What is task analysis and how to use it in UX and UI design

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 25 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When you're working in user experience (UX) or a similar field, it's important to understand how users reach their goals. Analysis of tasks is the study of the tasks that users perform to reach their goals. This field combines the teachings of instructional design, ergonomics, systems and management to support UX professionals in understanding the user journey and how to improve it. In this article, we explore what task analysis is, why it's important and how UX professionals can use it to refine design strategies.

What is task analysis?

Task analysis is the examination of the steps that users take to achieve their goals. This includes breaking down each step, determining what user input is necessary and identifying potential obstacles. UX professionals can apply this analysis to individual tasks or an entire workflow. The purpose of this analysis is to learn various things about how users perform tasks, such as:

  • how users achieve their goals

  • the specific steps that users take on this journey

  • what input users carry out

  • what potential obstacles exist for users

  • which tasks are difficult and which tasks are easy

  • how a user might feel about their experience

  • how the environment affects the completion of a task

In the analysis of tasks, a task refers to any user journey that has both a start point and an endpoint. This defines exactly how much you can break down larger tasks into smaller tasks. Analysis of tasks can help UX professionals to understand how users interact with a product and identify ways to improve the user experience. It can also help to identify which tasks are most important to users and which tasks receive priority in the design process.

Why is the analysis of tasks important?

Analysis of tasks is a critical part of understanding how users interact with your products. By understanding the tasks involved in reaching a goal, you can identify potential pain points and areas where it's possible to improve the user experience. Additionally, analysis of tasks can help UX designers to create effective instructions and training materials for users. Analysis of tasks is important because it:

  • helps to identify how users interact with your product

  • identifies areas where you can improve the user experience

  • helps to create effective instructions and training materials for users

Related: Examples of task management software and their features

When do UX professionals use analysis of tasks?

UX professionals can use analysis of tasks for lots of different practical applications at every stage of a UX project, from planning to testing. Analysis of tasks is a key step in understanding the user journey and all of the challenges that users face. Some of the most useful applications of UX analysis of tasks are below:

User journey mapping

User journey mapping is a crucial step in UX design, as it helps designers to identify more challenging steps in the user journey. Analysis of tasks can help UX designers to create a map of the user journey, which shows all of the steps involved in reaching a goal. This can help them to understand how users interact with their product and identify potential pain points along the journey.

Project planning

Analysis of tasks is also a valuable tool for project planning. By understanding the steps involved in reaching a goal, UX professionals can identify which tasks are most important to users and may have priority in the design process. The analysis can also break down the individual tasks that make up a project to efficiently delegate tasks between team members.

Product design

This type of analysis is useful in product design to understand how users interact with the product and identify potential areas for improvement. By breaking the user journey down into individual tasks, it's possible to gain a greater understanding how the tasks that users perform when using your products. This may inform later stages of product design and development, offering insights into how products can be better from a UX perspective.

Staff training

Analysing the individual tasks that users perform when they operate products is also key to providing effective staff training. By understanding the specific steps that users take to complete a task, trainers can create detailed instructions and training materials that help staff members to operate their products more effectively. More effective staff training increases productivity and performance later, making this a worthwhile investment for most organisations.

Related: On-the-job training examples (with benefits and tips)

Instructions and documentation writing

Analysis can improve the quality of instructions and documentation. By understanding how users interact with a product, designers can create instructions that are easy to follow and understand, including even small details that instructions writers might not think of without the insight that analysis of tasks can offer. This is essential for ensuring that users can make the most of your products and reach their goals with minimal difficulty.

Product testing

Analysis is also a valuable tool for product testing. By understanding the tasks that users are trying to complete, researchers can identify potential areas of difficulty and design tasks that specifically test those areas. This allows researchers to gather feedback on how well users can complete specific tasks, helping to improve the user experience of a product by honing in on key areas for improvement.

How to perform analysis of tasks

If you work in user experience (UX) design and you're looking for a simple way to break down the user journey, analysis of tasks is beneficial. UX designers use analysis of tasks to understand how users reach their goals and identify key areas for improvement on the user journey. Follow the steps below to implement this UX strategy at work:

1. Identify user goals

The first step is identifying the end goals that your users want to reach. It's important to understand the distinction between goals and tasks, where goals refer to the final results your users want to achieve, while tasks refer to the actions they take to reach these results. For example, if you're performing an analysis of the tasks users carry out when navigating a website, one goal might be to register with the website. Once you identify this goal, you can start identifying the tasks that users may complete to reach the goal.

Related: What is the difference between goals and objectives?

2. Identify the tasks that each goal requires

Once you have identified goals, you can then identify the tasks that users complete on their journey to reaching these goals. For example, if the user's goal is to register on your website, some of the tasks they might complete on the journey to reaching this milestone include navigating to your website, clicking on the register button and filling out the registration form. You can also further break down some of these tasks into smaller tasks. Filling in a registration form is one task, but it's also made up of many subtasks.

3. Choose an analysis type

When it's time to analyse the tasks that you identify, most analysts structure their analysis around a particular theme or attribute. This might be order, hierarchy or cognitive demands. The type of analysis you use may depend on the goals and tasks that you're investigating. Some examples of analysis types are:

  • order, which involves looking at the sequence of tasks that users complete and ordering them

  • hierarchy, which looks at the groupings of tasks and how they relate to one another

  • cognitive demand, which assesses the level of difficulty that users experience when completing tasks

4. Create an analysis diagram

Once you have identified and analysed the tasks that users may complete, the next step is to visualise these tasks in an analysis diagram. An analysis diagram looks different depending on the type of analysis you use, but it includes all of the tasks that users complete on their journey towards a goal and breaks these tasks down into subtasks where possible. In cases where users complete tasks in a specific order, this is usually indicated on the diagram.

5. Analyse your results

After you've created a detailed diagram, you can analyse the results of your analysis. You can include lots of details in your analysis including how many tasks users complete to reach their goals, how long different tasks take to complete and whether some tasks require special knowledge or skills to complete. This can help you to identify which tasks could be easier for users.

6. Share your conclusions with the team

Once you have completed your analysis, it's important to share your findings with the team. This allows everyone to be aware of the user journey and where there might be room for improvement. You can also use your findings to create prototypes and test these with users to get feedback on potential changes before you make them permanent.

Disclaimer: The model shown is for illustration purposes only, and may require additional formatting to meet accepted standards.

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