and implementing the 6Cs takes practice and is not something that can easily be taught. However, if it can be done, and you have a collected data that allows for actionable intelligence to be created, measured, and sustained over time, you will be well on your way to turning insights into something meaningful for clients.
Get in touch
If you want to know more about ExperienceLab, our research, or how we operate, please get in touch with Dr Tom Parkman, ExperienceLab’s Senior Research Lead.
You can also read further blogs on research practices:
The art of mixed methods – ExperienceLab (experience-lab.com)
How to apply 6 principles of journalism to UX research and consulting – ExperienceLab (experience-lab.com)