Imagine you’re in a report-out, and your client is eating up everything you have to say. You’ve really got them in the palm of your hand. Why not just share that pet theory you had? Now, you can really only tie it to that one user. And their quote was actually pretty non-committal at that. But, heck, why not? You’re on a roll! Share this gem, and they’ll really love you.
On the other hand, you’ve also got much less positive scenarios as well. For example, one of your clients might have a great question, but – unfortunately – you don’t really have any data. Maybe it never occurred to you to collect it, and thus never made it into your test script. Perhaps you neglected to probe when the situation came up. Maybe you didn’t recruit enough of that particular type of user to really be able to say.
In fact, that last scenario is something I face all the time. Everyone needs to remember that we are dealing with qualitative data here – and the small number of people that qualitative research typically involves. Now, those numbers might be fine to show some usability mishap (a mislabeled button, a hidden link, a missing step), but when it comes to things that are more preferential, it can be hard to really say when all you’ve got is a couple of data points.
Another issue that sometimes comes up is when it’s just six of one, half a dozen of the other. In other words, there’s data for one side of an argument, and there’s data for the other. Now, you’ve most likely got a client with strong feelings in one direction (heck, you might even yourself). So, they’ll probably feel just a little bit cheated: “Hey, I paid you all this money. I expect to see some real results. How am I gonna make a decision now?”
Basically, all it really comes down to is how comfortable you are saying, “I don’t know.” Interestingly, though, I’ve found that that will actually generate more respect for you in the long run.
And, yes, I know I’m taking this quote totally out of context ;^)