The value of the daily fieldwork debrief: A critical piece of your UX research

October 6, 2023

Imagine you’ve hired a user experience (UX) research team to conduct usability testing for one of your company’s products. It’s the end of the day, you just got out of long meetings, and you still have a few more tasks to get done. Should you take the time to meet with the research team for the daily UX research debrief they’ve dropped on your calendar?

The daily debrief is a meeting between the research team, client, and key stakeholders at the end of each fieldwork day to align on findings and opportunities noted throughout the day, and logistics for future sessions moving forward. Whether you’ve been watching the sessions throughout the day or are involved in other projects, it can be difficult to show up to that debrief after each long day of fieldwork. However, these daily debrief meetings provide distinct benefits to the UX research project:

  • A consistent, fresh summarization of key takeaways to stay informed as preliminary findings evolve.
  • Collaborative participation in framing the findings in historical context and business goals, defining relevant opportunities, shaping the report structure, and identifying if changes need to be made to the research approach over the next few days.

So, how does a debrief meeting offer these benefits?

1. Align on salient insights.

Testing days can start to blur together and debriefs set a consistent check-in to highlight new insights and consistent, emerging themes from research sessions. The research team presents a quick, digestible recap of the most important takeaways from the day of testing. This is especially valuable for stakeholders who are unable to attend sessions so they can be positioned to talk to others on their team about the research.

Discussing these emerging trends fosters alignment and shared understanding with the research team as well as diversification of perspectives and context. You, as the client, bring historical context and can speak to what you’ve heard before, what is new, and what aligns or conflicts with internal hypotheses and goals. These conversations contextualize the findings and frame them within your business goals to make the insights easier to understand, integrate, and act on for your team. Early alignment on key takeaways keeps stakeholders in the loop so there are not surprises later when reading the report.

2. Start brainstorming solutions.

Debriefs offer valuable time to ideate on opportunity areas based on strong trends. By receiving input from your team on needs and limitations, we can craft recommendations that are tailored to your objectives, context, and constraints. This collaborative approach ensures recommendations in the report are actionable and relevant.

3. Collaborate on defining the report structure and content.

Does a trend you heard relate to an internal discussion? Or perhaps a burning question from a recent workshop? Debrief meetings play an important role in shaping the outline of the report. By calling out key insights and examples, we prioritize important findings and nuances based on your team’s interests and needs and ensure the report addresses your goals.

4. Ask questions to the research team.

Have a follow-up question about a trend? Specific objectives where you want more detail? Debriefs are a perfect time to ask questions to the research team.

5. Adjust sessions for the following testing days [if applicable].

Since debriefs happen while fieldwork is ongoing, sessions flow and questions can be modified for future test days. For example, if there is agreement that you have reached diminishing returns on a given task or probe, we could shift focus to dig deeper into other questions. Note that this is only applicable to some study designs.

Consider carving out time for debrief meetings during fieldwork as these touchpoints provide unique value due to their timing in the research process. In some cases, with shifted schedules or international research, daily debriefs may be scheduled at the beginning of the day or during a mid-day break. Ultimately, you’ll receive a snapshot of the day’s most important learnings and can speak into nuances and context to inform a highly relevant and actionable report.