Product & Design
Jan 24, 2022

3 Tips for Improving Your Communication Skills as a UX Researcher

Ashley Reese
Associate Product Manager

Ashley Reese is a senior UX researcher at GetYourGuide. She highlights three things UX researchers can do to better communicate their findings to stakeholders, and tell a compelling story.

One of the key differences between effective and ineffective UX researchers is their ability to tell a story with data. Telling a compelling story increases the impact research can have, by making the learnings understandable, memorable, and motivational. Without strong communication skills, important insights from research will be ignored and findings won’t have impact. In this article, I’ll share three tips on how to improve your communication skills as a UX researcher that can help elevate your influence.


Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán from Pexels

The rule of 3

It’s easy to overwhelm people with data. In the past, you’ve certainly felt the frustration of reading someone’s long, rambling report, or sitting through an hour-long presentation without knowing the ‘so what’. When you throw all the things you learned from a study at your audience, they’ll walk away remembering none of them.

On the other hand, if you tell a story with the most important insights, your readers will walk away with a clear picture of the main takeaways to inform their work, and they’ll be much more likely to remember them later.

When we write reports at GetYourGuide, we focus on organizing our study findings into three parts in order to help us communicate the most important insights:

  • Executive summary
  • Detailed findings
  • Appendix

The executive summary and detailed findings sections follow the pyramid principle, a method for structuring an argument used by consultants. The principle, developed by Barbara Minto at McKinsey, states that you begin the report with the answer. This means that in the executive summary, you lead with the answer to the key question or decision your stakeholders need to make based on the research.

Then, your detailed findings contain structured arguments that support your answer. The pyramid principle provides a persuasive way to communicate your findings to others. Let’s dive a little bit deeper into each of the sections of a successful report.

The executive summary contains the answer to your main research question along with the three most important supporting insights. Why three insights? It turns out there’s a rule of 3 — people are more likely to remember, and be convinced, after hearing three arguments compared to one, five, or any other number. The top insights should directly answer the key questions you set out to learn when doing the research.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. If a study needs a different format, which happens about 10% of the time for us, we’ll modify our template. It’s important that the executive summary is short: one slide or about half of a Google doc page. The goal of this section is to give people the high-level takeaways in a minute or less, not provide detailed explanations for each insight.

Next, the detailed findings section is where you can expand on the top insights with nuance and supporting evidence. This section can be as long as you need it to be to effectively communicate the learnings from the research. You can organize your detailed findings in a couple ways, such as by time order if there’s a sequence of events in a customer journey, or by importance of the findings from most to least important.

MECE, which stands for mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive, is another helpful principle for organizing this section. If you have a lot of detailed findings, create subsections with mutually exclusive information. Together, each subsection is also collectively exhaustive and answers all your research questions. You can use these organization principles to create frameworks that will further bring your findings to life.

Lastly, the appendix is where everything else goes that’s not directly tied to the goals of the research. If you find unexpected, interesting learnings about other topics outside the scope of your research, you can put them in the appendix. These are the nice-to-know findings that aren’t relevant to what your stakeholders are working on right now. If you have limited time, you can also leave out these extra learnings from the report to focus on the most important insights.

Photo by eric anada from Pexels

Observation ≠ insight

Once you’ve drafted your top insights, it’s important to make sure they’re actually insights, not just observations.

When I first started doing research, my reports would contain findings like, “Only 2 out of 8 participants completed the usability task without issues.” This is an observation, not an insight.

An insight has a few key components:

  • The ‘so what’
  • It’s sticky (memorable)
  • It’s actionable

These components come from IDEO’s Insights Checklist, which I find a valuable resource for editing and refining my insight statements. I’ve also found the article written by our CPO during his consulting days at McKinsey helpful for identifying an insight from an observation.

When he writes insight statements, he makes sure they answer the following questions:  

  • Does it explain whether the results are directionally good or bad?
  • Does it explain the root causes?
  • Does it explain what happens if this trend continues?

So how can I re-write my original observation into an insight? Instead of stating the number of participants who did something in a usability study, I could write: “Compared to the current version of the website, the new checkout page has severe usability issues, preventing people from putting in their payment method and negatively affecting the business’ revenue.”

You might also be interested in reading: Our UX design process and how we adapted to change

Photo by Elena Koycheva on Unsplash


If you’re not overcommunicating, you’re undercommunicating. One of my favorite managers at Google, Chelsey Glasson, gave me invaluable advice:

“When you think you’re overcommunicating your research findings, you’re actually communicating them the right amount.”

After finishing a strategic research project earlier in my career, I thought it was enough to give one presentation with the study stakeholders to discuss the findings and implications for the team. Wrong. Why?

The findings from the strategic research are relevant to people outside of the immediate group of stakeholders who participated in the research. Also, while the insights are burned in your memory, they’re not burned into everyone else’s. While you collected all the data, your stakeholders only saw part of the process.

They weren’t in all the interviews and they haven’t spent as much time analyzing the data or writing up the learnings. They also have other responsibilities that draw their attention away from the research. As a result, they need help remembering (and being reminded of) the key insights from the research.

Don’t fall into the traps that can hold you back from overcommuncating your insights:

  1. You don’t know who the research is relevant to outside of your core group of stakeholders

💡 Tip: Take the time to ask around and brainstorm potential audiences for the research.

  1. You’re an introvert

💡  Tip: Get an advocate from your network, or tell your manager, who can nudge you to give presentations and communicate your work to a wider audience.

  1. You lack time

💡  Tip: Build the communication phase into your research timeline and budget. Communicating your research is just as critical as the planning or analysis phase.

When we’re first starting out as researchers, many of us believe we’re done with a project after we’ve collected the data and written up the learnings. We have to go beyond our initial instinct to stop there.

We need to take the time to communicate our work in a variety of ways so that it’s actionable and tailored to our audience.

How you present to executives will be very different from how you present to a mission team you’re working directly with to build new features. Executives expect a succinct, high-level overview of the research findings, while a team will want much more detail.

Another consideration is the type of data you collect. If you conduct interviews, for example, you can go beyond a written report and host a viewing party with video clips to make the findings more memorable. For larger strategic studies, you can invest time into facilitating a workshop.

For example, when I ran a study on how people watch sports in the US, I held a sports-themed analysis workshop with my team and gave out trophies for people who came up with the top-voted solutions. At Google, we even posted our insights in bathroom stalls for people to read while using the toilet.

If you’re interested in getting more ideas for how to communicate research in different formats, here are a couple helpful articles:

Next time you run a study, you’ll be equipped to improve your communication skills keeping in mind the rule of 3, observation ≠ insight, and the importance of overcommunication. Your research will be more impactful and inspiring to others.

To help you get started applying these tips, here are two templates to consider using next time you run research. The templates will help you write succinct executive summaries and communicate your research to others.

If you’re interested in joining the GetYourGuide UX research team, we’re hiring! See our open positions here.

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