Analyze and Synthesize the Results of Usability Study

After comleting a usability study to test out your prototype, whether it is high/low-fidelity prototype designs, it is time to put things together. This article will help you apply research synthesis skills and thake the feedback from the usability study and generate actionable design tasks.

1. Review your notes

Open the note-taking during the usability study to record your observations about the participants. This is why taking notes using spreadsheet comes in handy because it is already organized. These data will then use to create the affinity map in the next step.

2. Synthesize research findings via affinity mapping

Affinity Map

Since you have your notes available, it’s time to convert them into individual sticky notes on an affinity map. Affinity map is a great way to organize and visualize data so it can be studied and grouped together. You can opt to use whiteboard and sticky notes to create your affinity map, or use a digital resource such as Jamboard, Miro, or Note.ly to do it digitally. Then convert each one of your notes, observations, and quotes from the note-taking spreadsheet template onto individual sticky notes and add them all to the board. Remember the medium you use is not important, but how you sort data in a meaningful way is matter. Keep your sticky notes brief but specifc.

3. Sort sticky notes by similarity

Now that you have all your observations converted into sticky notes, you can begin to move them around and group them. There is no specific method to follow in this process, but at its most basic level, you are searching for similarities. It is helpful to:

  • Label large groups
  • Search for smaller sets in larger groups
  • Take a break if you feel stuck

When you’re done with your grouped affinity diagra, take a screenshot and save it for your portfolio.

4. Identify themes in the data

Begin identifying themes in the groupings you made for your affinity map in Step 3. As you identify themes, remember to:

  • Keep your themes simple, direct, and easy to understand.
  • Limit themes to just one idea.
  • Remove opinions from the process and ensure that your themes are based on objective observations you made.

Once you’ve identified your themes, add them to separate document as a list of your finding. You can use the template below for your identified themes.

  1. It was observed that # out of # participants (insert observation from research). This means that (insert theme based on that observation).

5. Expand themes into insights

Now you can start to decide on actionable design tasks based on each theme. Five important points that strong insights should have are that:

  • They are grounded in real data
  • They answer the research questions
  • They are easy to understand
  • They increase empathy for the user experience
  • They inspire direct action

Then you can plot those finding insights into the template as the following:

  1. Based on the theme that: (theme from previous analysis), an insight is: (insight derived from theme).

Next is to decide which changes to make to your design.

6. Prioritize research insights from the most urget to the least urgent

Now that you’ve done your affinity mapping, identified themes, and expanded your themes into insights, you should come up with some actionable design tasks. To get started, use the insight identification template for the portfolio you created. You should have at least three insights to work with. You will be organizing these insights from most urgent to least urgent to determine which updates to make to your design. You can label your insights as Priority 0 (P0), Priority 1 (P1), or Priority 2 (P2).

Issues that must be fixed for your product to work are considered P0. For example, were there any parts of the user flow that prevented the user from completing their task? A roadblock this significant would be considered a P0. Make sure to also determine if any part of your project was inaccessible or difficult to access for a user. Accessibility issues generally rank as P0.

Now that you have identified your most urgent insights to take action on, you will likely have some other insights that did not quite fit the description for a P0. A P1 insight would include anything that does not prevent the user from accomplishing their primary task, but would likely improve the user’s overall experience. And finally, P2 is an insight that would make the most sense to address after all the P0 and P1 insights have been accounted for. These insights might even make more sense to address in another phase of the project.

7. Compile prioritized insights

In a separate document, record your prioritized insights. Below is the example that you can use a template.

Priority 0

  1. Based on the theme that: [theme from previous analysis], an insight is: [insight derived from theme].

Priority 1

  1. Based on the theme that: [theme from previous analysis], an insight is: [insight derived from theme].

Priority 2

  1. Based on the theme that: [theme from previous analysis], an insight is: [insight derived from theme].

You can add more items to P0, P1, and P2 to suit your needs or findings.

8. Note actionable steps

Using your prioritized insights, now note at least 1-2 specific actionable steps you can take to refine your design.

9. Add to your case study

After you synthesize your research and identify actionable insights, you’re ready to add information about the second usability study you conducted to your portfolio case study slide deck! Like the example below.

Usability study: findings – slide deck

Good luck!

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