Stop writing reports

I’ve had a few questions from readers lately about standardizing reports of usability test results. Why is there no report template in the Handbook? There’s no “template” for a final report because I think you probably shouldn’t be writing reports. Or at least written reports should be minimal. Mini.mal. Though the outline should basically be what’s in the Handbook, what you put in your report depends on

  • The test design and plan
  • What your team needs and can use

And let’s use “report” in the loosest possible way: delivering information to others. That’s it. Your report doesn’t have to be a long, prose-based, descriptive tome. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) And the delivery method doesn’t have to be paper.

That leaves a lot of options, from an email with a bulleted list of items, to a “top line” post on a blog or wiki that lightly covers the main trends and patterns. In the middle of the range might be a classic usability test report that describes results and findings in some detail. (I personally dislike slide decks as reports, but a lot of organizations do them.) These will all work for any type of test. For summative tests, you may want to go as far as the CIF, or Common Industry Format, established by the International Standards Organization. BUT if your team has observed the sessions and attended the debriefs, you probably don’t need much of a report. They won’t read it; everything has been discussed and decided already. Whatever you deliver is simply a record of that set of decisions and agreements.