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Action for Children is a UK children's charity created to help vulnerable children & young people and their families in the UK.

Use this Guide after you have completed user interviews or other user research. It will help you work through your data and generate insights. It will also help you store your insights in a way that makes them easy to sort and retrieve. You could use alternative tools to Mural and Trello that do the same thing.

Steps to understanding and storing user research data using Mural and Trello

Running user interviews and doing other user research generates a lot of data. You need a way to organise this data that enables people to interact with it. That way you can synthesise (make sense of) it in Step 4.

Mural is good for organising data because it:

  • makes it easy to add individual pieces of data to a board, using coloured post-it notes

  • gives you a way to organise and group pieces of data. This helps you see patterns and relationships across the data.

Mural is also good for exploring patterns and insights with others because:

  • it lets you map user journeys - with in-built templates you can use or adapt.

  • it enables people to contribute in different ways. For example it has an incognito mode where people can contribute (and even vote) invisibly, with a reveal function to show everyone’s thinking.

  • it’s easy to use for icebreakers - like when you are running a workshop for people who don’t usually work together

Miro is a good alternative to Mural. If you are already using Miro you can probably continue using it for these steps.

Action for Children’s service design team needed a digital space to collaborate and run online workshops together. The organisation already used Mural so they chose to continue with it.

The team also took part in organisation training in how to use Mural. They have found that the more people who use a tool, and the more they make it part of how they run their projects, the easier everyone finds it.

They also use Mural to run co-design workshops with their users. It helps people write down their thoughts in a more creative and open way. For example people can comment on a prototype or choose how they feel from a selection of words. Using Mural has increased collaboration.

You need to set up a board so you can use it to synthesise your research data. Synthesis is best done collaboratively so you’ll need a plan for how you’ll do it.

Think about what you want to achieve with the board. For example, you might want to:

  • synthesise your data and create a set of insight statements 

  • map out a user journey using patterns of data from user interviews

  • create and prioritise ideas, based on insights

Think about how much space you’ll need for collaborating and moving things around.

You might want to keep a ‘pure’ version showing your data at the start, and a version for grouping, editing and moving data around. 

You could use Catalyst’s useful synthesis board template.

Mural offers free templates for affinity clustering (a way of synthesising) and user journey mapping.

The Action for Children project lead spends 1-2 hrs before a workshop thinking about what they want to achieve with a board. Then they identify different activities that will help them do that. Sometimes they use resources from the Nielsen Norman website for this.

Depending on what is needed they may use a Mural template or set up a board by hand.

Then they invite people to the board ahead of the workshop. That way people can see it in advance. If anyone hasn’t used Mural before they show them how it works over a video call.

Your user research will have generated notes. Look at your notes and move relevant notes, quotes or observations onto individual post-its in Mural. This is best done by the person who took the notes.

Make sure everything you put on the board is relevant to your research questions or objectives. Use different coloured post its for every set of notes so you know which interview or source they came from.

Don’t put personally identifiable data or links to any documents containing it on Mural. Keep this type of data in one protected place. This is safer and makes it easier to delete once the work is done.

Action for Children’s service design team takes notes during their user interviews. They only do a full transcription if the research output they intend to produce needs it.

They think about the research objectives and look through notes from every interview or piece of research. They differentiate between quotes and other types of notes - for example, observations or individual patterns.

Run a synthesis session to generate insights into your users. Do it with 2-4 stakeholders. You could do it with more people but you’ll need another facilitator and breakout rooms if you do.

As your whiteboard is online it's usually best to do this online.

You could invite:

  • colleagues working on the same project

  • people who have knowledge of your users in their context. For example colleagues working in service delivery.

  • stakeholders who need to buy into the later stages of your design process - so they understand the insights you generate

  • someone with a similar skillset to you if you have more than 4 people. They can help you facilitate.

A session can last up to 2 hours. You’ll need to have a break too. You might need more than one session.

Catalyst has an in depth guide to synthesising user research. It explains how to synthesise your insights during a session.

Catalyst also has a resource that shows you how to create a user journey map.

Nielsen Norman Group have an article on analysing qualitative data and an excellent video on affinity clustering when synthesising.

Group your key insights together at the end.

Synthesis board that shows affinity clusters. Cluster themes are yellow circles. Notes are square.

Action for Children vary their approach to synthesis.

Approach 1

The project lead groups post-its into themes before the session, and writes a heading for each one. Then they use the session to challenge the groupings, rearrange post-its and write insights.

Approach 2

They group post-its together during the session. Often they work in pairs on different sets of post-its. Then they come back together, join their post-it groupings and write insights.

Sometimes they create a mindmap too. Or they might just create insights.

Whichever way they do it they always come back together and have a conversation at the end.

After the session the project lead will:

  • write any insights that they ran out of time for

  • iterate or edit any insights

  • consider whether to run a short insights sense checking session with people to check that the insights align with the data.

Then the team uses the insights to move to the next stage of the design process. This could be for writing ‘How might we…?’ statements or running an ideation workshop.

You could run a synthesis session in person. Write out your interview notes onto post-its and use a big wall somewhere to do the same activity.

Sometimes it’s helpful to see everything on a much bigger 'canvas' and involve more stakeholders who aren't as comfortable on Mural.

Mural is good for collaborating on research data but not good for storing insights for easy future access.

Trello stores insights in a way that's easy for anyone to find, especially if they are new to a project. It's good for combining insights from different projects.


  • uses cards in columns on boards as a way to organise data. Cards can easily be moved and sorted within and between columns

  • makes labelling and searching boards easy - for example a keyword search brings up every insight to do with that word

  • is easy to learn. Its learning curve is lower than alternative tools like Asana, Airtable and Sharepoint (these are usable alternatives). This is good for less digitally confident stakeholders.

  • is visually appealing - the user interface is smooth and customisable

  • is flexible - you can make as many columns as you like, add labels and attachments to cards and sort the order in which they appear

  • can be used for other activities too - for example staff handovers.

Part of Action for Children's insight bank on Trello

Action for Children had 5 projects offering support to parents and families. Originally all their parenting and family research insights were grouped together on one Mural board. But this was overwhelming to look at and difficult to sort through. They needed an easier way for team members and stakeholders to see and explore insights.

They chose Trello because they already understood how it worked. They knew it could do what they needed it to do. They use it for other things like staff handovers and find it better for organising work than Sharepoint.

Set up a column for each main theme. Then add insight statements as cards.

You can also add labels to cards to show other themes they relate to, or if you have subthemes you want to add them to. Labels are also useful for showing which project an insight relates to.

Link similar insights together by adding their cards to each other. Trello will show them as linked cards.

You can also attach other items to cards if needed (for example files and web links). But be careful not to add links to anything containing personal data.

Action for Children have several insight categories: parent wellbeing, parenting spaces and identities, advice seeking behaviour, views and concerns about childhood.

They group similar insights together under each category. They link similar insights together. This helps show how validated an insight is.

They make their insight banks open to anyone on their workspace so they are easy to find.

Add more insights after your next synthesis session and see how your new insights compare with your existing ones. Look to see: 

  • what validates your existing insights 
  • what challenges your existing insights 

As you add more insights to each theme, you might need to split that theme into two columns.

Action for Children have been using Trello to store their insights for over three years. It has slowly built into a bank of useful insights.

They periodically revisit the bank and review their insights. If anyone else does research they add their insights to it too.

Further information

Contact Aneta Perehinets, Service Designer at Action for Children ([email protected])