How to Write a Usability Report

One of the bits of knowledge you need to have when working in usability or UX is how to write usability reports. Now, hold on before you let out your audible groan. We all know that the need to write reports sucks, and that this consumes time we’d all rather be devoting to seemingly more constructive things such as our normal jobs.

However, you need to know how to write a usability report for one reason above any other. That reason is that if you aren’t able and prepared to convey the findings of your usability testing at any given phase, then it was all for nothing, because the designers, stakeholders and financial departments will be left in the dark, unable to act constructively and positively upon the findings of these tests.

You want these tests to have served a purpose, and to bring about constructive results, right? Then you need to know how to write these reports in an effective manner.

The first thing to do is to look over the information you need to convey, and prioritize it by importance. Once you have this figured out, you must develop a comprehensive table of contents. Not every aspect of the report is going to be pertinent to everyone reading it, and as a result, people will want to gloss over the less pertinent aspects, and find what matters to their departments.

This may sound obvious, but I’ve seen so many disastrous reports that were in fact disastrous almost entirely due to this lack of tabulation. So seriously, this is a big thing to focus on.

As for writing the different elements of the report, which is what you came here for advice on, well, let’s focus on that a bit shall we? Ok, so you need first of all to remember that those reading the report aren’t all designers or technologists (though some are). So, you have to find a clear writing style, first of all, that can make these concepts clear and simple for those who are not technologists, but isn’t condescending or tedious to those that are.

How do you do this? I can’t tell you, that’s something you just kind of have to get a feel for by reading examples to be honest with you. Your verve isn’t something that can be taught here sadly.

However, what I can advise to you clearly here is that your order of approach. For each section, you need to describe clearly what is being tested. In doing this, you need to describe the problem that is being solved by the design, what defines positive usability thereto, and so on. Then, you describe the test being done, how the test works, and why it works this way. Having established what is being tested, and why and how it is being tested, you can express findings in a clear manner without muddying up this explanation while fumbling to make its nature clear.

So, when you really look at this, aside from finding a groove that meets both kinds of readers half way, this isn’t that different from other report compositions you are undoubtedly familiar with. So, aside from that aspect, if you know how to write most reports, you know how to write a usability report already!

Jessica Miller
Jessica is the Lead Author & Editor of UsabilityLab Blog. Jessica writes for the UsabilityLab blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to usability.
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