Notes on Tomer Sharon’s Rainbow Spreadsheet User Research Tool

(From Tomer’s 4/11/13 post on, link here.)

Tomer created a collaborative UX research observation tool he calls the Rainbow Spreadsheet (download it here, but read his article!)


Your whole team can use it to collect observations in the same document. Avoid writing a separate formal complete report by using it! Use it via Google Doc.

Tomer has 12 steps he uses with the tool:

  1. Finalize your discussion guide, nailing down what questions you will ask participants in what order
  2. Schedule a 45 min break between sessions to discuss observations
  3. Make a copy of the master Rainbow Spreadsheet for this study
  4. Enter info about the participants under the Participants tab
  5. Enter your goal observations (notice the green Calculate button) under Observations. Break multiple steps (notice and use green Calculate button) into separate entries so you can capture each independently
  6. Customize the amount of participants to match your study
  7. Share the spreadsheet with your team. Explain that the Rainbow Spreadsheet is your final delivery item, not a formal report, and encourage them to attend research sessions
  8. Ask that the team read the Participants sheet before the first session
  9. Ask the team to use Observations to note participants’ behaviors. Have team members fill a goal cell (notice the Calculate button) with their unique color when they observe the behavior. New behavior rows should only be added when an unanticipated behavior requires one. NOTE to everyone that this is a shared document that everyone will work on together
  10. Customize the Metrics tab with your team’s predetermined metrics (a few basic categories are already captured)
  11. Use the Raw sheet to collect any notes that don’t belong on other sheets
  12. Add any additional custom sheets to the Rainbow Spreadsheet


Tomer identifies 5 steps to do before the study:

  1. One team member enters data into the Observations sheet while the other moderates the session. The moderator should pay attention to the observer’s activities, reminding them via instant messenger to capture events–even briefly pause the session and regroup if necessary
  2. Don’t worry about overriding each other’s data, people are generally good about preventing this on their own
  3. Fill in the Metrics sheet. Maybe assign one observer to attend all sessions and manage this data, or break the data into sections (task succession rates, time to complete tasks etc) and parcel out to several members
  4. Use the time between sessions to discuss the previous session. Fill in the spreadsheet as necessary and remove or add any behaviors as needed
  5. Create any new sheets necessary to capture data you hadn’t anticipated–this is a learning process for the team also


After the study:

  1. Get the team together for a summary discussion after the day’s final participant. Collaborate and agree on the answers to the research questions defined in the study plan. Identify your major findings and discuss next steps.
  2. Fill out the Summary sheet
  3. Collaborate with the entire team to capture the essence of what you’ve discovered and plan next steps–but avoid analysis paralysis, ten major action items would be plenty–you don’t have to be too exhaustive
  4. Publish the spreadsheet–you’re done with the study! But refer to it as The Report for your wider organization


About Tomer Sharon (from

Tomer is H​ead of U​ser E​xperience at WeWork in New York City leading a team that designs work and living spaces, communities, and services around the world. Formerly a senior user experience researcher at Google Search, Tomer is the author of the book, “Validating Product Ideas through Lean User Research” (2016) and author of, “It’s Our Research: Getting stakeholder buy-in for user experience research projects” (2012). He founded and led The Israeli Chapter of the User Experience Professionals’ Association and has been preaching and teaching UX  at Google’s LaunchPad program, a bootcamp for early-stage startups around the world, in conferences, and at Treehouse and General Assembly. Tomer holds a master’s degree in Human Factors in Information Design from Bentley University in Waltham, MA. He is @tsharon on Twitter and Instagram.



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