21 tricks for an unbelievable UX research report

Foolproof secrets for an unforgettable presentation

Lawton Pybus
5 min readApr 1, 2023
A suited presenter gesturing behind a podium against a red curtain, dazzling an unseen audience with bright overhead lighting and smoke effects.
(Credit: author via DALL-E under CC0 1.0 License)

Are you tired of presenting boring and predictable UX research reports? Want to take your presentations to another level?

Look no further! Here are 21 expert tricks guaranteed to make your next UX research report unforgettable…

Fill your deck with the ideal content

  1. “Tell,” don’t “show.” It’s best to avoid general descriptions of themes, or to provide explanations for findings. Share all the relevant data and let stakeholders connect the dots themselves. Ideally, you would do this with text, avoiding images, charts, graphs, and other figures.
  2. Just the facts. Under no circumstances should you offer your “perspective.” Instead, state results plainly with no color. Interpretation can only lead to bias. Give your stakeholders a report that never strays a millimeter from the data.
  3. Numbers speak for themselves, ideally, down to the hundredths decimal place. Quotes from participants or clips showing their emotional reaction to an issue are at best, a distraction, and at worst, downright manipulative to share with stakeholders.
  4. Uncertainty = unacceptable. Remember, if your results aren’t statistically significant, the responsible thing to do is to downplay them. If stakeholders want to act quickly, offer to do another study — or better yet, a series of studies — with better experimental controls and larger samples. Certainty is always worth the time and budget.
  5. Get to the good stuff. Never write a boring methods section again. No one needs to know how the study sought to address the research questions, or whether there were some questions left off the table. Your audience will be smart enough to figure it out as you go, so jump right in.
  6. Keep on the sunny side. It seems like every day, there’s something upsetting in the headlines. Even at work, people get uncomfortable feedback and disappointing news all the time. You owe it to your stakeholders to focus exclusively on the positive findings.

Build your presentation on the perfect structure

  1. Stick to the formula. Changing the format and organization of each report to fit the findings is exhausting. It’s much more efficient to tell every story exactly the same way. You can’t go wrong plugging and playing with the tried-and-true IMRAD format.
  2. What’s in a name? Be honest: have you ever spent more than 10 seconds on the title slide during a presentation? The first name that pops into your head will work fine, even if it might be confused with another study.
  3. Headline news. Avoid descriptive headlines that give away too much of the key takeaways. You’ve got to tease out those juicy tidbits slowly. Instead, use “waypoint” headlines that serve only to indicate what kind of slide it is, such as “Results.”
  4. Save your recommendations. Perhaps the most valuable gold to hold back are your recommendations for the product, which should be saved for the end. If your audience is paying close attention and reading between the lines, they won’t even need them!
  5. More slides = more brain cells. Have you ever wondered how stakeholders feel when they see hundreds of slides in a deck? The truth is they feel admiration mixed with awe. Only the smartest, most dedicated researchers can cram that much value into a deck.
  6. “Call me, maybe?” Some people like to add suggested follow-up studies at the end, but in practice, this only makes you look desperate. If you follow these tips, everyone will want to work with you after the project, so just sit back and watch your inbox!

Razzle-dazzle with design and style

  1. The best design is no design. Let’s face it: we’re researchers, not designers. Aesthetics and balance are not in our job description. No one expects a visually appealing deck from you, so time spent fretting these details is time wasted.
  2. Make use of every inch. Most presentation templates have massive, wasteful margins on the sides. Expand those text areas straight to the edge. Then, cram as much text as possible onto each slide. If you’re running out of space, use a smaller font.
  3. Your slides are your script. A common, but inefficient, practice is to rehearse your slides before an audience with a script prepared to talk over the highlights. In reality, if you’ve put it on the slide, it’s a highlight! So save valuable time rehearsing and just read the text verbatim.
  4. End on a high note. The last slide of findings is usually the best place to stop, so you can end the presentation there. Your audience might be confused at first, but you can break the ice with a simple, “Well, I guess that’s it — any questions?”

Some rules are made to be broken

Now THAT’s what I call a graph! Bonus points for acronyms (see: RTFM; image credit: TAUser)
  1. Unforgettable figures. Sometimes you can’t get away from using a chart — usually because an annoying stakeholder insists on it. In that case, make sure to use 3D effects, shadows, and outlandish colors so that it stands out.
  2. Chart smarts. Noted data viz expert, Edward Tufte, recommends removing unnecessary “chart junk” like axis labels and legends that you can explain verbally if necessary. If certain elements, like error bars, must be included, add them indiscriminately to every figure for consistency.
  3. Omnichannel experience. Though more text and slides are generally better, if you can remove text by making reference to external, supplementary materials, do so. Don’t think of the report as a stand-alone artifact, but as one small piece in a constellation of files that stakeholders will always have access to.
  4. RTFM. Another great way to reduce text is by using acronyms. If there isn’t an accepted and well-understood acronym for terms in your report, you can and should define your own. Your imagination is the only limit (YIITOL)!
  5. Take that appendix out before it ruptures. Let’s be honest: stakeholders never read those rich details tucked away at the end. Sprinkle them liberally throughout the deck. You can always decide mid-sentence to skip them if you’re running out of time.

Conclusion

We realize that some of these tricks will feel too “advanced” for some readers, as they stray from the same old way of doing business. That’s okay. Incredible people make incredible presentations — and they know when to eschew convention and so-called “best practices.”

And happy April Fools’ Day! If we had you going, do us a favor and make a colleague smile by sharing the article.

This article was a collaboration between Lawton Pybus and Thomas Stokes.

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Lawton Pybus

UX Research Consultant · Human Factors PhD · Top writer in Design · I share monthly UXR insights at https://www.quarterinchhole.com