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How to build usability testing reports that get buy-in (with free template + examples)

Brilliant insights can gather dust in a lackluster usability report. But a clear, engaging, and actionable one ensures your findings make an impact. Learn how to craft a powerful usability test report with a compelling narrative, convincing and securing buy-in from stakeholders for changes that improve the user experience.


With input from Sara Hefny, a Senior Product Researcher at Hotjar, we created a step-by-step guide, with a free usability testing report template to boot.

Here’s an overview of the report-writing process:

  1. Plan your usability report early: set the goals and scope of your test

  2. Highlight key findings: outline the most critical insights from your research

  3. Outline your research goals: state the goal of your study

  4. Discuss issues by priority: list identified problems from the highest to lowest priority

  5. Offer actionable recommendations: discuss what you learned from the results

  6. Include methodology and participant profiles: explain how you conducted the test

  7. Create an appendix for detailed results: include relevant documents and media

Craft an actionable usability report by adding real user insights from Hotjar Heatmaps, Recordings, Surveys, Feedback, and Interviews.

1. Start planning your usability report early

Strong test plans build strong reports. Planning your usability test in detail allows you to uncover key issues and draw insightful conclusions for your report.

How to craft a robust test plan: set the goals and scope of your test. Say you want to raise your online store’s conversion rates by spotting and fixing checkout usability issues (goal). You can either zoom in on user interaction with a feature, such as a new payment gateway, or zoom out to cover the entire checkout process (scope).

During planning, you also define the following:

  • Target audience: the leadership or the people implementing the changes

  • Interview questions: open-ended, closed-ended, or scenario-based questions depending on context; avoid leading questions in general

  • Data collection method: quantitative data, qualitative data, or a combination of both

  • Testing methodology: moderated, unmoderated, remote, or in-person

  • Team composition: product manager, UX researcher, UX designer, research analyst, and testing moderator

💡 Product and UX teams juggle usability tests with other priorities. Run yours efficiently with Hotjar Engage (hello there 👋).

This UX research tool automates tasks across the entire workflow:

  • Recruitment: tap into our diverse pool of over 200,000 potential testers to find the right participants for your study

  • Administrative: schedule and host remote moderated tests smoothly within the platform 

  • Documentation: record and transcribe interviews, plus share key moments with stakeholders via video highlights and time-stamped notes (✨ perfect for reporting ✨)

  • Analysis: integrate data from Engage with insights from Recordings and Heatmaps to gain a holistic view of how users interact with your product, deepening your analysis

2. Highlight your key findings 

Begin with a brief summary of your key findings. This snapshot provides readers—especially executives—with the most critical insights while setting the stage for the detailed analysis to follow.

What should you include in a TL;DR summary?

  • Main issues: outline the key usability problems or challenges using clear, non-technical language

  • Validated hypotheses: list the assumptions or predictions proven correct during the test

  • Essential recommendations: state the most crucial suggestions for product improvement

Additionally, tailor your report—including its tone, format, content, and terminology—to your readers. For example, you might label this section ‘Executive Summary’ for a formal tone aimed at executives, while the more casual ‘TL;DR’ may be best suited to a broader audience, especially when reporting to team members or collaborators.

Click to download our free usability testing report template. Go ahead and fill it out as you follow this guide.

3. Outline your research goals

Well-defined research goals are the heart of an effective usability test report. They help stakeholders understand why you conducted the study while also serving as an anchor for your entire report. 

Why having a clear goal is important: let’s revisit our earlier example of identifying checkout usability issues to improve conversions. An unambiguous goal like this one unlocks several benefits, including

  • Unveiling the problem: show stakeholders the issue (e.g. complex checkout process) and its potential business impact (reduced conversion rate, lost revenue)

  • Empowering decision-makers: enable stakeholders to make informed decisions, such as which issue to prioritize

  • Driving report direction: focus on insights related to the stated goal to keep the report actionable and relevant for stakeholders

  • Delivering strategic recommendations: suggest data-backed improvements, such as testing new form layouts, offering guest checkout, and addressing UX design issues found during usability testing

Furthermore, consider how your audience might think and feel about the goal. Connect it to something your audience cares about, such as a growth objective or product roadmap initiative. By empathizing with your stakeholders, you can build a compelling case and increase your chances of getting buy-in for UX improvements.

Empathy extends both toward our users and our stakeholders. It helps product and UX teams bridge the gap between the two sides.

Sara Hefny
Senior Product Researcher, Hotjar

4. Discuss issues by priority

Compile the input from all participants and list the issues they encountered during testing. Use prioritization to present the information in a digestible format.

How to apply a prioritization framework in your report: one way is to prioritize usability issues based on severity and frequency. Create a table that includes a description of each issue, the severity and frequency, and links to Highlights in Hotjar (relevant clips of user behavior from heatmaps and recordings) for reference. This format allows stakeholders to instantly understand the issues, their potential impact on user experience, and the effort required to fix them.

Let the data help them decide where to allocate resources and how quickly they need to act.

💡 Pro tip: don’t just tell—show your key findings with Highlights. Create a new collection for your highlights and populate it with relevant recording snippets, heatmaps, and comments.

Highlight a recording clip or heatmap of interest, add a comment, and save the highlight in a collection

5. Offer actionable recommendations

Usability reports should be actionable. Use language that resonates with stakeholder interests and perspectives to effectively communicate the value of your proposed changes.

How to set down actionable recommendations: provide clear examples of how to address each usability issue. When appropriate, discuss multiple approaches together with their pros and cons. Be ready to actively lead the team if it’s necessary to apply the recommendations.

🪄 4 ways to enhance your recommendations

Know what tools and techniques can solidify your presentation to win stakeholder buy-in:

  1. Choose impactful over interesting: an interesting observation won’t solve issues and help make decisions. Until it’s a pattern, you can’t connect an event to general user behavior or a segment. Dig deeper into the implication of the observation instead of fixating on an outlier event or behavior. 

  2. Analyze systematically: relying on memory and quick takeaways will introduce tremendous bias, taking away the opportunity to understand root causes. To identify the severity of issues and draw proper conclusions, you must analyze every session individually and then collectively. It also helps to contextualize a session within the customer journey map.

  3. Incorporate visuals: illustrate the issues and support your findings with images, charts, and videos. Visuals help readers grasp your message more quickly than a long block of text. For example, a heatmap screenshot showing low interaction with a CTA button speaks volumes. A short video clip can evoke empathy and sway opinions effectively.

  4. Bring in the user’s voice: supplement usability tests with surveys to explore underlying motivations behind participants’ behavior. Embed a survey on a high-value page, such as your checkout page, to uncover why users leave before completing a purchase. Include survey responses to your report to make your findings and recommendations more convincing, as stakeholders value direct user feedback.

6. Include methodology and participant information

Share details about your methodology and participants toward the end. While not everyone may prioritize this information, it provides context for your findings.

How to break down the usability testing process: in the methodology, discuss how you reached out to and screened participants. Then, display your participants’ profiles, building a clearer picture of the people behind the anonymized data. You can include tables and charts representing their demographic data, needs, preferences (e.g. technology), motivations, and pain points.

💡 Pro tip: address resistance to small sample sizes. In organizations new to UX research, stakeholders may doubt usability studies with only five or 10 sessions. It’s up to you to demonstrate that small sample sizes are normal and 100% acceptable. 

According to Jakob Nielsen, usability expert and Nielsen Norman Group co-founder, testing with five users uncovers nearly as many usability issues as testing with a larger group. If you add more participants, you’ll find fewer new issues, with the information becoming repetitive and additional insights minimal. 

Usability testing also focuses on qualitative insights like user behavior and pain points, not necessarily statistically significant data. So, five well-chosen participants strike a good balance between gaining valuable insights and minimizing costs.

7. Create an appendix for detailed results

A usability test report must be repeatable and verifiable. That’s why you should include an appendix for those seeking a deep dive.

What to incorporate in an appendix: start with research materials, e.g. individual participant performances for each task, alongside relevant metrics like time on task and success rate. You can also add survey links and responses, media files (e.g. screenshots and links to highlights, recordings, and heatmaps), interview notes, spreadsheets, and analysis documents.

Build informative and actionable usability test reports that get buy-in every time

Impactful usability testing reports allow user insights to truly shine. At the same time, they speak to stakeholders’ interests and perspectives. This creates a win-win situation for everyone involved as stakeholders make targeted decisions for improving the user experience.

So, bridge the gap between your users and stakeholders with a clear, engaging, and actionable report. Bookmark this guide and download our free template to make the most out of the report-writing process.

Use Hotjar to enrich your usability testing report

Easily get buy-in from your team or management. Highlight first-hand accounts of user needs and frustrations with data from Heatmaps, Recordings, Surveys, Feedback, and Interviews.

FAQs about usability testing reports