User Research Grid FANG

4 pillars of communicating the value of user research. Boost user research impact following a simple process.

User Research Grid FANG
4 pillars of a Roman ruin in Baalbeck, Lebanon (picture by Flow)

Research and discovery phases are a huge waste of time, when they are unstructured and result in fluffy outputs, like loosely defined personas, empathy maps or strategies without a clear path to implementation.

More importantly, discovery phases are time intensive (expensive) and very hard to sell, whether you're in an internal product team or an external design service agency. The value of research outcomes is not as easy to grasp as tangible outputs like a flashy design or prototype with lots of buttons and knobs.

The problem I ran into, was that user research too often didn't lead to action. The biggest reason for this was inadequate communication about why the effort was valuable and how the insights will inspire positive change. I now use this method for communicating the research process more effectively:

The user research grid FANG

Looking into the past 10 years of research I wrote down the 4 stages I typically follow when communicating how research will lead to action.

  1. I start with showing the Facts, the things I knew before the research, and based on this,
  2. show how they helped me create Assumptions of the things I knew I didn't know.
  3. After conducting research I will have uncovered quantifiable New discoveries,
  4. which open up new questions and uncover knowledge Gaps, I was unaware of until then.

User research grid FANG

User Research Grid FANG
User Research Grid FANG

Showing these 4 steps makes the research process more accessible for colleagues outside the UX and product management domain.

1. Facts

Facts are the quantifiable pieces of evidence I am aware of, normally in the form of data. They give a clear indication for areas I don't need to cover in primary user research. A fact is knowledge from previous research or known knowns from secondary sources. Facts should form the basis for assumptions.

"I like Roman ruins and I have never been to Greece." (Fact)

2. Assumptions

Assumptions will be validated or invalidated, which will move them along the grid into new discoveries. This is the second most important pillar to communicate apart from the insights gained, because the path to an assumption determines the outcome of an insight. Experts will scrutinize insights, when they disagree with the assumptions, more than they would with doubting the quality of the underlying data.

"I will be happy going to Greece because there are lots of Roman ruins." (Assumption)

3. New Discoveries

Without new discoveries primary research would have been a waste of time. Too often in the past have I been to usability testing where users said "I can't read the the text because it's too small". This is hardly an insight, when extensive accessibility guidelines are easily available to anyone.

"The Roman ruins in the Acropolis of Athens are very busy." (New discovery)

4. Gaps

New questions will arise, which uncover gaps of unknown unknowns.

"Where are the least touristic and best preserved Roman ruins?" (Gap)

(Hint: the answer is in the headline picture)


Using the FANG grid will communicate to developers, product managers, designers and the rest of the business, how your research efforts are valuable. Present not just research results but also how initial facts evolved into assumptions that led through testing or interviews into new discoveries and uncovered dangerous gaps. Insight from research will be valued more highly when stakeholders fully understand the effort of arriving at it.

"One never notices what has been done; one can only see what remains to be done." Marie Curie