Preparing a usability report entails three main challenges and the most serious
of these is accessibility. As usability testing and analysis seeks to establish itself
as a science, its reports tend to become mired in technical jargon and complex
explanations. Unfortunately, the reports themselves become unusable, an ironic
twist that’s only funny if you’re not the one paying for the report.
With the challenge of accessibility comes the delicate balance between being
comprehensive and being clear. The more detail you include, the more you
need to explain, and the more difﬁcult it is to craft an accessible and under-
standable report. At the same time, you don’t want to generalize too much
because that can encourage your audience to have a skewed view of what actu-
ally happened during the test.
This points to the third major challenge of creating usability reports: distin-
guishing between observations and recommendations. Throughout this chapter,
“observations” will serve as the building blocks of the usability report. When
you’re conducting a usability test and you identify an issue, this counts as an
observation. The purpose of the report is to give an account of everything you
observed. Attempts to explain why usability participants behaved in a speciﬁc
way during the test are interpretations (or explanations). Besides observations
and interpretations, there are recommendations and suggested ﬁxes for prob-
lems observed during the test. Because the lines between these concepts can be
blurry, the challenge is to make the distinctions clear. You want to avoid stake-
holders and other team members mistaking something the user did in the course
of the test with an idea you have to improve the design.
Like every other deliverable in this book, the usability report is described here
as a series of layers, with the ﬁrst layer being the essential elements—the parts of
the document that make it what it is. A usability report hinges on the observa-
tions—the issues and problems you noticed during the course of the test—that
make up the bulk of the ﬁrst layer. The second and third layers add context and
give you the chance to expand on the details of the observations.