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Crafting a great research story

Connecting research to design

Alice Clark

Too often, the findings from solid generative research have no impact on a product. While the user research is well executed, the process breaks down at the next step—crafting and evaluating that research. Many times, researchers learn after the fact that the team didn't know how to use the findings to inform their design.

In this two-hour hands-on course, Alice Clark details why research sometimes fails to inspire design and teaches you how to craft a compelling research story that will ensure your generative research crystallizes in a clear design path forward. You'll learn how to connect research to design through empathy and storytelling, and you’ll master a tried-and-true formula for telling research stories. You'll also discover effective methods for making sense of your data and storyboard plus storytelling styles to help visualize your results. Whether you're a designer, user researcher, product manager, or manager, this training course will help you leverage and maximize the impact of your research.

What you'll learn-and how you can apply it

By the end of this live, online course, you'll understand:

  • How to use the "What, So What, Now What" formula to craft a compelling story with your research findings
  • How to use research storytelling to deliver an actionable user-centered strategy that focuses and prioritizes design changes

And you'll be able to:

  • Conduct an empathy-based debrief with your team
  • Quickly identify themes and opportunities to guide design
  • Develop richer, more detailed personas
  • Define "North Star" scenarios for your product to focus your team on delivering experiences and features that will have the highest positive impact on your users

This training course is for you because...

  • You're a user researcher having difficulty being heard in your organization.
  • You're a UX professional who wants to hone your generative research process.
  • You're a product manager who wants to reenvision your product and bring your team into that vision.


  • Experience conducting and analyzing field research with users or customers
  • Familiarity with the key components of design thinking (e.g., empathy maps, personas, journey maps), common research methods (e.g., contextual inquiry), and affinity diagramming

Recommended preparation:

"The 7 Deadly Sins of User Research" (article)

Assignments to be completed before the course:

  • Print out the empathy framework worksheet and bring to class.
  • Familiarize yourself with the course example case [download example case] You may use either the provided case or your own product to complete the course exercises.
  • If using the example case, review the design brief and watch the videos provided at the link.
  • If using your own product, conduct an interview with one of your users or customers about their current experience with your product and bring your notes to the workshop.

Further learning:

Universal Methods of Design (book)

Observing the User Experience (book)

About your instructor

  • As a practitioner and leader in UX design, strategy and user research for 20 years, Alice has experience building practices and teams on both the product and agency side. She is passionate about driving product innovation through developing a deep and shared customer understanding and bringing vision and form to that understanding.

    Over the past 20 years Alice has worked on a diverse array of projects in entertainment, telecom, transportation, healthcare and financial services led design thinking practices at projekt202 and IBM Design. She’s held roles as a design principal, creative director, director of UX, design manager, director of design research and strategy, presented at industry conferences and been named on several patents and design awards. Her current focus is on making a significant impact on healthcare experiences and digital products and services that aim to improve people's lives and wellbeing throughout their lifetime. She consults with GUiDEA – A Theresa Neil Design Company.


The timeframes are only estimates and may vary according to how the class is progressing

Why research sometimes fails to inspire design (10 minutes)

  • Lecture: Effective and ineffective reports and recommendations

What: The "What, So What, Now What" formula for telling research stories (30 minutes)

  • Lecture: A simple formula for creating action-focused research recommendations
  • Hands-on exercise: Use empathy maps as a debrief tool

So what: Making sense of your data (30 minutes)

  • Lecture: Overview of sense-making methods (e.g., affinity diagrams, clustering, experience maps); how to use them to surface important themes; what makes a good theme; how many themes you should have in order to make effective progress with your product
  • Hands-on exercise: Surface guiding themes using your empathy map

Break (10 minutes)

How to stop worrying about being "right" and trust your gut (10 minutes)

  • Lecture: Common fears that researchers encounter; how to overcome "analysis paralysis"; why research insights don't have to be "final" (i.e., it's ok to iterate and evolve findings over time); why this is important in order to make progress with design and product improvement

Now what: Distilling your "North Star" and bringing it to life (20 minutes)

  • Lecture: Determining your "North Star"; storyboard and storytelling styles; how to visualize a concept in a variety of low fidelity formats
  • Hands-on exercises: Define a "North Star" for your product

Wrap-up and Q&A (10 minutes)