Imagine a cartographer charting the first images of lands across the ocean. All he has to go on is a mass of data: sailors’ logs filled with scribbled notes, long lists of latitudes and longitudes, ocean depth measurements, physical descriptions of coastal features, islands, harbors, rivers.

All of this data has meaning and value, but without the cartographer’s work of interpreting it and transforming it into a map, it will not help anyone who wishes to understand the contours and contents of the globe’s far corners.

 

The noisy data problem

The very nature of the data collection process tends to produce messiness. To cover every facet of the project at hand, we cast a wide net, and that net drags in enormous amounts of noisy, unorganized data. Within that haul is everything we need to know, but it’s scrambled and obscured.

Take, for example, a user testing study with just 5 participants. That’s 100 minutes of dense video material, 20 written responses (to a 4-question survey), and 5 data sets each for system usability scores, task usability scores, task duration times, and task completion rates. Some bits of this data haul will be extremely relevant; other bits will be distracting or off-target.

 

Connect the Dots puzzle
Lots of data points do not a clear picture make – even if they’re all essential and labeled by number!

 

The haul is noisy by nature; to connect the dots and draw out the story that guides the next steps of a product roadmap is the necessary work that makes the data useful.

 

Making data useful

The best research doesn’t make a difference unless it has an advocate that can analyze, interpret, and communicate it effectively. Data does not matter on its own; its our job to make it matter.

Want to learn more about the steps you can take to make your UX research have greater impact? Sign up for our free webinar “Data Is Useless: 3 Questions to Make it Matter” with guest panelist Wendi Chiong from Motivate Design.


Update: This webinar is now concluded. You can watch the full video recording of Wendi’s presentation below:

 

 

Wendi’s slide deck from this presentation can be viewed here.