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How to Conduct a Task Analysis (With Examples)

Apr 16, 2024

Creating a to-do list and using a daily task tracker can go a long way toward helping you and your team get things done. But identifying and delegating tasks is only one part of the process. Performing a task analysis can help you refine the purpose of your task, break your task down into subtasks, and improve productivity and efficiency.

Team leaders in nearly any industry can perform a task analysis as a way to optimize internal practices, improve the customer experience, or even to assist employees with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) . Let’s take a look at what a task analysis is, how to perform a task analysis, and some real-world task analysis examples.

What Is Task Analysis?

Task analysis is the process of identifying the purpose and components of a complex task and breaking it down into smaller steps. Rather than trying to teach a new skill or process all at once, the purpose of task analysis is to separate it into individual steps that can be followed in a logical sequence.

The principles of task analysis can be used in product design and industrial engineering. It provides a method to better understand the way a customer uses a product and to design more user-friendly workflows. Forward and backward chaining can even be applied to systems that use artificial intelligence (AI) to make data-driven decisions and solve problems.

You’ll often see principles of task analysis applied to special education settings, which can inform employers who have employees with disabilities. For example, applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a type of therapy that uses task analysis to teach complex skills to children with autism spectrum disorder or other developmental disabilities.

In ABA therapy, practitioners use techniques like forward chaining to break down a task into a sequence of discrete steps. A related approach, discrete trial training (DTT) , can be used for teaching students everything from motor skills to daily living skills.

Types of Task Analysis

When using task analysis to plan a project or develop a new product, you can choose from one of two forms: cognitive and hierarchical. A cognitive task analysis is useful for tasks that require critical thinking or decision-making, while a hierarchical task analysis can be used for processes with a consistent structure or workflow.

Here’s how these two types of task analysis differ.

Cognitive task analysis

Let’s say you’re developing a new piece of software and you want to better understand how your customers will interact with the user interface. Rather than tell them how to perform a task, you simply give them a goal and watch how they achieve it.

Since different users will complete the task in a different way, you can use this analysis to identify pain points or understand how a customer’s knowledge and mindset inform their approach to completing the task.

Hierarchical task analysis

A hierarchical task analysis is one in which the process is fixed. In other words, you give the user a set of specific steps and watch how they perform each step of the task. You may discover that some steps are unnecessary or don’t serve the overall goal.

A hierarchical task analysis can be used to determine how long it takes to perform the total task process, and which steps can be eliminated with task automation .

How to Perform a Task Analysis in 4 Steps

The steps to conducting a task analysis will vary depending on whether you’re analyzing an internal process, a UX workflow, or a social or academic skill. But you can use these five steps to break down nearly any type of task and perform a task analysis as part of team project management or your own self-management process .

1. Define your goal

Start by defining the overall goal or task process that you want to analyze. This could be as simple as “Create a new user account and buy a product” or as in-depth as “ Run a post-mortem meeting and send out meeting minutes to everyone who attended.” The more specific your goal, the more useful your task analysis will be.

2. Create a list of subtasks

Next, break your higher-level task down into manageable steps. The idea is to create a list of all the subtasks that go into performing the task, even those that you might take for granted. You never know which tasks are slowing the whole process down.

For example, if you’re testing a new app, the first step might be “Turn on your phone” and the last step might be “Turn off your phone.”

3. Make a flowchart or diagram

A process flow chart or workflow diagram can help you determine which type of analysis to perform. Is your workflow a linear process with a series of discrete tasks that need to be completed in a specific order? Consider performing a hierarchical task analysis to find steps that you can automate or eliminate.

Is it more of a “choose your own adventure” in which different users will complete the task in a different way? Conduct a cognitive task analysis to identify pain points and prerequisites based on how different categories of users complete the task.

4. Analyze the task

Now, you can run through the process and pay attention to the length, frequency, and difficulty of each subtask. Were there any steps that you missed or that took longer than expected to complete? If another user performed the task, did they have the skills and knowledge necessary to complete the entire process?

You can use this information to make changes to the product or process, create more accurate documentation, or improve your training or onboarding practices.

3 Task Analysis Examples

The principles of task analysis can be applied to a wide range of scenarios, so let’s take a look at a few examples of task analysis in the real world.

Task analysis in UX design

In UX design, a task analysis may take the form of a focus group or usability testing. If you’ve just designed a new app, you might want to see how easy it is for customers to download the app and sign up for a new account. The process might look like this:

  • Go to the App Store
  • Search for the app
  • Download the app
  • Open the app
  • Select “Create account”
  • Enter your email address
  • Verify your email address
  • Choose a username and password

Upon conducting a task analysis, you determine that Step 7, “Verify your email address,” actually consists of multiple subtasks, such as opening up an email app. You decide to move this step later in the process to avoid disrupting the workflow.

Task analysis in project management

As a project manager, it’s important to know how your team members are spending their time so you can improve productivity and team accountability . Let’s say you want to find ways to delegate tasks more efficiently by using task automation. You come up with a list of the steps you usually follow to delegate tasks:

  • Document action items during team meetings
  • Add action items to your task manager
  • Create a description for each task
  • Assign each task to a team member
  • Attach a due date to each task
  • Send out a reminder email

After performing a task analysis, you determine that you don’t actually have to do any of these steps manually. You can use an AI task manager like Anchor AI to identify and delegate action items, attach due dates, and send out reminders automatically.

Task analysis for learning disabilities

In employment settings, a task analysis can be used to help employees with learning disabilities who otherwise struggle to complete tasks. One study found that individuals with intellectual disabilities were able to complete office tasks like scanning, copying, and shredding when they were broken down into steps like:

  • Pick up documents from folder
  • Open the scanner cover
  • Place documents face-down on the scanner
  • Close the scanner cover
  • Press “Scan”
  • Remove documents
  • Return documents to the folder

Employees with learning disabilities may benefit from similarly specific instructions for other daily tasks, such as using time management tools or a password manager.

Streamline Task Management With Anchor AI

Performing a task analysis is a way of breaking down complex tasks into smaller steps so you can better understand how they all fit together. It’s used in workplaces, learning environments, and other settings to standardize processes, streamline workflows, and even teach social skills. You can use a task analysis to optimize internal processes or customer-facing workflows and eliminate unnecessary tasks altogether.

Anchor AI makes it easy to identify tasks and break them down into manageable steps with Max, your AI project manager. Simply invite Anchor AI to your next team meeting and Max will identify action items and delegate tasks automatically. Or, Ask Max for deeper insights into how specific tasks align with your overall project goals.

Sign up today to try it out for yourself and streamline task and project management!

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  • What is task analysis?

Last updated

28 February 2023

Reviewed by

Miroslav Damyanov

Every business and organization should understand the needs and challenges of its customers, members, or users. Task analysis allows you to learn about users by observing their behavior. The process can be applied to many types of actions, such as tracking visitor behavior on websites, using a smartphone app, or completing a specific action such as filling out a form or survey.

In this article, we'll look at exactly what task analysis is, why it's so valuable, and provide some examples of how it is used.

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Task analysis is learning about users by observing their actions. It entails breaking larger tasks into smaller ones so you can track the specific steps users take to complete a task.

Task analysis can be useful in areas such as the following:

Website users signing up for a mailing list or free trial. Track what steps visitors typically take, such as where they find your site and how many pages they visit before taking action. You'd also track the behavior of visitors who leave without completing the task.

Teaching children to read. For example, a task analysis for second-graders may identify steps such as matching letters to sounds, breaking longer words into smaller chunks, and teaching common suffixes such as "ing" and "ies." 

  • Benefits of task analysis

There are several benefits to using task analysis for understanding user behavior:

Simplifies long and complex tasks

Allows for the introduction of new tasks

Reduces mistakes and improves efficiency

Develops a customized approach

  • Types of task analysis

There are two main categories of task analysis, cognitive and hierarchical.

Cognitive task analysis

Cognitive task analysis, also known as procedural task analysis, is concerned with understanding the steps needed to complete a task or solve a problem. It is visualized as a linear diagram, such as a flowchart. This is used for fairly simple tasks that can be performed sequentially.

Hierarchical task analysis

Hierarchical task analysis identifies a hierarchy of goals or processes. This is visualized as a top-to-bottom process, where the user needs top-level knowledge to proceed to subsequent tasks. A hierarchical task analysis is top-to-bottom, as in Google's example following the user journey of a student completing a class assignment .

What is the difference between cognitive and hierarchical task analysis?

There are a few differences between cognitive and hierarchical task analysis. While cognitive task analysis is concerned with the user experience when performing tasks, hierarchical task analysis looks at how each part of a system relates to the whole.

  • When to use task analysis

A task analysis is useful for any project where you need to know as much as possible about the user experience. To be helpful, you need to perform a task analysis early in the process before you invest too much time or money into features or processes you'll need to change later.

You can take what you learn from task analysis and apply it to other user design processes such as website design , prototyping , wireframing , and usability testing .

  • How to conduct a task analysis

There are several steps involved in conducting a task analysis.

Identify one major goal (the task) you want to learn about. One challenge is knowing what steps to include. If you are studying users performing a task on your website, do you want to start the analysis when they actually land on your site or earlier? You may also want to know how they got there, such as by searching on Google.

Break the main task into smaller subtasks. "Going to the store" might be separated into getting dressed, getting your wallet, leaving the house, walking or driving to the store. You can decide which sub-tasks are meaningful enough to include.

Draw a diagram to visualize the process. A diagram makes it easier to understand the process.

Write down a list of the steps to accompany the diagram to make it more useful to those who were not familiar with the tasks you analyzed.

Share and validate the results with your team to get feedback on whether your description of the tasks and subtasks, as well as the diagram, are clear and consistent.

  • Task analysis in UX

One of the most valuable uses of task analysis is for improving user experience (UX) . The entire goal of UX is to identify and overcome user problems and challenges. Task analysis can be helpful in a number of ways.

Identify the steps users take when using a product. Can some of the steps be simplified or eliminated?

Finding areas in the process that users find difficult or frustrating. For example, if many users abandon a task at a certain stage, you'll want to introduce changes that improve the completion rate.

Hierarchical analysis reveals what users need to know to get from one step to the next. If there are gaps (i.e., not all users have the expertise to complete the steps), they should be filled.

  • Task analysis is a valuable tool for developers and project managers

Task analysis is a process that can improve the quality of training, software, product prototypes, website design, and many other areas. By helping you identify user experience, you can make improvements and solve problems. It's a tool that you can continually refine as you observe results.

By consistently applying the most appropriate kind of task analysis (e.g., cognitive or hierarchical), you can make consistent improvements to your products and processes. Task analysis is valuable for the entire product team, including product managers , UX designers , and developers .

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Maximizing User Experience Through Task Analysis: A Comprehensive Guide

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In design thinking or human-centered design (HCD), it’s super important to figure out what problems users are facing. You need to clearly see and talk about the issues in the user experience (UX) so you can start coming up with great ideas to fix them. Task analysis is a handy tool for UX designers during this problem-solving stage. It helps spot areas for improvement and sparks early ideas on how to tackle these challenges. Let’s see how it works.

What is Task Analysis

Task analysis is a fundamental UX design tool that helps in understanding how users interact with a product. By breaking down tasks into their component steps, UX designers can create more intuitive and effective user interfaces. This method is crucial for identifying user needs and behaviors, which are essential for crafting solutions that genuinely resonate with users.

For those looking to delve deeper into task analysis, tools like Analysis Template provide valuable resources for applying these principles effectively in your projects.

Key Benefits of Implementing Task Analysis in UX Projects

Task analysis, a core component of UX design, offers profound benefits that can transform user experience from basic to exceptional. By dissecting and understanding each part of the user’s interactions with a system, task analysis provides insights that are critical for creating intuitive and user-friendly designs.

  • Improves Understanding of User Behavior and Mental Models: Task analysis allows designers to delve deep into the cognitive processes of users, helping to predict and cater to their needs more effectively. This understanding leads to designs that are not only functional but also psychologically satisfying.
  • Simplifies Complex Tasks: By breaking down tasks into manageable components, task analysis makes even the most complex systems accessible and easier to navigate. This simplification enhances user satisfaction and reduces the learning curve associated with new software or systems.
  • Reduces User Errors: A well-conducted task analysis identifies potential pitfalls and points of confusion in user interactions, allowing designers to preemptively address these issues. This proactive approach significantly reduces the likelihood of user errors and increases overall system efficiency.
  • Facilitates Customized User Interactions: With insights gained from task analysis, UX designers can tailor interactions to meet the specific needs and preferences of different user groups, enhancing the personal feel of the system.
  • Strengthens User-Centered Design: Task analysis ensures that user needs are at the forefront of the design process, leading to products that truly resonate with users and meet their expectations.

By integrating task analysis into UX projects, teams can leverage these benefits to create more engaging and effective user interfaces. For instance, using tools like Creately , designers can visualize task flows and user interactions, further enhancing the design process.

Exploring Different Types of Task Analysis in UX

Task analysis is a cornerstone of user experience design, offering a structured approach to understanding user interactions and designing more intuitive interfaces. By exploring the various types of task analysis, UX professionals can select the most appropriate method to address specific challenges in their projects.

  • Cognitive Task Analysis: This method delves into the thought processes of users, helping designers understand how decisions are made and knowledge is applied in complex tasks. It’s particularly useful in environments where critical thinking and decision-making are key, such as in software troubleshooting or learning systems.
  • Hierarchical Task Analysis (HTA): HTA breaks down tasks into subtasks, providing a clear visual roadmap of procedures. This method is invaluable for documenting workflows in detail, which is essential for complex projects like system design or product development. An example of HTA can be seen through Hierarchical Task Analysis Example .
  • Other Task Analysis Methods: These include methods like GOMS (Goals, Operators, Methods, and Selection Rules), which is used primarily in computer user interface design, and Activity Theory, which is great for understanding broader cultural and social contexts influencing user behavior.

Each type of task analysis brings its own strengths to various stages of product development. For instance, cognitive task analysis is crucial during the initial design phase to align software features with user mental models, while HTA might be more applicable during the refinement phase to streamline complex processes. Understanding these distinctions helps in crafting a UX strategy that is not only user-centric but also deeply informed by empirical user data.

For further insights into task analysis applications and to view templates that can aid in these methodologies.

Hierarchical Task Analysis: Structuring User Tasks Effectively

Hierarchical Task Analysis (HTA) is a structured approach to breaking down the complexity of user tasks into manageable and understandable components. This method is particularly beneficial in clarifying intricate workflows and processes, making it a staple in user experience (UX) design for various industries.

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  • Framework Introduction: HTA starts by identifying the main goal of a task and then subdivides it into smaller, more manageable tasks. This hierarchical breakdown helps in understanding not just what users do, but how they do it, and why they do it in that particular way.
  • Clarification of Complex Tasks: By structuring tasks hierarchically, UX designers can create clearer and more logical workflows. This clarity is crucial in industries where tasks can be highly complex, such as software development, healthcare, and manufacturing.
  • Industry Utilization: The versatility of HTA allows it to be applied across different sectors. For instance, in healthcare, HTA can be used to streamline patient care processes, ensuring that critical steps are followed precisely.
  • Documentation Benefits: Documenting tasks through HTA aids in creating thorough training materials and user manuals, which are essential for onboarding new users and reducing the learning curve.
  • Case Studies: Real-world applications of HTA have shown significant improvements in system usability and user satisfaction. For example, in software development, HTA has been instrumental in designing interfaces that users find intuitive and easy to navigate.

For a practical illustration of HTA in action, consider viewing this Hierarchical Task Analysis Example provided by Creately, which showcases how complex tasks are effectively structured for better understanding and implementation.

When to Use Task Analysis

Identifying the optimal timing for integrating task analysis into the UX design process is crucial for maximizing its benefits. Task analysis, when applied correctly, can significantly influence the direction and effectiveness of product strategy and design. Here’s a breakdown of when to employ task analysis to enhance user experience:

Early Design Phases: Implementing task analysis at the beginning of the design process helps in understanding user needs and behaviors. This early integration ensures that the product strategy is aligned with user goals, potentially saving time and resources by avoiding misdirected efforts. For more insights, see Understanding the Design Process to Solve Customer Problems .

During Prototyping: Task analysis is invaluable during prototyping. It provides a detailed insight into user interactions, which can be used to refine prototypes and enhance user interfaces. This stage is critical for validating the usability and effectiveness of design concepts.

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User Testing: Incorporating task analysis during user testing phases allows for the collection of concrete data on how users interact with the product. This data is essential for making informed adjustments and improvements, ensuring the product meets the intended user needs.

Iterative Design Process Task analysis should be revisited throughout the design process, especially as new insights and user feedback are gathered. Iterative analysis helps in continuously refining the product to better meet user expectations. Learn more about this at How to Master the Iterative Process .

By strategically timing the implementation of task analysis, teams can ensure that their UX design is not only user-centric but also dynamically adapts to user needs and feedback throughout the development process.

Step-by-Step Guide to Conducting Effective Task Analysis

Conducting a thorough task analysis is pivotal in understanding user interactions and enhancing the user experience. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you navigate through the process effectively:

  • Preparation: Begin by defining the scope and objectives of your task analysis. Determine what you need to learn about user behaviors and the tasks they perform. This initial step sets the foundation for targeted insights.
  • Data Collection: Gather data through various methods such as observations, interviews, and surveys. Utilize tools like Empathy Map Templates to visualize and organize user emotions, pain points, and behaviors, which are crucial for a comprehensive analysis.
  • Task Identification: Identify and list out all the tasks your users perform. Break down complex tasks into manageable sub-tasks. This segmentation helps in understanding the task structure and user flow.
  • Analysis: Analyze the tasks to pinpoint difficulties, unnecessary steps, and opportunities for optimization. Focus on user goals, and align your findings with business objectives to ensure relevance and applicability.
  • Visualization: Use visual tools to map out task flows and user paths. This can help in spotting redundancies and generating ideas for improving the user interface and experience.
  • Iteration: Task analysis is not a one-time activity. Revisit and refine your analysis based on user feedback and changing business needs to keep the user experience fresh and engaging.

This structured approach not only clarifies the user’s needs but also enhances the overall design strategy, leading to a more intuitive user interface and a better user experience.

Leveraging Creately for User-Centric Design and Task Analysis

Task analysis is a cornerstone of user experience design, providing invaluable insights into user behavior and needs. Creately, with its robust features, stands out as an exceptional tool for conducting thorough task analysis and crafting user-centric designs. Here’s how Creately can transform your UX design process:

  • Visual Canvas: Creately’s visual canvas offers an expansive workspace where teams can map out user tasks and interactions visually. This feature is particularly useful for understanding and organizing complex user flows, making it easier to identify potential pain points and areas for improvement.
  • Collaborative Workspace: Task analysis often requires input from various stakeholders, including designers, developers, and end-users. Creately’s collaborative workspace enables real-time collaboration, ensuring that all voices are heard and integrated into the design process, thus enhancing the development of customized user interactions.
  • Visual Frameworks: Utilizing Lean UX Canvas Templates and other visual frameworks available on Creately, teams can systematically approach task analysis. These tools help in breaking down tasks into manageable components, which is crucial for creating effective and intuitive user interfaces.

By integrating Creately into your UX design toolkit, you not only streamline the task analysis process but also enhance the overall quality of your user-centric solutions. Whether you’re redesigning an existing interface or creating a new product, Creately’s features empower you to deliver designs that truly resonate with users.

Join over thousands of organizations that use Creately to brainstorm, plan, analyze, and execute their projects successfully.

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How to Do a Task Analysis Like a Pro

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Task analysis is one of the cornerstones of instructional design. But what is it, really? The name says a lot: you analyze a task, step by step, to document how that task is completed.

At first glance, this seems like a straightforward thing. But even the easiest tasks can be quite complex. Things you do every day might seem simple when you first think about them. But what happens when you eliminate internalized or assumed knowledge? 

Take sending an email. Easy, right? Maybe four or five steps? 

  • Click the New Mail icon
  • Enter a Recipient
  • Enter a Subject
  • Enter your email text 

But what about carbon copy or blind carbon copy recipients? What if you need to attach an invoice or picture? What app do you use to create the email in the first place (or are you sending from Gmail in your browser)? For that matter, from which device are you sending the email? 

Suddenly that “simple” task is a set of processes, organized by device, operating system, and application, with various subtasks along the way accounting for mailing list complexities and the purpose of your email. As I was writing this I came up with about a dozen different variations, all of which would need to be closely analyzed and broken down precisely. 

Even the most average task has a lot behind it.

This is why understanding how to do a task analysis is so important to becoming a successful instructional designer. When instructional designers create training, they’re teaching the learner how to accomplish something. Task analysis helps you focus on what they’re going to do and how they’ll do it (don’t worry so much about the why ; that comes later). 

The easiest way to illustrate the process is with an example. Let’s say you work at a midsize media company and your boss asks you to complete a task analysis on how the company’s social media manager does her job. They want this documented for training purposes for future hires. That means you’ll need to:

  • Identify the task to analyze
  • Break down the task into subtasks
  • Identify steps in subtasks

Let’s take a closer look at each of these steps.

Step 1: Identify the Task to Analyze

Tasks are the duties carried out by someone on the job. The social media manager carries out a lot of duties, so you need to be able to break them down into broad activities (aka tasks!) and focus on them one at a time. Don’t worry about all the little things that make up the task; we’ll get to that in a second. Here we’re looking to paint with broad strokes.

One of the social media manager’s tasks is to add new content to social media sites every morning. Your tasks should describe what a person does on the job and must start with an action verb.

So, in this case, the first task to analyze is “Add new content to social media.”

Step 2: Break Down the Task into Subtasks

Once you identify the task, you need to identify the subtasks, the smaller processes that make up the larger task. Remember in the email example above where I mentioned attachments and carbon-copying recipients? That’s the kind of thing you capture here. These should also be brief and start with an action verb.

Continuing the social media manager example, you need to find out the subtasks of adding new content to social media. You can figure this out by talking to or observing the social media manager. Through this process, you discover that the subtasks for adding new content to social media are:

  • Check the editorial calendar
  • Add new content to Twitter

You’re making good progress! You can now move on to Step 3.

Step 3: Identify Steps in Subtasks

Now it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty. You’ve identified the task and broken it down into subtasks. The final step, then, is to identify and list the steps for each subtask. 

Do this by breaking down all of the subtasks into specific step-by-step, chronological actions. The key here is to use a “Goldilocks” approach to detail: not too much and not too little. Use just the right amount so learners can follow the instructions easily. Again, as with tasks and subtasks, your steps need to start with an action verb. 

So, putting everything together from steps 1 and 2 and then breaking the subtasks into steps, your final task analysis would look like this;

1. Adding new content to social media  

1.1 Check the editorial calendar

1.1.1 Navigate to the calendar webpage

1.1.2 Click today’s date

1.1.3 Click newest article title to open article

1.1.4 Click inside article URL bar

1.1.5 Copy URL for article to clipboard

1.1.6 Highlight title text of article

1.1.7 Copy the title text to clipboard

1.1.8 Close the calendar

1.2 Add new content to Twitter

1.2.1 Navigate to Twitter account

1.2.2 Log in to Twitter account

1.2.3 Click Tweet button

1.2.4 Paste article title from clipboard

1.2.5 Paste article URL from clipboard

1.2.6 Click Tweet button to publish

There are several ways to approach task analysis. It’s a fine art deciding how far down the rabbit hole you need to go with detail. Instructional designers can debate for hours whether saying “log in” is enough or if that needs to be broken down further into “enter user name,” “enter password,” and “click the login button.” Again, it all comes down to figuring out how much detail is just right for your audience.

Wrapping Up

That’s it! As you can see, while creating a task analysis boils down to “just” three steps, there are a lot of nuanced decisions to make along the way. Remember the Goldilocks Rule and always consider your audience and the seriousness of the subject matter when deciding just how nitpicky you need your task analysis to be. After all, there’s a marked difference between how much detail a learner needs when they’re learning how to perform brain surgery versus filling out their timecard.

Do you have any do’s and don’ts of your own for completing a successful task analysis? If you do, please leave a comment below. We love to hear your feedback!

Follow us on Twitter and come back to E-learning Heroes regularly for more helpful advice on everything related to e-learning.

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Nicole Legault

The One Thing You Need to Do to Organize Training Content: Task Analysis

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Christine Hounsham

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  • Jerrie Paniri

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  • Chris Janzen

Years ago, long before I ever even considered that I might possibly be an ID, my English professor assigned us a paper to write a set of directions for a task of our choosing that could be successfully executed by anyone who could read English. Coincidentally, like Jerrie, I chose making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but for my part because I was lazy and wanted to pick a task for which it would be very easy to write the steps. Two days later I had a paper that was just shy of three pages (it was an English class, and we had to write it in prose, not instructional format), and a much deeper understanding of how much unconscious knowledge and experience we rely on to perform what we consider to be the simplest of tasks. I've never forgotten the lesson I got from writing that paper, an... Expand

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Task analysis is a systematic process used to understand a task or activity in detail. It involves breaking down a complex task into smaller, manageable steps to identify the specific skills and knowledge required. Here's a guide on how to perform a task analysis like a pro: 1. Define the Task: Clearly define the task you want to analyze. Be specific about the goals and objectives. 2. Identify the Users: Determine who will be performing the task. Consider their background, skills, and knowledge. 3. Break Down the Task: Divide the task into smaller, manageable steps. Start with the overall goal and then break it down into subtasks. 4. Sequence the Steps: Arrange the steps in a logical order. Consider dependencies between steps and how they contribute to the overall task. 5. Gathe... Expand

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Task Analysis 101: What Is It and How To Improve Your UX Using Task Analysis?

10 min read

Task Analysis 101: What Is It and How To Improve Your UX Using Task Analysis? cover

Task analysis is a powerful way to timely discover and address friction points in the user experience. It helps UX designers and product managers better understand users’ goals and the steps they must take to get their job done.

Task analysis enables you to design more efficient user experiences and ultimately drive your product growth.

In this article, we’ll be covering all the necessary steps to successfully perform a task analysis.

Let’s dive in!

  • Task analysis is the process of analyzing the number of steps (tasks) a user has to complete to get their jobs to be done (JTBD) when using your product.
  • It helps UX designers and product managers understand user behavior and eliminate unnecessary steps in the user path.
  • The primary goal of task analysis is to detect flaws in the UX design that compromise the user journey , customer engagement , and customer satisfaction.
  • Cognitive task analysis will help you gauge how much mental effort is required to reach the desired outcome when using your product (aka how difficult it is for customers to use it for a given task).
  • Hierarchical task analysis allows UX researchers to examine the nooks and crannies of interface design and understand how each task contributes to the users’ prime goals.
  • Task analysis involves five steps.
  • Defining the task that should be analyzed.
  • Identifying customers’ end goals by segmenting them in the welcome flow.
  • Breaking down complex tasks into small steps to find overloaded UX areas.
  • Creating a task-analysis diagram based on the gathered data.
  • Finding friction points and creating a strategy to fix them.

What is a task analysis in UX?

Task analysis is the process of analyzing the number of steps (tasks) a user has to complete to get their jobs to be done (JTBD) when using your product. To put it simply, task analysis breaks down complex tasks into small steps to find overloaded UX areas.

This helps take a deep dive into understanding user behavior and eliminate unnecessary steps toward completing the goals (JTBD).

The more advanced UX, the fewer friction points users encounter, and the better customer satisfaction .

Task-Analysis

Why is task analysis important in UX?

A task analysis is a process of putting yourself in the shoes of your customers and experiencing their user journey. How easy it is for them to complete the steps, what steps make them confused or upset, etc.

The end goal is to address all the downsides and deliver a best-in-class product experience.

But there’s more to it than that.

Have a deep understanding of users and their end goals

Task analysis helps UX designers and product managers to understand the whole picture of the user journey toward particular goals. You will uncover:

  • What triggers lead to the task, and what steps do they take to reach the end goal?
  • What does their learning process look like?
  • How does their competence in performing tasks affect the speed at which they complete tasks and the overall completion rate?
  • What does their everyday flow look like?
  • What hinders their journey?

The sweet point is that you can conduct task analysis for any user’s goal within the product and make well-informed decisions toward product updates.

Identify how customers behave in the app

While running task analysis, you will map out all the steps users execute to achieve their goals. This gives you a clear understanding of their in-app behavior and enables you to spot roadblocks on both the product and UX layers.

See how users are influenced by their environment

Task analysis also shows how users are influenced by their in-app environment. For example, you can compare the differences in the user experience of users employing the mobile app and web version of your product.

Detect flaws and friction points

The prime goal of task analysis is to detect UX design flaws that compromise customer engagement and satisfaction.

Do you have an easy-to-use navigation menu, intuitive design prompting users to perform the next task, and workflow efficiency?

You can put everything under the test and see whether you’ve logically built your app.

Types of task analysis

There are two types of task analysis — cognitive and hierarchical analysis.

Let’s learn the pros and cons of each.

Cognitive task analysis

Cognitive task analysis (CTA) studies users’ cognitive activity when performing specific tasks. In other words, CTA aims to gauge how much mental effort is required to reach the desired outcome when using your product (aka how hard it’s for customers to use your product for a given task).

With CTA, you will understand:

  • Performance differences between basic users and pro or advocates
  • The extent of mental workloads
  • The motivation to use your product
  • The emotional side of your users engaging with your product (angry, happy, upset, confused, etc.)

The cognitive analysis consists of several steps:

  • Defining the task (goal) to analyze
  • Determining the critical decision points
  • Grouping by user’s behavior
  • Acting on findings

We can highlight two main benefits of CT analysis:

  • Provides insight into user motivations
  • Helps establish the participants’ end goals

Disadvantages

The main disadvantage of cognitive analysis is its qualitative nature. You may not get accurate results or relatively clear results.

Hierarchical task analysis

Hierarchical task analysis lays out every step a user performs to accomplish their goal. It involves a linear diagram like signing up → creating an account → connecting to a Facebook account. And it also breaks down every major step into smaller subtasks (tasks’ decomposition).

Thus the signing up task implies the following steps — signing up with Google → reading through a welcome screen → completing a 4-step welcome survey, etc.

The hierarchy of tasks enables UX researchers to examine the nooks and crannies of interface design and understand how each contributes to the users’ goals.

This way, you may spot that multiple tasks in the signing-up process can overwhelm users and lead to a low completion rate.

The hierarchical analysis is essential for designing new features or reverse-engineering existing ones. With this, you can explore different approaches to achieving the same goal and find the most efficient path.

At an earlier stage, hierarchical task analysis enables you to build efficient product usability. When applied later, it helps identify hidden UX flaws and address them accordingly.

There are no obvious disadvantages as such. You’re good to go as long as you do task decomposition correctly and get detailed results.

When should you perform a task analysis?

Task analysis is an essential step in the product design process. It should be done in the early stages because it helps teams frame the problem and gather user requirements.

Basically, task analysis is the foundation of the product.

In the realm, we cannot expect that once we complete task analysis, we will build the most authentic product UX ever and never return to this task again.

With the company’s growth, we build various features, incorporate new flows, etc. Hence, we must ensure that updates are aligned with existing flows and in no way hinder user experience.

Bottom line: Task analysis is an ongoing process that helps product teams design a user-friendly and appealing interface.

What data do you need for a task analysis process?

There are five pillars for task analysis. You should find answers to all of them while conducting task analysis. This will help you decompose user goals efficiently and create the fastest path to value.

  • Trigger: Determine what triggers users to begin their journey. What caused the goal to occur?
  • Desired Outcome: What is the desired outcome that users aim for?
  • Base Knowledge: What base knowledge do users have before getting started?
  • Required Knowledge: What knowledge do users lack in order to complete the task?
  • Artifacts: What additional tools or information do the users rely on when performing the tasks?

Now let’s find out what a task analysis process consists of.

How to conduct a task analysis and improve UX?

In this chapter, we’ve laid out the entire task analysis process and how to act on findings.

Let’s begin.

Define the task that should be analyzed

Any analysis begins with a goal and questions behind it. Why do we need to conduct the research? What do we aim for? What is a starting point for analysis?

In our case, we must define the high-level task (the user goal) to analyze. The specific step in the user journey that users should perform (e.g., account creation).

Segment customers in the welcome flow and understand their goals

Customer segmentation refers to categorizing customers based on common characteristics for further analyses (e.g., behavior analysis , task analysis, customer journey analysis, etc.).

When it comes to task analysis, segmenting your customers from the onset gives you a deeper understanding of them. What niche they come from, how they heard about your company, what is their job to be done, etc.

To gather such data, you need to implement the welcome flow (a welcome screen ). This is a pop-up with a microsurvey that appears at the last step (or at the beginning) of the sign-up process.

Welcome screens usually serve two purposes: greeting customers and collecting data.

For example, Kontentino utilizes a welcome screen by Userpilot to define customers’ goals, workflows, and the type of company they represent.

Kontentino-welcome-screen-task-analysis

Use feature tagging to identify what customers are doing in the app

Feature tagging is another solution to understanding what your users are doing in the app and what their path toward the goal looks like. In short, feature tagging allows you to analyze product usage behavior .

Thus, you will learn and document every click users make. What features do they use more or less frequently, etc?

With Userpilot, you can select any UI pattern of your app to track its usage.

Use this data to understand when users reach certain milestones in their journey.

feature-tagging-userpilot

Once you set up feature tracking and data starts flowing, you can segment customers by their in-app experiences (e.g., their interactions with the features).

This will help you identify segments that are having trouble with a specific feature, etc.

userpilot-smarter-segmentation

Set up custom goals and monitor how users are progressing toward goals

Whenever you want to know how customers feel about recent changes to a product or design, this step is crucial.

For this, you can digitize all the steps of hierarchical task analysis and track how many users complete pre-defined milestones. You can also monitor the completion rate of intermediate steps (tasks) toward goals.

This will help you measure how successful product updates were or you can identify the best performing features of your app. Additionally, you can understand what step (task) causes trouble. Essentially, these are tasks with a low completion rate of concrete action.

With Userpilot, you can create goals and track their completion. It’s code-free and can be set up in just a few clicks away.

goal-tracking-userpilot-dashboard_(1)

Create a task analysis diagram based on the gathered data

Lastly, collect the new data (from the steps above) and make a graphical representation called a task-analysis diagram.

This will help understand the overall number of tasks, subtasks, sequence, and hierarchy.

The diagram will also help you analyze the complexity of the process users are going through to achieve their goals.

Ultimately, you will uncover tasks that users find insufficient.

Task-Analysis-Diagram

Discover friction points and fix them to improve the user experience

Once you finish the analysis, you will locate the friction points that hurt the user experience and might lead to churn .

Regardless of what task damages the user experience, your next step is fixing the problem.

Most drawbacks arise either in the onboarding flow or in a specific part of the user journey. No matter what part of the product has flaws, it usually comes down to overcomplicated navigation and unnecessary steps to get to value.

The next time you’re working on a new design, do UX research first. Interview customers, analyze competitors’ UX , and run task analysis. Make your UX flawless by using as many methods as you can.

Task analysis example

Here we will show you how bad UX can drastically impair the overall user experience.

Let’s look at two tools for keyword research (SEO) Semrush and Serpstat.

Our goal is to run a quick analysis of the most important components of SEO. Keywords our site ranks for and the number of backlinks.

We will be testing both tools and running a small task analysis to compare their UX.

Type the query → Click on “Search” → Done! The tool shows me the needed metrics from the first screen.

But let’s make the task more difficult. Now, I want to analyze my Anchor text list.

Click on “Backlinks” from the Domain Overview → View Details → Anchors. Three clicks and you’re on the destination page.

Semrush-ux-task-analysis

Takeaways: Super intuitive design. Flawless path to get to value. It took less than 10 seconds to open the needed report.

Type the query → Click on “Search” → scroll six screens down to reach the Backlinks overview → click on “Backlinks” → scroll two screens down → fail!

No jump link will get you to the Anchor report.

The workaround is to click “Anchor” from the navigation menu.

Serpstat-task-analysis

Takeaways: Not friendly and not intuitive design. It took up to 40 seconds to realize the next step to reach the objective and some cognitive and emotional effort (irritation).

As you can see, task analysis is crucial if your goal is to build an outstanding product on the market.

Conducting a task analysis is important if you don’t want a bad UX to impair the user experience and lead to high churn.

Ideally, you should analyze customer behavior and understand your users’ needs and goals before creating a product or updating an existing feature.

Want to collect customer insights and understand their goals code-free? Book a demo call with our team and get started!

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Task analysis: How to optimize UX and improve task efficiency

User Research

Feb 6, 2024

Task analysis: How to optimize UX and improve task efficiency

Gain a fresh perspective on UX by analyzing how users approach tasks—here’s how to build a plan of action for designing goal-based user experiences.

Ella Webber

Ella Webber

Thinking you know how users perform specific tasks within your product is very different to having data-backed insights on the ins-and-outs of how users approach your product. From goals, touchpoints, journey and overall experience—taks analysis is a unique method to understand your user’s perspective.

In this article, we’re covering all you need to know about task analysis—the process of studying and analyzing users’ jobs to be done, and how they complete those tasks—including when to do it, how to do it, and best practices according to industry experts.

Task analysis made easy

Maze is a complete research toolkit to understand your users' experience and gather game-changing insights to shape your product

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What is task analysis in UX?

Task analysis is a UX research method for mapping out how users complete a specific task within your product, e.g. paying an invoice in accounting software, or updating their picture on a social app. It identifies major decision points, cognitive load, and points of friction they encounter when completing the task.

UX researchers and designers can use task analysis insights to create more intuitive products, and the technique comes in helpful at any phase of the design process, from concept testing to prototype testing and usability testing live websites .

After watching how users approach a task, you break it down into smaller sub-tasks—giving you a clear, step-by-step understanding of their thought-process and decision-making. Once you know the steps and desired process and outcomes, you’re in a better position to identify user needs, and optimize the user experience.

What are the types of task analysis?

There’s two main types of task analysis, each of which lends itself to different objectives and stages of the UX design process . We’ve also included the pros and cons of each so you can choose the best one for your research.

Hierarchical task analysis

Cognitive task analysis.

Hierarchical task analysis is about structuring sequences. It involves creating a tree diagram or flowchart depicting a hierarchy of tasks your user needs to complete a goal.

First, you outline a main task. Then, the main task is divided into a set of sub-tasks. These sub-tasks are divided into even smaller tasks, and those are segmented further. This continues until you’re left with only the core decisions and jobs-to-be-done.

hierarchical task analysis example

Consider these pros and cons when choosing hierarchical task analysis:

  • Comprehensive, detailed view of tasks
  • Clearly organizes tasks
  • Helps identify dependencies and relationships between tasks
  • Time consuming to break down tasks into components
  • Difficult to map out for non-linear or complex tasks
  • Doesn’t take into account the cognitive load for completing tasks

Users spend valuable mental energy whenever they complete tasks while interacting with your product. Cognitive task analysis seeks to observe users' underlying processes during task performance. It includes behavior, emotions, and—debatably most important—mental effort.

Since they’re more complex, cognitive task analysis representations can come in all shapes and sizes, including some of the representations included in hierarchical task analysis.

Some types include:

  • Narrative descriptions: Detailed reports, documents, and descriptions of cognitive processes
  • Flowcharts: Visual representations, emphasizing decision points and thought processes
  • Decision trees: Diagrams highlighting the choices users can make, underlining the mental load

Some pros and cons of cognitive task analysis are:

  • Offers in-depth insights on users’ mental models
  • Especially useful for making more intuitive designs
  • Good for mapping out complex tasks that need problem-solving
  • Can be resource intensive, requiring time and effort
  • No singular output method, making a deliverable complex to create
  • Can sometimes overlook external or “hard” factors central to task performance

To get insights for your task analysis, you’ll need to user research to gather more information on how users achieve their goals. UX research methods like user interviews, card sorting , focus groups, UX surveys , and contextual inquiry can all be used to get insights on your user’s goals and mental models.

For example, Scott Hurff , Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer at Churnkey , uses a variety of methods to analyze billing-related tasks within Churnkey:

“At Churnkey, our product serves two customers: our direct customers (subscription businesses who use our platform) and then their customers.

“First, we hear about the problems being faced by our customers’ customers when dealing with billing-related topics, and then we dial down into what they’ve been trying to achieve.

“We then listen to our direct customers’ wishes about how their lives could be made easier, the roadblocks they’re facing when trying to complete certain tasks, and how to alleviate their sense of feeling overwhelmed with customer billing needs.

“Finally, we take all of these inputs, synthesize them, close-read them, and come up with new product concepts that we think will solve these problems in novel, useful ways.”

Task analysis is an adaptable technique, and you’ll likely find that a combination of UX research methods is key for getting a full picture of user experience.

The specific method you’ll opt for largely depends on what tasks you’re analyzing, and at which stage of the UX research process you’re conducting your analysis.

When to use task analysis in UX?

One of the benefits of task analysis is its versatility as a framework, offering value throughout the product development process . But before you break out the flowcharts, let’s look at when to use this technique.

1. Initial phase and discovery

Using task analysis at the beginning of the design process helps you explore and define user behavior in the context of a product. It gives your team the insights necessary for laying the foundation of user-centric design and contributes to the early stages of product research .

What task analysis can help with:

  • Brainstorming solutions
  • Identifying user paths and goals
  • Establishing user personas and pain points

2. Usability testing and validation

During the validation phase of the design process, task analysis can aid in ensuring you’re on the right path. It acts as a framework for defining benchmarks, successes, and failures for tasks.

  • Understanding user behavior and mental models
  • Creating realistic user scenarios to help guide usability testing
  • Identifying clear usability metrics , KPIs and decision points during user interaction

3. Iteration, improvement, and post-launch

UX teams can use task analysis as part of continuous product discovery to continuously refine a product for a better user experience. Task analysis is especially useful for identifying when and where to introduce features while maintaining user satisfaction after launch.

  • Creating and accessing opportunities for new features
  • Re-evaluating and updating user tasks
  • Assessing overall task efficiency long-term

💡 Looking for a UX research tool to uncover task-related insights at every stage of the design and development? Maze provides a comprehensive suite of user research methods, such as card sorting , user interviews , feedback surveys , and more.

How to use task analysis in the UX design process

Now we’re clear on when to use task analysis, let’s dive into what this process looks like.

1. Set a main task to analyze

After recruiting research participants , the first step of task analysis is choosing a primary user task to analyze. The scenario that you choose should be clear, with a set beginning and end. Some examples of main tasks include feature onboarding, completing a purchase, or customizing a profile.

You’ll want to ask yourself:

  • What are the user’s goals and motivations for completing the task?
  • Who is performing the task? What are their skills, experience, and knowledge level?
  • What’s the aim of this task analysis? What insights are you hoping to gain?

Asking yourself these questions will help you get a clear view of the main task at hand. It will also set the stage for the next important step of task analysis.

2. Select UX research methods and conduct task analysis

After you’ve defined your main task, you’ll want to gather in-depth insights showing exactly how users complete it. Choose your user research methods and conduct research into how users complete a specific task.

For hierarchical task analysis, methods like website testing, on-screen recordings, or heatmaps will give you a better understanding of how users are completing the task. They show exactly where and what your users click on to finish user processes.

If you’re more interested in cognitive task analysis, qualitative research through user interviews and surveys is the way to go. By asking users open-ended research questions , you’ll receive a wealth of information on users’ mental effort and emotions during task completion. Open card sorting can also be especially helpful for getting more context on user mental models.

3. Break your main task into smaller sub-tasks

Breaking down the main task into smaller sub-tasks is crucial for understanding each small step in user-product interactions. This is where you’ll identify any friction points, otherwise hidden away within the digital product experience.

For example, let’s say your main task is completing a purchase on the website. Some of the sub-tasks would include:

Selecting products to add to cart

  • Browsing the catalog
  • Selecting products by clicking on them
  • Selecting product options and quantity

Accessing the shopping cart to make a purchase

  • Finding the shopping cart
  • Proceeding to check-out
  • Typing in personal information
  • Selecting a shipping method
  • Deciding to save information for further purchasing

Confirming and placing the order

  • Adding a payment method and securely inputting details
  • Selecting options to use saved payment methods
  • Accepting terms and conditions
  • Confirming the order

Breaking your main task into its relevant sub-tasks enables you to understand each individual aspect and approach your tasks one step at a time. This is crucial for effectively optimizing the entire process.

Once you’ve listed out your sub-tasks, it’s time to create a visual representation that maps out decision points on your user’s journey.

4. Create a diagram to map out major decision points

Creating a diagram for task analysis gives you a comprehensive view of the user processes at work and how to improve them. Essentially, you’re taking your main task, the sub-tasks you’ve identified, and turning them into a flowchart. Flowcharts help you visualize the user’s journey through a specific task and identify opportunities for improvement.

On a flowchart, your main task will be the starting point. A simple arrow starting from the main task brings you to the first sub-task, then the second, then the third, and so on. Eventually, you’ll get down to the final step of your user’s task.

The result will look something like the image below.

task analysis flowchart

With a complete flowchart, you’ll be able to identify any redundancies or inefficiencies in your digital product. It will also serve as a constant reference you can come back to for brainstorming areas for improvement.

Flowcharts are essential for hierarchical task analysis, as they clearly define what users need to do while interacting with your digital product. However, they’re only half the picture. The other half incorporates user insights into each decision, task, and friction point.

5. Create a narrative report with next steps

While flowcharts are important, they don’t give you the context surrounding particular friction points in your user’s experience. For that, you’ll need to create a narrative report—a detailed explanation of the task analysis in chronological order.

Here’s what your narrative report should include:

  • Introduction: Outlining the purpose of your task analysis, the main task, and its importance
  • Describing sub-tasks: With a detailed description of how each sub-task is performed with relevant insights, processes, and context
  • Discuss dependencies and decision points: Explaining how subtasks are connected and the criteria for making decisions between them
  • Highlight potential improvements: Including any potential friction points and improvements in sub-tasks, informed by insights
  • Conclusion: Summarize your key findings and how improvements can enhance user experience and completing the main task

It’s during the elaboration of this narrative report that your UX research and data collection from the second step will come into play. Include insights you’ve collected on mental effort, decisions, and your user’s thoughts at each stage.

You’ll want to pay special attention to the key decision points throughout the task, and what you can do to remove friction and optimize the experience. Considering these issues will help formulate potential solutions to the task-related issues you’ve identified.

With this UX report , you’ll have a clearer idea of what’s next. Based on your insights, you may need to introduce new features, optimize existing ones, or redesign your task flow for a smoother experience. You’ll likely want to conduct further research once you’ve got your solutions to ensure you’re heading in the right direction.

Once your narrative report is complete, you can use it as a guide for actioning the insights you’ve collected. It’s also a key document for getting stakeholder buy-in , if applicable, and democratizing user research in your organization.

3 Best practices for effective task analysis

Knowing the rules for conducting task analysis doesn’t guarantee success—you need to keep some best practices in mind to ensure your task analysis is as fruitful as possible.

Here, Scott from Churnkey shares three best practices he uses to guide task analysis.

1. Show, don’t tell

It’s not enough to have a vague understanding of the problems your users face while interacting with your product. The more concrete examples you can get of their friction points, the better. A deep understanding of the issues they face is crucial for resolving them. And what better way to understand user issues than seeing them first-hand?

“Get on a call with a customer and have them share their screen.” Says Scott, “Have them take you through the exact steps they’re following to solve their problem with today’s method. Record the call, as typically, this ends up being the ‘ideal case’, so you’ll want to see them complete this process more than once.”

Interviews and surveys definitely have their place in task analysis, but you want to use them alongside other research methods that prioritize showing over telling.

2. Study multiple users completing the same task

Not every user will approach a task in the same way. That’s why it's helpful to test different users completing the same process. This not only ensures you’re tackling analysis effectively but also potentially reveals new friction points or solutions.

Scott suggests taking notes on the differences of each unique case:

“Whenever possible, see if you can experience how other members of a team complete the task. Take note of the little adjustments and tweaks they have to make for each unique case.

“Chances are, you’ll experience a few little ‘tricks’ they use to complete the task in a different way. Take note of the origin points of the task and its eventual destination. What problems arose along the way? How did each completion differ slightly?”

Collecting insights from a variety of users is crucial for a broad understanding of how users complete tasks. It’s essential to get a wide array of perspectives to ensure you build a solution that optimizes the process for everyone.

3. Come back to the big picture

Breaking down a main task into smaller subsets is crucial for successful analysis. However, this can make it easy to get bogged down by complex processes and decision points. Revisiting the end goal allows you to explore new avenues for potential solutions and bring the data back to your objective.

Scott notes how returning to the main task and identifying the bigger themes can help form an altogether new angle:

“Step back and take away the broad themes of the task. What’s the actual thing being done? From how many different angles can you examine the existing solution to the task, and does that offer any potential for a fresh approach?”

It’s easy to get caught up in the details, but taking a step back can give you a fresh perspective on pre-existing knowledge to improve decision-making.

Enhance your user experience with Maze

Task analysis is an effective way to get a clear view of how your users interact with your product, and is a useful analysis method at any phase of the product design process.

Performing task analysis correctly ensures every step of your user’s experience is intuitive and frictionless.

If you’re looking for a tool that can support all stages of the task analysis process—from recruiting participants to creating reports—Maze is your answer. Maze is a holistic user research platform that provides multiple research methods to uncover actionable insights.

Task analysis—like every type of user research—is a whole lot easier with the right toolkit. Try Maze today to start optimizing every step of the varying paths users take in your product.

Frequently asked questions about task analysis

The two main types of task analysis include hierarchical task analysis and cognitive task analysis However, there are other types, including goal task analysis and sequential task analysis.

What are the steps of task analysis?

The steps of task analysis entail setting a main task to analyze, gathering information on that task through UX research methods, breaking down main tasks into smaller tasks, and creating a flowchart or narrative report.

What is an example of task analysis?

Let’s say your digital product requires users to make a profile with contact information. A hierarchical task analysis would entail identifying a key process, like uploading a profile picture, and then breaking it down into smaller processes—like scrolling their gallery and selecting a picture from their camera roll. UX teams can study these processes to identify friction points and their potential solutions.

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How to improve your UX designs with Task Analysis

One of the most important steps in the design thinking or human-centered design (HCD) methodology is to define the users' problems. This means to clearly identify and articulate problems in the UX so that you can later begin the ideation process (i.e., generate great ideas on how to solve said problems). Task analysis is a simple exercise that UX designers can undertake during the definition of a problem, which can help identify opportunities to improve and generate some preliminary ideas as to how you might approach these challenges. Let's find out how.

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Task analysis is a method that helps you understand how users accomplish their goals and the steps they take to get there. This establishes their mental models and is crucial for task-oriented design . The most common output of a task analysis is a diagram that outlines the user's actions and the system's responses.

Designers can use this diagram to identify areas where additional support may be needed or to eliminate unnecessary steps. For example, designers may automate certain actions that users currently perform manually.

You can approach a task analysis activity from two main viewpoints:

Hierarchical Task Analysis : Consists of breaking down tasks into smaller sub-tasks.

Cognitive Task Analysis : Focuses on tasks that require decision-making, problem-solving, memory, attention and judgment. 

How to Prepare for a Task Analysis

Usability experts agree that task analysis is an important activity where designers must understand the users and their environments, their goals and external factors that might influence the performance of the task. This means that you may have already engaged in user research , which provides you with outputs such as user personas , scenarios or storyboards . This data is essential for task analysis, as you will base your work on these outputs. 

To ensure an effective task analysis process, it's essential to gather focused data during user research. Cognitive scientist and UX consultant Larry Marine suggests collecting five types of data during this phase:

Trigger: What initiates the task for the user?

Desired Outcome: How will users know they have successfully completed the task?

Base Knowledge: What will the users be expected to know when starting the task?

Required Knowledge: What do users already know before starting the task?

Artifacts: What resources or tools will users require during the task?

How to Conduct a Task Analysis 

With your current information, you can sketch out how a user goes about their daily life by mapping out the sequence of activities required to achieve a goal. Before you start, it's important to have an overview of the process and its steps to prepare better.

Here is a step-by-step guide for conducting task analysis:

Identify the Task You Need to Analyze: Pick a persona and scenario for your user research and repeat the task analysis process for each of them. What is that user's goal and motivation to achieve said goal?

Break Down This Goal into Smaller Subtasks: A good rule of thumb is to aim for 4–8 subtasks – any more than this may indicate that the goal is too broad or abstract.

Draw a Layered Task Diagram of Each Subtask: You can use any notation you like for the diagram since there is no real standard here. Larry Marine shares some constructive advice on his notation, which you will examine below.

Write the Story: Ensure you accompany your diagram with a narrative that focuses on the whys.

Validate Your Analysis: Review the analysis with someone who wasn’t involved in the breakdown but knows the tasks well enough to check for consistency. 

Pro Tip: Conduct a parallel task analysis with more than one person to undertake the process simultaneously so that you can compare and merge outputs into a final deliverable. 

Larry Marine likes to annotate his task analysis diagrams using different colors in the various flows; for example, green represents users' actions, yellow is a step the system can do, purple represents tools or knowledge, and orange represents questions about the task.

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Larry Marine suggests adding annotations to task analysis diagrams using a variety of colors that correspond to different flows. This technique helps him better visualize the user's journey and identify pain points or areas for improvement in the user experience.

© Interaction Design Foundation, CC BY-SA 4.0

A task analysis would probably have a greater proportion of "green" flows initially. A redesigned task would probably have fewer "green" and more "yellow" flows to show that you've really managed to off-load tasks from a user to a system, thus improving their overall experience to make their lives easier.

Download and share this guide on task analysis with your team to collaboratively visualize your user's journey and identify pain points.

How to Improve Your Design with Task Analysis

The Take Away

Task analysis is a vital tool in a UX designer's skill set , as it helps designers understand how users complete tasks and identify areas for improvement. However, it's important to keep the user's perspective in mind and resist the temptation to generate your own interpretations of the problem or stick to design elements just for the sake of it.

To ensure that task analysis is effective, it should be backed by rigorous user research. Without data from user research, any efforts to proceed with task analysis will be blind and may not reflect actual user needs . Remember that task analysis is not a one-off process. Designers may need to repeat task analysis on their own designs later in the process. 

Finally, task analysis requires time, resources, people, and budget like any other UX design activity. Balance these requirements carefully and engage in the process only if you have sufficient amounts of these elements. 

References and Where to Learn More

Read these books about Task Analysis and other related concepts: Task Analysis. Human-computer interaction: Development Process . Catherine Courage, Janice (Genny) Redish, and Dennis Wixon. 2009

Task Analysis: How to Develop an Understanding of Work (Users' Guides to Human Factors and Ergonomics Methods) . Jack Stuster. 2019.

Check out this in-depth article about Hierarchical Task Analysis from UX Matters.

Follow Larry Marine’s excellent approach to Task Analysis.

Learn about Task Analysis and usability from the Usability.gov website.

Hero Image: © Interaction Design Foundation, CC BY-SA 4.0

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Task analysis: support users in achieving their goals.

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September 20, 2020 2020-09-20

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Task analysis refers to the broad practice of learning about how users work (i.e., the tasks they perform) to achieve their goals. Task analysis emerged out of instructional design (the design of training) and human factors and ergonomics (understanding how people use systems in order to improve safety, comfort, and productivity). Task analysis is crucial for user experience, because a design that solves the wrong problem (i.e., doesn’t support users’ tasks) will fail, no matter how good its UI.

In the realm of task analysis, a task refers to any activity that is usually observable and has a start and an end point . For example, if the goal is to set up a retirement fund, then the user might have to search for good deals, speak to a financial advisor, and fill in an application form — all of which are tasks. It’s important not to confuse goals with tasks. For instance, a user’s goal isn’t to fill in a form. Rather, a user might complete a form to register for a service they want to use (which would be the goal).

Task analysis is slightly different from job analysis (what an employee does in her role across a certain period of time — such as a week, month, or year) or workflow analysis (how work gets done across multiple people). In task analysis, the focus is on one user, her goal, and how she carries out tasks in order to achieve it. Thus, even though the name “task analysis” may suggest that the analysis is of just one task, task analysis may address multiple tasks, all in service of the same goal.

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Studying users, their goals, and their tasks, is an important part of the design process. When designers perform task analysis, they are well equipped to create products and services that work how users expect and that help users achieve their goals easily and efficiently. Task analysis, as a method, provides a systematic way to approach this learning process. It can be flexibly applied to both existing designs (e.g., the use of an enterprise system) and system-agnostic processes (e.g., shopping for groceries).

The task-analysis process can be viewed as two discrete stages:

Stage 1: Gather information on goals and tasks by observing and speaking with users and/or subject-matter experts.

Stage 2: Analyze the tasks performed to achieve goals to understand the overall number of tasks and subtasks, their sequence, their hierarchy, and their complexity. The analyst typically produces diagrams to document this analysis.

In This Article:

Stage 1: gather information, stage 2: analyze tasks.

In stage 1, typically, a combination of methods is used to learn about user goals and tasks. They include:

  • Contextual inquiry : The task analyst visits the user onsite and conducts a semistructured interview to understand the user’s role, typical activities, and the various tools and processes used and followed. Then the analyst watches the user work. After a period of observation, the user is asked questions about what the analyst observed.
  • Interviews using the critical incident technique : Users are asked to recall critical incidents, and the interviewer asks many followup questions to gather specific details about what happened. The stories provide detail on the tasks performed, the user’s goals, and where problems lie.
  • Record keeping : Users are asked to keep records or diary entries of the tasks they perform over a certain period of time. Additionally, tracking software can be used for monitoring user activity.
  • Activity sampling : Users are watched or recorded for a certain period of time in order to document which tasks are being performed, as well as their duration and frequency.
  • Simulations : The task analyst walks through the steps that a user might take using a given system.

When carrying out research, do not rely solely on self-reported behavior (i.e., through interviews or surveys) or simulations (remember: you are not the user! ), but also observe the user at work in her own context . Otherwise, you could miss out on important nuances or details.

In stage 2, the task analyst will structure the observations by certain attributes like order, hierarchy, frequency, or even cognitive demands, to analyze the complexity of the process users follow in order to achieve their goals. The result of this analysis is often a graphical representation called a task-analysis diagram .

There are many different types of diagrams that could be produced, such as standard flowcharts or operational-sequence diagrams. However, the most commonly known and used in task analysis is the hierarchical task-analysis diagram (HTA). The figure below shows an example of an HTA for the goal of creating a digital copy of a physical letter using a new home scanner.

A hierarchical task analyst starts with the user's goal: to make a digital copy of a physical letter using a new home scanner. This goal is broken down into 4 tasks. Task 1: downloading software; task 2: launch scanner program; task 3: scan document; task 4: Save document. Each of these tasks can be broken down into further subtasks. For example, task 1 is shown broken down into 6 further subtasks: subtask 1.1: check printer model; subtask 1.2: search online for printer software; subtask 1.3: click link to download software; subtask 1.4: enter app-store password; subtask 1.5: click reset password, and subtask 1.6: enter a new app-store password. Subtasks 1.5 and 1.6 are marked as only being performed if a user has forgotten their password.

An HTA diagram starts with a goal and scenario (in the same way that a customer-journey map does) and highlights the major tasks to be completed in order to achieve it. In human factors, these tasks are referred to as ‘operations’. Each of the tasks in the top layer can be broken down into subtasks. The number of levels of subtasks depends on the complexity of the process and how granular the analyst wants the analysis to be.

Not all users accomplish goals in the same way. For example, a novice user might perform more tasks than an expert user — the latter might skip certain steps. The HTA enables these differences to be captured through ‘plans’. A plan specifies, at each level, what the order of the steps is, and which steps might be undertaken when or by whom. For example, a user who can’t remember his password has to undertake steps 1.5 (Click Reset password ) and 1.6 (Enter a new app-store password) in order to accomplish the goal of downloading software for the scanner.

While a task-analysis diagram is useful to illustrate the overall steps in a process and is an excellent communication tool — especially for complex systems — it can also be used as a starting point for further analyses. For example, the following attributes could be considered for the tasks in an HTA.

  • The overall number of tasks: Are there too many? Perhaps there are opportunities to create a design that could streamline the process and remove some steps.
  • The frequency of tasks: How often are certain tasks performed? Are some tasks filled with repetition?
  • The cognitive complexity of the tasks: What mental processes (i.e., thoughts, judgments, and decisions) are needed to complete a given task? (A whole branch of task analysis known as cognitive task analysis is concerned with these questions and with making visible the mental schemas and processes). If there are a lot of mental operations involved, the difficulty of the overall task increases, and the analyst should consider the likelihood of user error.
  • The physical requirements of the task: What does the user need to physically do? Could this physical requirement affect user performance and comfort? And how could these physical requirements affect users with disabilities?
  • The time taken to perform each task: Activity sampling or theoretical modeling (such as GOMS) can be used to estimate how long tasks would take users to complete.

At the end of the task analysis, the analyst has a good understanding of all the different tasks users may perform to achieve their goals and the nature of those tasks. Armed with this knowledge, the analyst can design (or redesign) an efficient, intuitive, and easy-to-use product or service.

Task analysis is a systematic method of studying the tasks users perform in order to reach their goals. The method begins with research to collect tasks and goals, followed by a systematic review of the tasks observed. A task-analysis diagram or an HTA is often the product of task analysis; the HTA can be used to communicate to others the process users follow, as well as a starting point for further assessment.

Hackos, J. A. T., & Redish, J. (1998). User and task analysis for interface design . New York: Wiley.

Kirwan, B. (Ed.), Ainsworth, L. (Ed.). (1992). A guide to task analysis . London: CRC Press, https://doi.org/10.1201/b16826

Stanton, N. A. (January 01, 2006). Hierarchical task analysis: Developments, applications, and extensions. Applied Ergonomics, 37, 1, 55-79. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apergo.2005.06.003 .

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The eLearning Designer's Academy

How to Conduct a Task Analysis

Before starting development on a new eLearning project, it’s important to make sure you’ve collected and analyzed all the information used to justify the creation of an eLearning course in the first place. One of the ways you do this is by conducting a needs analysis to determine the root cause behind the gap in performance and whether or not eLearning (or any learning intervention) is the right solution. Another method of analyzing the learning need is by conducting a task analysis, which can be helpful when you’re scoping your eLearning project or creating an action map to design a proposed training solution.

A task analysis is a process of analyzing a specific task to determine how it’s completed, step-by-step.

A task analysis is a process of analyzing a specific task to determine how it’s completed, step-by-step. While this might seem pretty straightforward, a task analysis can get pretty detailed. When done correctly, a thorough task analysis will be broken down into procedures, primary tasks, and subtasks.

But, why should you consider conducting an eLearning task analysis in the first place? Well, the results of a task analysis can be used to determine many different variables about your project. First, a task analysis can help you ensure your learning and performance objectives align with the actual tasks your learners need to perform. And second, a task analysis can help you determine the total scope and complexity of what you need to teach your learners. This information can help you decide whether or not additional learning interventions are required to accomplish the desired learning goal.

Here are three simple steps for conducting a task analysis.

Step One: Identify the Primary Procedure

The first step for conducting a task analysis is to identify the primary procedure your learners are expected to perform. When identifying the primary procedure, you want to avoid being too broad, which could result in performing a task analysis on something that should actually be separated out into multiple procedures.

For example, if you were conducting a task analysis on a financial auditor, performing an analysis on their responsibility of “auditing financial records” would likely be too complex. The reality is that this responsibility is comprised of multiple, individual procedures (i.e., completing the daily finance audit, organizing and sending audit results to the audit committee, submitting the monthly tax report to the Internal Revenue Service, etc.).

In this case, we’ll look at the procedure of “completing the daily finance audit.”

Step Two: List the Main Tasks

The second step in conducting a task analysis is to identify and list the main tasks for completing the primary procedure. Similar to identifying the primary procedure, you don’t want to be too broad or too specific.

When listing the main tasks, and the subtasks, use action verbs to describe each task. For example, for our procedure of “completing the daily finance audit,” it might look something like this:

  • Download the daily finance report.
  • Review the daily finance report for inaccuracies.
  • Report inaccuracies to the corporate finance auditor.

Step Three: List the Subtasks

The third and final step for conducting a task analysis is to break the main tasks into subtasks. The subtasks are where you start getting granular with the level details of each task.

Using the first main task from our example of “completing the daily finance audit;” here’s what the final task analysis might look like, broken down into subtasks:

  • Download the daily finance report: a. Login to the finance operating mainframe. b. Click the Run Daily Report button. c. Click the Download Daily Report button.

The Bottom Line

Once you’ve successfully completed your task analysis, you should have a holistic, step-by-step outline of what’s involved in completing an identified procedure, which you can use in designing your learning intervention. What other tips can you share about conducting a task analysis? Share them by commenting below!

Tim Slade

Hi, I’m Tim Slade, and I’m a speaker, author, and founder of The eLearning Designer's Academy. Having spent the last decade working to help others elevate their eLearning and visual communications content, I have been recognized and awarded within the eLearning industry multiple times for my creative and innovative design aesthetics. I’m also a regular speaker at international eLearning conferences, a LinkedIn Learning instructor, and author of The eLearning Designer’s Handbook.

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This is such a great tip! Thanks, TIm.

Here’s something I like to do. Once I know what learners will need to be able to do when they have completed the course/training, I work backward. I ask; What do they need to know or practice in order for that to be realized? Then, I take those pieces and ask the same about each of those pieces. Keep in mind your target audience’s prior knowledge, experience, and familiarity with the topic or tasks. Keep working backward and chunking things down until you get to the point where the next thing they need to know or practice is something they already know or do. Then, you’ve discovered the all the things in between that need to be included in the training to fill in the missing gaps/pieces so they can get to the goal of the proposed training.

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Thanks, Philip! I’m in total agreement with your backwards design approach. Thanks for sharing!

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Task Analysis: What It Is and How It Improves Your UX

  • Task analysis is the process of investigating the tasks users complete to achieve a desired goal or outcome.

While that sounds simple enough, task analysis is often left out of the UX design process. This is unfortunate because task analysis can actually have a big impact on design decisions.

By observing and understanding the steps users go through to complete various tasks, you can learn everything from what goals users truly want to achieve with the product you’re building to how their previous knowledge will factor into how they approach a given task.

Let’s dig deeper into why task analysis is valuable, how to go about conducting one, and how it can be used to improve UX.

  • What is task analysis in UX?
  • When to conduct task analysis
  • Two common types of task analysis
  • How to conduct a task analysis
  • Using task analysis to improve UX
  • Key takeaways

1. What is task analysis in UX?

Task analysis is a process that helps UX designers learn how users actually go about completing tasks with a product. 

According to Maria Rosala of the Nielsen Norman Group , “a task refers to any activity that is usually observable and has a start and an end point.” So, in task analysis, UX designers first research how users complete tasks by asking them to perform a specific activity and observing how they do so—from start to finish.

Of course, as Rosala notes, it’s important to recognize that tasks are not goals. For instance, if a user’s goal is to see a nearby dentist, their tasks may include searching for dentists in the area, learning which ones accept their insurance and ensuring there are appointments available that fit their schedule.

None of these tasks are the ultimate goal, though. The user’s goal isn’t to complete a form that details their location and insurance information. Completing the form is a means to an end: seeing a local dentist. This is important to keep in mind for UX designers because the more easily users can complete tasks that help them meet their goals, the better the user experience will be. Whether it’s streamlining the number of steps in a task, eliminating potential points of confusion with clearer messaging or innovations that will make completing a task easier, the UX designer’s focus should be on how to design the task so it enables the user to most easily and efficiently meet their goals.

2. When to conduct task analysis

Task analysis can have a big impact on key choices made throughout the design process. As a result, it should be conducted early in the process. It’s definitely not something that should happen after you’ve started making major design decisions.

Typically the process of task analysis should start during user research (which usually happens in the empathize and define stages of the UX design process); that way, your task analysis findings can be baked into other key tasks in the design process, including requirements gathering, developing content strategy and site structure, wireframing and prototyping .

3. Two common types of task analysis

There are several kinds of task analysis but the two types that are used most regularly are cognitive task analysis and hierarchical task analysis .

Cognitive task analysis

Cognitive task analysis focuses on understanding the cognitive outlay involved in completing tasks. This includes decision-making, problem-solving, memory, judgment and attention. One of the important things to keep in mind with this kind of task analysis is that depending on the user, the findings may vary from task to task.

For example, an expert user may quickly and easily find a carton of milk and place it in an online shopping cart, whereas this task will take a new user substantially longer. Cognitive task analysis enables UX designers to explore how both kinds of users complete the task and how they can make the task easier for the new user.

Hierarchical task analysis

Hierarchical task analysis is the most commonly used kind of task analysis. Hierarchical task analysis essentially involves breaking a task down into sub-tasks in order to understand the way the user interacts with a given product. UX Matters’ Peter Hornsby observes that this can help UX designers no matter what kind of project they’re working on: when creating a new product, a task analysis enables UX designers to examine different approaches to the same task and arrive at the best one, and when redesigning an existing product, it can help optimize interactions—and task completion.

Keep in mind that it’s also possible to combine these two kinds of task analysis by noting where key decisions or other cognitive factors may come into play during the subtasks outlined in a hierarchical task analysis.

In fact, there are many different things that can be accounted for when analysing a given task. Tarik Dzekman from UX Collective provides a long list that includes the context of the task, what triggers the task, how long the task takes, and how frequently the task will be performed. Dzekman cautions that it would be impossible to capture everything that plays a role in a single task through task analysis, but at a minimum most task analyses will capture the sequence of subtasks that make up a task and a description of the task.

4. How to conduct a task analysis

A task analysis consists of two discrete steps : Gathering information to determine which tasks should be analyzed and then analyzing those tasks.

Gathering information

The first step in task analysis involves user research . UX designers can use any one of a myriad of user research techniques to uncover the key tasks users perform with a product and how they go about performing them. Everything from observing a user as they complete a task to interviewing them can be employed in this step. The ultimate goal is to identify the tasks that should be analyzed.

Analyzing tasks

After the UX designer decides on the tasks to analyze, separate documents breaking down each individual task should be created. While this document can be a simple list or a detailed flowchart, it will most commonly take the form of a hierarchical task-analysis diagram. A hierarchical task-analysis diagram visually lays out the user’s goal, the tasks they must complete to achieve the goal, and the subtasks that go into each task in a visual format that shows the sequence and relationship between these things.

Note: The Nielsen Norman Group has a great example of what the process of task analysis looks like—including a task analysis diagram.

A task-analysis diagram is useful in that it helps the UX designer visualize and understand the steps a user will go through to meet a specific goal. However, this diagram should also be viewed as a living document that can be altered and adjusted.

For example, if a user’s goal is to make a purchase from an online grocery store and they want to reorder something from a past order, they will have to login to their account. However, some users may forget their password, forcing them to reset it. It would be valuable to acknowledge this potential step in the task-analysis diagram.

The need for updates and adjustments is why some UX designers prefer to use spreadsheets over diagrams for task analysis, although some use both a written list of tasks in combination with a diagram.

5. Using task analysis to improve UX

Of course, the most important thing about task analysis is that UX designers can apply what they’ve learned to their design solution, improving the user experience in the process. By understanding the steps a user goes through to complete a task, UX designers can come up with the best approach to support that task . This is valuable as it can eliminate points of confusion for the user, such as an excessive number of choices, or reduce the number of steps a user must take to complete a task.

It can also lead to innovations a UX designer may not have thought of otherwise. For example, perhaps when designing an online grocery store, a UX designer notices users heavily rely on shopping lists they keep in their mobile phones when filling their carts. This could lead the UX designer to create a way for users to sync their mobile phone’s shopping list with the store’s interface in order to streamline shopping. In referencing the task analysis, the UX designer knows they are coming up with solutions that will positively impact users’ interactions.

6. Key takeaways

You should now have a basic understanding of the task analysis. To sum it up:

  • Tasks are observable activities that have a start and an end point.
  • Task analysis should be conducted early in the design process, usually starting during user research.
  • There are multiple kinds of task analysis, but the two that are used the most are cognitive task analysis and hierarchical task analysis.
  • A task analysis is conducted in two steps. First, through user research, the UX designer will gather information that will identify the tasks to be analyzed. Second, the UX designer will create a diagram or other document to break down a task.
  • UX designers apply what they’ve learned from task analysis to create the best user experience. This can lead to design improvements and innovations.

Now that you know about task analysis, you might want to learn more. If so, you’ll find the following articles useful:

  • What is user research, and what’s its purpose?
  • How to deal wIth cognitive load in UX and voice design
  • What is the UX design process? A complete, actionable guide
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UX Task Analysis: A Complete Guide + Example

UX Task Analysis: A Complete Guide + Example

TABLE OF CONTENTS

It’s almost impossible to create an intuitive website without knowing your user’s goals and struggles along the way. But how do you find out what they are? Luckily, there is an effective way to do that — task analysis. By following this article, you will master task analysis and obtain the knowledge you need to design an efficient and user-centered product.   

Key Takeaways

➡️ Task analysis in UX means detailed mapping of how a user completes their goal using a digital product and of dependent system actions

📈 It is crucial when developing a new product or when updating an existing one

🎯 Understanding exactly how a user interacts with a system leads to design improvements, increased user satisfaction, and overall increased efficiency

🐝 To gather data for task analysis one may use methods such as interviews, contextual inquiry , task-based usability testing and more

✅ The output of a UX task analysis is most often a task analysis diagram

What is task analysis?

Task analysis is, simply put, the understanding of a user’s task. It’s a combination of understanding the user, their task, and their environment. Performing a task analysis leaves a detailed understanding of the task sequence, its complexity, environmental conditions, tools, skills, and information the user needs to perform the task to achieve their goal.

It encompasses a broad range of techniques from observations of the user in their natural environment to documenting how the users perform their tasks in an existing system. A good task analysis leads to actionable insights into user processes. This information can be directly applied in designing efficient user flows that liberate users from unnecessary work and delegate said work to the system. 

What are the types of approaches to user task analysis

There are three approaches to task analysis, which can however be combined:

  • Contextual  
  • Hierarchical  

UX task analysis approaches

Now, we will break down each approach in more detail.

Contextual task analysis

A central, key step in contextual task analysis is contextual observations/interviews. The idea is that analysts must observe and interview users in their real-life work context to understand their needs and “hot button” motivators.

Julie A. Jacko; professor, author of Human-Computer Interaction Handbook

Contextual analysis means obtaining a model of how a user completes a certain task, in their natural environment. This enables you to understand how the product will fit the user’s environment, actual needs, and other tools they already use.

For example, if you want to test the usability of an app for bike-sharing, you should test this with users outside, on the go. Nobody will be using this app from the comfort of their couch, on the contrary, one might expect it to be used under changeable outside light conditions or in a hurry This is a specific context within which the task analysis should be conducted.

To design products used in a distracting environment one should consider providing safeguards against unintentional errors, and including options to pick the task up again after a delay (Mayhew, 2007).

Contextual task analysis is indispensable in pinpointing novel business opportunities – “At which point can we design technology solutions that help the user do their task more efficiently?” It also helps design the product so that it can be seamlessly integrated into the user’s existing processes and it’s easy for new users to pick up.

Lastly, understanding how users already interact with existing tools helps design an interface that’s inherently familiar to the users.

Cognitive task analysis

Cognitive task analysis focuses on understanding the deeper mental processes such as decision-making, attention, memory, and judgment that a task involves . By studying users’ cognitive processes, UX researchers and designers can gain insights into how users understand, learn, and perform tasks within a given interface or system.

This technique can include UX methods such as think-aloud protocols, observational studies, user interviews, and usability testing .

Hierarchical task analysis

Hierarchical task analysis studies user behavior by breaking complex tasks down into smaller subtasks . This approach helps to gain more detailed and precise information into the process of users completing complex tasks as each step can be analyzed separately. 

Each subtask can be analyzed using either of the two methods described above or a combination of both methods. This detailed information can be later visualized in a form of a diagram that describes the steps taken to accomplish a certain larger goal.

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What is the main goal of Task Analysis in user research?

Task analysis is supposed to provide actionable insights into user processes which can be directly applied in designing efficient user flows that liberate users from unnecessary work and delegate said work to the system. It encompasses a range of techniques from observations of the users to documenting their performance.

When to do task analysis?

There are two use cases when task analysis is most beneficial:

  • When developing a brand-new product
  • When updating an existing system

Ideally done during all stages of the design process , task analysis is most useful at the beginning (Courage et al, 2007).

If you follow the Design Thinking process, incorporate it into the Empathize and Define stages. Doing task analysis at the beginning will ultimately save time and money during the later stages. Understanding how users work makes the design phase move much more quickly, it helps prioritize the features, and saves on testing, as the design will be more informed and fewer iterations will be needed.

However, task analysis can be just as successfully applied to updating an existing project and can still drive your updates to be more user-centric.

Preparing for a UX task analysis

The first step, of course, is to pick a specific task you want to analyze . Before starting the task analysis, decide on the scope and granularity – i.e. how much time you have, what user population you want to cover, how many types of tasks, and in how much detail you want to specify them.

Split your task into more specific tasks if needed , depending on the level of detail you decided.

For example, if you are designing a collaboration platform, you may be interested in a larger picture – understanding how work moves from person to person and the users’ general jobs. On the other hand, if your product is targeting single users who don’t interact, you may want to start with the target user’s main goals and sub-goals and move down to the breakdown of specific steps they take to achieve these goals. 

How to conduct a UX task analysis?

There are 2 main parts to a UX task analysis:

  • Gather information about users
  • Analyze the data

The output of a UX task analysis is a task-analysis flow diagram.

1. Task Analysis: Gathering information

The objective is to understand users’ goals, mental models, and tasks in their natural environment. Who are they? What information do they have and lack? What mental models do they have of the activities that your product covers? And most importantly – what are their goals?

These are some methods that are used:

  • Contextual analysis or contextual inquiry – If you have the time and resources, bring the research to users by conducting site visits. Observing the users in their natural environment will allow you to document their steps and decisions as they solve tasks. Supplement your observations by asking questions about their goals and reasoning.
  • Interviewing – Make the interview behavioral rather than attitudinal – get them to walk you through their process and explain their decisions. Ask them to show you the artifacts and tools they would normally use and let them walk you through how they would use them. Artifacts could be e.g. a calendar, notes, paper form – anything they already produce to help themselves in the task.
  • Recording user activities – This might be a user taking self-recorded notes in a diary study or with the help of a tracking software such as a session recording tool .
  • Focus group – A semi-structured discussion with multiple target users.  Moderate their discussion to reach a consensus on what the task steps look like, what kind of decisions they have to make along the way, and what kind of goals they are achieving.
  • Task-based user testing – If you are not developing a product from scratch, but rather updating an existing one, conduct task-based usability testing and observe how users complete the tasks in the existing system. You can do this in person or remotely with the help of a usability testing tool . Keep records of all user actions, such as page views, click paths, and actions like purchase or download.

An informal task analysis is better than none. Oftentimes rigorous task analysis requires much time and effort so that one is tempted to let go of the idea completely. If interviewing, focus groups, user testing, and other techniques are unavailable to you, consider informal, unobtrusive observations of real users using a product - it will be more valuable than doing nothing.

2. Putting the Analysis into Task Analysis

A variety of tools can help you to make sense of your data: 

  • Affinity diagrams – If you are just starting generative research to prioritize features of a new product, use affinity diagrams mapping users’ needs, goals, and preferences. 
  • User Personas – To understand your target users, craft rich persona descriptions that contain user backgrounds, goals, needs, knowledge, and environment information. 
  • Users Scenarios – Moving closer to the task itself, you can write user scenarios   – short stories starting with the user’s situation and describing the steps, tools, and artifacts the user uses to arrive at a happy ending. However, the ultimate method in hierarchical task analysis is the diagrams.

The result of a UX task analysis is most often a flow diagram.

Flow diagrams

UX task analysis flow diagram

Flow diagrams are the most important outcome of task analysis. They document the core of the task – how users interact with a system as they move through and complete their task . They illustrate the sequence of steps and the dependencies. Depending on the scope of your analysis your UX task analysis diagram can incorporate detailed elements such as detailed user decisions, interaction with other individuals, pop-up dialog elements and menu items, other tools, etc. 

For preexisting design solutions, the diagram will often be surprisingly elaborate and messy. The information from a detailed diagram allows you to see unnecessarily complicated information exchange between the system and the user and define actionable design recommendations.

A good practice for creating an organized flow diagram is color-coding the tasks so that you can immediately see which actions are done by the user and which actions are done by the system.

UX task analysis example

To make it easier for you to understand the process, we are going to walk you through a simplified example of UX task analysis on an existing system. In this example, we will be analyzing Marco, who wants to buy a new pair of jeans for the summer.

Marco’s goal: “Purchase the jeans from an online store.”

Step 1: Split the task into smaller subtasks.

  • Find the jeans on the website
  • Add jeans to the shopping cart
  • Proceed to checkout

Step 2: Research how exactly Marco completes the subtasks using a website usability testing tool and analyze how he proceeds, or if he most often shops on a mobile device, use a mobile testing tool of course.

Step 3: Analyze Marco’s behavior and prepare data for creating a task analysis diagram.

Step 4: Create a diagram

Here’s an example of what the diagram could look like:

Flow diagram and sequence diagram of Marco's flow

Step 5: Next step

Looking at the task diagram, how can we optimize the task flow to make it more efficient from Marco’s point of view? Can we reduce the number of steps, decisions, and information he needs to know?

This is where your own cutting-edge design solution comes in.

References and further reading

Courage, Reddish and Wixon: Task Analysis. In Human-Computer Interaction, 2007

Marine: Task Analysis: The Key UX Design Step Everyone Skips, https://www.searchenginewatch.com/2014/03/27/task-analysis-the-key-ux-design-step-everyone-skips/

Mayhew: Requirement Specifications within the Usability Engineering Lifecycle. In Human-Computer Interaction, 2007

Usability’s Body of Knowlege: Taks Analysis, http://usabilitybok.org/task-analysis

People also ask (FAQ)

Task analysis in UX is a systematic approach to mapping out how a user completes their task within a system . It reveals each step needed to be taken, by the user and by the system, the flow, and the dependencies. Often in task analysis larger goals are broken down into smaller subtasks which are all analyzed in detail and this approach can offer insight into any inefficiencies and possible issues.

These are the main steps of conducting a UX task analysis:

  • Define a task you want to analyze
  • Break the task down into smaller subtasks
  • Gather information about users (e.g. task-based usability testing )
  • Create a flow diagram

Task analysis is important in UX because it helps you understand your users, and their behavior when completing tasks using your digital product . This understanding can reveal potential issues and areas for improvement, guide design decisions, and support the overall efficiency of the user flow.

Hive full of creative minds, UX researchers, UX/UI designers, content writers and editors dedicated to sharing their collective knowledge and expertise with the UX community. Our content team collaborates to produce high-quality resources on a variety of topics related to UX research, UX/UI design, usability and user testing, and a lot of actionable UX tips. You can find insights and practical tips that can help businesses improve their user experience and achieve their goals in our Blog Posts and Guides . You can find articles by our staff, as well as mentions of UXtweak and our content in the top UX publications such as Smashing Magazine , Interaction Design Foundation , UX Magazine , UXmatters , UXbooth , UX Mastery, and UXtools . UXtweak and our content have also been featured by companies such as Figma , Wix , HubSpot , Elementor, Toptal , Avast , CareerFoundry , and others.

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Task analysis and how it can help build a project team

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Building an effective project team is vital to successful outcomes. As a project manager, you know there’s nothing more important than working with skilled, productive, and collaborative team members to meet or exceed project goals. However, doing this can be significantly more challenging than it sounds.

Thankfully, task analysis provides insight into a potential team member’s work processes before a project begins. This allows you to see what individual users bring to the tasks and helps you build the most efficient team possible. Today we’ll discuss how to use task analysis to build your project team. We’ll also discuss how monday.com can simplify task analysis and your project’s overall processes to encourage maximum productivity.

What is task analysis?

Task analysis is a behavior analysis that allows project managers to see how individual team members accomplish their tasks. During your task analysis, your primary goal will be to learn key things like:

  • How a person accomplishes their goals
  • The specific steps a person takes to perform the task
  • The type of problem-solving a person uses to complete complex tasks
  • What experience and skill set an individual brings to your team
  • How a person complete their tasks in different environments
  • The mood and thoughts a person has about their task

To conduct a high-level task analysis, there are specific steps to take. These are crucial to fully understanding how a task analysis works on an individual and team-wide level.

How does task analysis work?

A task analysis includes the following six steps:

  • Identify your goals:  Figure out which task you want to analyze and what your purpose for analyzing it is. Determine your observation’s start and endpoint so you know when to begin your data collection and note-taking.
  • Break the task down into smaller tasks:  Once you’ve identified your goals, you’ll want to break down the main task you’ll be observing into smaller ones. You can break this down into as many smaller tasks as you’d like, but generally, six to eight will allow for the best results.
  • Decide what type of analysis you’ll be doing:  There are five common types of task analysis, so you must decide which works best in achieving your goals.
  • Begin your task analysis:  Make sure you take lots of notes during your study so you can review them later. While taking notes, consider how challenging each smaller task was for the team member, their process in completing it, and how they performed both physically and cognitively. Also, note how long each smaller task takes and the total time to achieve the primary goal from start to finish.
  • Review your notes:  After the in-person analysis is complete, you’ll find it helpful to look things over on your own, away from the situation. Identify any areas that may present an issue to your project team and consider ways that you could optimize the individual’s workflow. If you’ve conducted a task analysis for each project team member, compare these results to see where you could optimize workflow, increase productivity, and improve collaboration team-wide.
  • Share your results:  Once you’ve completed your individual or team-wide analysis, share your results with the whole team. After your independent analysis, getting input from the entire team improves consistency and ensures the plan moving forward is feasible for everyone involved.

Task analysis in project development and management

Task analysis can help you develop and manage projects more efficiently. Thorough task analysis can allow you to optimize workflows and make the most of your team’s skill set, experience, and expertise. To be most effective, you’ll want to perform individual task analysis on each project team member and then look at the results from a team-wide perspective.

Task analysis helps project managers create more competent teams and manage project roadblocks.

Benefits and potential drawbacks of using task analysis to build a team

There are numerous benefits to using task analysis when building a team. Notably, using task analysis can help you:

  • Simplify complex tasks:  Challenging or complicated tasks are more manageable when broken down into smaller sub-tasks. Task analysis is an excellent way to help you achieve this. In return, you may find your team feels more empowered and confident in their roles instead of overwhelmed by tasks.
  • Reduce mistakes:  Conducting an in-depth task analysis helps you find potential errors or roadblocks that may be caused by how your team executes their tasks. By finding these potential issues early on, you can reduce the risk of mistakes happening further into the project and even apply that to future projects to refine your processes.
  • Improve existing procedures and processes:  A significant benefit of task analysis is the ability to improve current procedures and processes or even develop new ones that are more effective and productive. During your analysis, you should also be able to identify the resources and skills necessary for new or existing processes.

Of course, there are a few potential drawbacks every project manager should be aware of. A few potential issues in the task analysis process you should be mindful of include:

  • The process can be time-consuming.
  • Task analysis sometimes yields complex findings that are challenging to decipher.
  • Since your team members are only human, there could be discrepancies in how quickly or efficiently they perform a given task from one day to another.
  • When getting feedback from your team, you may encounter diverse viewpoints that make it challenging to reach a consensus on how you should perform tasks.

You may find it helpful to better understand task analysis, its benefits, and its potential drawbacks by seeing some real-life examples.

Examples of task analysis and how it can be applied

There are many applications for task analysis in building and managing project teams. Below are two examples that can help you understand how task analysis is applied in real life.

Example one

A project manager needs to build a team for a project designed to market a new product for their company. They use task analysis to observe candidates for the team. Then, they review their notes to match the right team members based on experience, skill sets, personality, and overall efficiency.

Example two

A project manager notices the project is slipping behind initial projections and is at risk of missing the final deadline. They conduct an in-depth task analysis of each team member and then cross-reference those results for the entire team. Using this information, they identify tasks that could be simplified and share their results with the team, who implements the suggested changes. As a result, productivity levels increase, and the group gradually gets back on track with initial projections to successfully meet their final deadline.

Task analysis and monday.com

Although worthwhile, task analysis can be a lengthy process. Using the monday.com Work OS can make this process simpler and quicker by:

  • Promoting real-time collaboration:  Share results with your team faster and more efficiently with the real-time collaboration capabilities of our Work OS.
  • Providing customizable dashboards:   Customizable dashboards  allow you to view and compare the information that means the most to you.
  • Offering different ways to view and compare your data:  Our Work OS provides multiple ways to view your data, including  Kanban boards  and Gantt charts .
  • Automating routine tasks:   Automate everyday tasks  and approvals to streamline your work processes and achieve maximum efficiency during your task analysis and projects.

By now, you have a pretty solid understanding of what task analysis is and why it’s important. But, we’ve answered a few frequently asked questions below just in case.

Frequently asked questions

What are the five steps of task analysis.

The five steps of task analysis include:

  • Identify your goals
  • Break the larger task into smaller sub-tasks
  • Decide which type of task analysis you’ll be conducting
  • Conduct your analysis
  • Share your results with your team members and other stakeholders

What are the five types of task analysis?

The five types of task analysis include:

  • Performance analysis
  • Cognitive task analysis
  • Content analysis
  • Learning analysis
  • Activity analysis

What is the importance of task analysis?

Task analysis is important because it helps your project team members understand how to complete each task step to their best abilities. Additionally, it reduces mistakes, streamlines processes, and increases productivity.

Learn what task analysis can do for your team

Task analysis can help you build the best team for each project by ensuring you have the necessary experience, skill set, and personalities to promote collaboration and maintain high productivity levels. Additionally, task analysis can help simplify complex tasks and help your hand-picked team meet or exceed deadlines. Using monday.com to perform your task analysis and compare data makes the process simpler and more efficient.

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The Essential Intro to Task Analysis

Swetha Amaresan

Updated: November 20, 2019

Published: July 29, 2019

When DIY furniture arrives at your doorstep, there are typically two reactions you can have. The first is an excited, confident feeling that you'll have this thing built in no time. I envy those people because they usually are done in no time.

guide to task analysis

The other reaction is cautious optimism, where you nervously peer through the project materials trying to figure out which side of the directions to start with -- only to find that the entire document is in a language you can't read. These are the people who spend hours scratching their heads convincing themselves they don't need a new couch, they have perfectly good lawn chairs instead. Guess which group I belong to?

The best products are intuitive and user-friendly. Their interfaces and designs are organized and simple to navigate, making it easy for customers to achieve their goals. Regardless if you're a DIY furniture company or a SaaS business, creating an easy-to-use product is crucial to your organization's success.

If you're not sure whether your product is user-friendly, you can perform a task analysis to measure its usability. A task analysis is a product development test that records a customer's ability to complete a task. The outcome can provide insight into customer behavior and how you can improve your product's design.

In this post, we'll go into more depth on what a task analysis is, then provide a template you can use to run this test at your business.

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What Is Task Analysis?

Task analysis is the process of observing customers using your product or service in real-time to better understand their process for performing certain tasks. Once completed, you can learn which tasks your application should support and what features or interfaces should be adjusted to align with customer needs .

A task analysis can help you understand more than just which tasks customers can complete and how they go about doing so. It can also demonstrate the existing knowledge some users have and how that affects their performance with your product. This gives your team helpful information that further defines your target demographic.

Additionally, it's important to keep in mind that in this case task analysis is being described as a method for improving a business's user experiences. However, this process can also be used for several other reasons, such as helping people with disabilities perform certain tasks and putting together training materials.

The next section breaks down the two types of task analysis you can perform as well as the differences between each two.

Types of Task Analysis

Below are two types of task analysis.

1. Hierarchical Task Analysis

This type takes a complex task and breaks it down into smaller, simpler sub-tasks. That way, you can direct the user to achieve a goal using a certain set of steps. This creates a controlled environment that lets you analyze specific aspects of the customer experience. We can view an example of this type using the image below.

Hierarchal Task Analysis

Source: UXmatters

2. Cognitive Task Analysis

This type asks participants to use their problem-solving, decision-making, and personal judgment to complete a task. Customers are given an objective but unlike in a hierarchical test, they can choose how they'll achieve the goal. The researcher takes notes on the participant's process and records the key pain points experienced during the test. This gives businesses an unbiased look into customer perception and how they interpret your interface and design. We can look at a cognitive task analysis in the image below.

Cognitive Task Analysis

Source: NWLink

Now that we're familiar with the two types of task analyses, let's take an in-depth look at each one using the examples below.

Task Analysis Examples

1. hierarchal task analysis example.

Goal/End Task: Find your company's FAQ page online.

Sub-Task 1: Turn on the computer.

Sub-Task 2: Log-in.

Sub-Task 3: Open the web browser.

Sub-Task 4: Search "[Your company] knowledge base."

Sub-Task 5: Select the link titled "[Your company] Knowledge Base."

Sub-Task 6: Scroll down the landing page until you see the heading "FAQ."

This task analysis can help you understand what steps in this process can be simpler or automated to save your users time. For instance, rather than forcing customers to search for your knowledge base and scroll down to read the FAQ , perhaps your FAQ page can be set up as its own page that can be searched straight from the web.

2. Cognitive Task Analysis Example

Goal/End Task: Publish a new blog post.

In this example, you can analyze the decisions a user makes when asked to complete a generic task. For instance, one user might pull out a smartphone, unlock it, open the Notes app, and begin jotting down notes. Another user might pull out a laptop, turn it on, and begin typing in Microsoft Word.

A third user might perform the same steps as the previous user but, instead, open their web browser, search for their blog, and begin typing their blog post there. A fourth user might just shrug their shoulders and claim they've never done such a thing.

This task analysis can help you understand how different users navigate the process of solving the same problem in their unique way. Considering what the majority of users do when assigned a certain problem can tell you how a task is accomplished -- not how you believe it would be accomplished.

For example, you may have assumed most people would have opened a laptop or computer but could be surprised to find that some people prefer to write on their phones or with a pen and notepad. Recognizing these specific behaviors will help your team adjust features and align the product with how your customers want to use it.

Both types of tests are useful to a product development team and can be conducted on any product at your business. To help your team get started, we put together the template below that can be used for both types of task analyses.

Task Analysis Template

Participant Name:

Observer Name:

(I): Independent Step

(V): Verbal Prompt

(P): Physical Prompt

For usability tests, check out our guide to first click testing .

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3 templates for conducting user tests, summarizing UX research, and presenting findings.

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Task analysis.

Task Analysis is a method of observing participants in action performing their tasks. Task Analysis helps figuring out how users perform tasks and how a system, product or service should be designed for users so that they can achieve their intended goals. Task Analysis also helps determine what user goals are i.e. what designers must design for; how do users determine or measure the completion of tasks, what sort of personal, social as well as cultural attributes influence the user’s performance, etc.

Quick details: Task Analysis

Structure: Structured

Preparation: Respondent recruitment, Tasks outline, Recording tools

Deliverables: Recordings, Transcripts, Data

More about Task Analysis

Task analysis can be used in a number of situations such as when we are designing a website, when we want to test a prototype and task analysis can also be part of user testing/validation. It is important that task analysis is performed during or before the design phase so that the insights obtained can be easily incorporated into the product, service or system being designed.

Task Analysis can be performed one on one or online depending on the project under consideration. In order to analyze the way a user performs tasks, complicated and time consuming tasks can be broken down into subtasks, which can be analyzed as well as observed individually.

Types of Task Analysis

Task Analysis is of two types depending on the end-goal and composition. If the task analysis involves analyzing qualitative end-goals such as decision-making, emotions, problem-solving skills, recall, then it is termed as Cognitive Task Analysis. Whereas, if the Task Analysis involves breaking down a complex task into subtasks, analyzing the subparts and deducing the nature of the whole based on its composite parts, then such analysis is termed as Hierarchical Task Analysis.

Advantages of Task analysis

1. great understanding of users and their end-goals.

Task analysis allows the researcher to not only understand the participants end goals but also their competence in performing the task, the triggers that lead to the task, the triggers that disrupt the user’s flow during the task as well as the tools the user employs to perform the task.

2. High level understanding of user environments

Task Analysis also gives an indication of the user’s environment and whether or not the environment is conducive to perform the task .

3. Relevant at every stage of the project

Task Analysis can be conducted at any stage of the product or service development but the earlier it is conducted, the better.

4. Practical

Task analysis helps to highlight the practical aspects that come into play when a user is performing a task .

5. Determine gaps between set processes and actual steps in performing a task

This method also helps figure whether there is a difference between the way the user actually performs the task and the way the user says they perform the task .

Disadvantages of Task analysis

1. time consuming.

If the task analysis were performed with a large sample of participants, the activity would be time consuming. Online tools may help is recording data but actual observation will happen when the researcher is present at the time the task is being performed.

2. Complex findings

Depending on whether the task analysis method is cognitive or hierarchical, the findings may be complex and not that easily analyzable.

3. Discrepancy in the pace of performing the task

If the users do not give sufficient time for performing a task during the exercise, then the system or product can be off from what the user requirement is. This may be due to the users rushing through a task during the exercise which they otherwise perform at a relaxed pace. This would be true even when the user performs a task hastily otherwise but during the exercise, performs it in a relaxed manner.

4. Diverse Viewpoints

If the scope of the project is large, then user testing may result in large amount of diverse data may be difficult to collate and analyze .

Think Design's recommendation

Task Analysis goes a long way in enhancing the usability of your product/ organization if done correctly. Use this as a method if your objective is to assist users in performing their tasks or if you are intending to improve organizational efficiency by understanding the tasks and then optimizing them. 

Consider the following recommendations to improve the impact of your task analysis exercise:

  • Understanding linkages and hierarchy of tasks is important to get a bird’s eye perspective. Map your understanding in a hierarchical flow-chart and then use that to analyze.
  • More often than not, there are handoffs involved during tasks. Understand those handoffs and mapping people to tasks will improve your understanding of the kind of organization you are working for. More importantly, this will give you the linkages among people, tasks and systems/tools which are much needed while redefining a product/ organization.
  • The purpose of this exercise is to understand the current state and how this could become a baseline for the future state. Hence, Task Analysis should be done as an analysis than a documentation of what is existing. Always question why the tasks are being done the way they are being done and find out how the situation can be improved.
  • As a UX practitioner, you are dealing with emotions of the user and you want to make amends in the areas where users are frustrated. When you map out tasks, it might greatly help if you also capture emotions while performing those tasks.

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Related methods.

  • Brainstorming
  • Business Model Canvas
  • Ethnography
  • Guided Tour
  • Participatory Design
  • Visit Survey

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How To Conduct an Effective Job Task Analysis in 8 Easy Steps

task analysis by

Identify and interview subject matter experts (SME)

A subject matter expert (SME) is an employee at your company who has been in the role and can understand the industry best practices involved with performing at a high level. This person might be the current employee in the role, the employee’s manager, or someone who started in the role and advanced to a higher position successfully. Ideally, you’ll be able to talk to a few people to understand what the day-to-day activities of the role look like. 

In this phase, simply create a list of primary sources with whom you’d wish to speak. You’ll want to conduct your own research and observations before meeting with these SMEs. 

Observe the job

The next step of the job task analysis is to observe the role yourself. If this role is currently filled, shadow the employee for a day to get a sense of their activities for yourself. What job tasks does the person do during working hours? 

This step may not be possible if your company is working remotely. If you can’t physically shadow someone, ask them to share their calendar with you or if you can attend some of their virtual meetings. Watch for tasks or activities that an employee is performing that they may not be aware are part of the job duties. For instance, if you see someone taking notes in a meeting, but that’s not listed in their job description, record that observation for future reference. 

List the known duties of the role

Responsibilities are broad categories of essential duties that a role requires. Responsibilities can be broken down into job tasks. For instance, “Fulfilling customer orders” is a responsibility; critical tasks within that category include things like printing out shipping labels or packaging orders for shipment. Try to get as granular as possible when it comes to listing job tasks. Keep your statements clear and concise. Highlighting these specific tasks makes it easier to identify knowledge requirements, specify any physical demands, and create a clear picture later on in your job description. 

Create questionnaires for employees

Continue to illuminate the job’s requirements by creating a structured questionnaire for employees to complete. These questionnaires can be used to find out how often someone performs a task, or to assess if there is something in the job description that is irrelevant. 

Alternately, ask your existing employees to complete a skill assessment. Skill assessments are typically used to screen candidates, but current employees can also participate. 

By designing a series of questions from Vervoe’s library of over 300 validated assessments , HR teams can understand which skills are pertinent and relevant to the day-to-day tasks. Use a job title to generate one from scratch using our builder and be prompted with the right skills and questions to use.

Vervoe's popular assessment library

Interview specific workers

Before you start reaching out to your SMEs, review previous job descriptions, onboarding materials, and similar roles advertised at other competitive businesses. This should give you some perspective as to what questions to ask . 

When the time comes to question your SMEs, ask things like: 

  • What are your main 3-5 job responsibilities?
  • How would you describe the successful completion of your daily duties?
  • Tell me about the opportunities for advancement in this role.
  • Do you perform duties that aren’t listed in your job description?
  • How does management support you in this job?
  • Which departments do you regularly communicate with for your duties?

Try to understand how regular or how frequent some of the tasks the SME lists is required. Often, interviews provide a snapshot in time: if your SME is currently experiencing a busy holiday rush, for instance, you may find they’re reporting a specific task more frequently than they would the rest of the year. 

Define tasks and responsibilities

Next, finalize the position’s job tasks and responsibilities. Use the job analysis data from the questionnaires as well as qualitative data from your firsthand observation and SME interviews. Refer to existing documentation, but don’t get too rooted in what already exists. Remember, the goal is to evolve your job descriptions and provide more detail than a candidate would typically see in an employer-branded job posting. 

Verify your findings with current employees

Review your findings with your SMEs and hiring managers to ensure that everyone is aware of how the role has evolved over time. Some managers may not realize, for instance, that in the past an employee in this role took on more responsibility than they should have. 

What may have originally started as an entry-level role in your job descriptions may have since become a more technical one. Likewise, your job analysis may show that more than one person is needed to complete all the duties and responsibilities assigned to the role. Make sure all stakeholders are in alignment with your findings.  

Finalize the job task analysis

The final step in your job analysis is to take the information you have and begin to translate it into meaningful action. Define your employee selection criteria and refine your job descriptions. 

Speak to existing employees about training programs and see if there’s interest in futher skill development. Revisit your compensation and performance evaluation benchmarks to ensure  people are being paid fairly for the work performed. 

A job task analysis can also illuminate new ways to hire. For instance, a skill assessment can be a better predictor of success when task analysis has been completed. Questions in the skill assessment can be designed to replicate specific tasks and responsibilities listed in job descriptions, evaluating whether a candidate is truly capable of doing the job.

Skills assessment question types

[Read more: How Skills Based Hiring Can Transform Your Company ]  

Depending on the availability of your existing employees, as well as whether or not you use an automated skill assessment as part of the questionnaire step, a job task analysis can take as little as three to four days. The time and cost of a job task analysis depend on the complexity of the position. By one estimate, for lower complexity positions, costs range from $6,500 – $25,000 . 

A job task analysis may seem expensive and time-consuming; but, when you consider the costs of making a bad hire or the lost resources that come with high employee turnover, this exercise can prove to be invaluable. By gaining a deeper understanding of the job tasks each employee is responsible for, your organization will be better positioned to create a culture of recognition, productivity, and growth.

Emily Heaslip

Emily Heaslip

test skills

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How to Master Stakeholder Analysis for Project Success?

How-to-Master-Stakeholder

Category: Task Management .

Introduction

Picture yourself at the helm of an important project with high stakes. The atmosphere is charged, the team is driven, and you sprint towards the finish line. Then, out of nowhere, a stakeholder you have yet to learn about disrupts your plans. Their demands clash with the project’s fundamental objectives, and in no time, you find yourself entangled in a stakeholder drama that threatens to derail everything you’ve worked for.

Sound like a familiar nightmare? Well, it doesn’t have to be.

A critical part of project management is stakeholder analysis. This isn’t your typical, dull bureaucratic exercise – it’s an important step for stakeholder management for successful project outcomes.

What is a Stakeholder Analysis, and Why Should You Care?

Stakeholder analysis is a systematic approach used at the beginning of a project to identify all stakeholders, understand their needs and expectations, and strategize on how best to engage them throughout the project lifecycle. Stakeholders can range from investors and sponsors to team members and customers—anyone affected by the project’s outcomes. Think of stakeholder analysis as a pre-project party where you meet everyone who might be impacted by your project, from the CEO who signs the checks to the intern making the coffee. You can avoid nasty surprises by understanding their interests, concerns, and level of influence.

Here’s why stakeholder analysis is important

  • Identify probable conflicts early on so you can address them before they turn into full-blown stakeholder meltdowns.
  • Tailor your communication to each stakeholder. No more bombarding the CEO with technical details or leaving key team members in the dark.
  • When stakeholders feel heard and valued, they’re more likely to support your project.

stakeholder analysis

How to Conduct a Stakeholder Analysis in 4 Easy Steps?

1. identifying stakeholders.

Start by listing everyone with a stake in the project, including primary stakeholders (team members, clients) and secondary stakeholders (intermediaries). Remember tertiary stakeholders who may be less directly affected.

RACI , a common project management tool, helps establish a clear hierarchy of involvement for each task. This ensures everyone knows what’s expected of them.

Here’s the breakdown of RACI

  • Responsible: The person who actually does the work.
  • Accountable: The one who owns the final outcome and ensures it meets expectations.
  • Consulted: Someone whose expertise is valuable during the process.
  • Informed: kept in the loop on progress but was not directly involved.

However, RACI focuses on the initial loop and might miss external influencers – the observers. Though not initially considered stakeholders, these individuals or groups can still significantly impact project success. The takeaway? Don’t be surprised if those outside the initial list can derail your project. That’s why a comprehensive stakeholder analysis to Identify conflicts early is crucial, but proactively managing them is equally important.

Some strategies for resolving stakeholder conflicts include:

  • Negotiation and compromise to find mutually acceptable solutions.
  • Involving a neutral third-party mediator for complex conflicts.
  • Escalating to higher authorities when conflicts cannot be resolved.
  • Clearly defining decision-making processes and escalation paths.
“Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.” Steve Jobs

2. Gathering Information

Conduct interviews, surveys, and meetings to gather detailed information about the stakeholders’ needs, expectations, and the extent of their influence on the project. Brainstorm with everyone who might be affected by your project. Think internal (team members, executives) and external (clients, investors).

In addition to interviews, surveys, and meetings, consider these methods for comprehensive stakeholder data

  • Focus groups for in-depth discussions with specific stakeholder segments.
  • Observation of stakeholders in their actual work environments.
  • Analysis of project documentation, reports, and communication trails.
  • Social media monitoring for external stakeholder sentiments.

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3. Analyzing Information

Use tools such as stakeholder maps and interest-influence matrix to visualize and prioritize stakeholder importance and influence. Rank your stakeholders based on their influence and importance. The CEO might have a strong influence, while the intern might have less. This helps understand who needs the most attention and how they should be engaged.

Benefits of stakeholder mapping

  • Stakeholder mapping clarifies relationships and influence within the organization, improving communication and reducing misunderstandings.
  • Formal analysis of stakeholder roles and power dynamics reveals critical influencers and relationships, aiding in more informed decision-making.
  • Regular updates to the stakeholder map help organizations adapt to changes and maintain responsiveness in a dynamic environment.

The interest-influence matrix

The interest-influence matrix is a powerful tool in project management and stakeholder engagement. It helps visualize stakeholders’ relative involvement (interest) and power (influence) in a project or initiative. Plotting stakeholders on a 2×2 grid provides insights into how to best manage communication and engagement with each group.

Here’s a breakdown of the matrix:

  • High Interest/High Influence: These are your key players. They are strongly interested in the project’s outcome and have significant power to impact it. You must keep them closely informed, manage their expectations, and actively seek their input.
  • High Interest/Low Influence: These stakeholders are enthusiastic but need more control. Inform them about progress and address any concerns they raise, but only need to involve them in some decisions.
  • Low Interest/High Influence: These are the powerbrokers. Although they may not be directly involved in the project, they can significantly impact its success. Focus on understanding their needs and addressing any potential roadblocks they might create.
  • Low Interest/Low Influence: These are the low-priority stakeholders. Monitor their sentiment occasionally, but dedicate only a little time to communication.

interest-influence matrix

Benefits of using the interest-influence matrix

  • Identify who needs the most attention and tailored communication strategies.
  • Avoid bombarding stakeholders with information that’s not relevant to them.
  • Handle issues before they arise by understanding stakeholders’ concerns.
  • Foster collaboration and trust with key stakeholders.

By utilizing the interest-influence matrix, you can develop a targeted approach to stakeholder engagement, ultimately increasing your project’s success rate.

4. Planning Engagement

Develop a communication plan that targets each stakeholder group. Decide the mode, frequency, and intensity of communication required to keep stakeholders informed and involved. Not all stakeholders crave the same kind of communication.

Here’s a quick cheat sheet on stakeholder engagement

  • Executives: High-level summaries, quarterly updates.
  • Team Members: Regular team meetings, collaborative tools, and open communication channels.
  • Clients: Project updates, milestone reports, and clear demonstrations of progress.

As projects often drive organizational changes, stakeholder analysis provides valuable inputs for change management strategies:

  • Identify potential sources of resistance and plan mitigations.
  • Prioritize engagement for stakeholders crucial for successful change adoption.
  • Tailor communication and training plans based on stakeholder needs.
  • Leverage influential stakeholders as change champions and advocates.

Stakeholders’ interests, influence, and priorities can change over the course of a project, so the analysis needs to be revisited and updated periodically.

Potential Challenges and Pitfalls

Be aware of these common challenges in stakeholder analysis and plan mitigations.

  • Incomplete or inaccurate information about stakeholders.
  • Cognitive biases impacting stakeholder assessments.
  • Stakeholder reluctance to participate or share insights.
  • Changing stakeholder dynamics over the project lifecycle.
  • Resource constraints limiting the depth of analysis.

Stakeholder analysis is the key to navigating project complexities. By identifying all players, understanding their needs, and planning communication, you avoid surprises and build a winning team. Leverage tools like RACI, stakeholder maps, and the interest-influence matrix to prioritize engagement. Remember, stakeholder analysis is ongoing, so adapt your strategy as the project unfolds.

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Depression and Suicide Risk Screening: Updated Evidence Report and Systematic Review for the US Preventive Services Task Force

Affiliations.

  • 1 Kaiser Permanente Evidence-based Practice Center, Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, Portland, Oregon.
  • 2 Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill.
  • PMID: 37338873
  • DOI: 10.1001/jama.2023.7787

Importance: Depression is common and associated with substantial burden. Suicide rates have increased over the past decade, and both suicide attempts and deaths have devastating effects on individuals and families.

Objective: To review the benefits and harms of screening and treatment for depression and suicide risk and the accuracy of instruments to detect these conditions among primary care patients.

Data sources: MEDLINE, PsychINFO, Cochrane library through September 7, 2022; references of existing reviews; ongoing surveillance for relevant literature through November 25, 2022.

Study selection: English-language studies of screening or treatment compared with control conditions, or test accuracy of screening instruments (for depression, instruments were selected a priori; for suicide risk, all were included). Existing systematic reviews were used for treatment and test accuracy for depression.

Data extraction and synthesis: One investigator abstracted data; a second checked accuracy. Two investigators independently rated study quality. Findings were synthesized qualitatively, including reporting of meta-analysis results from existing systematic reviews; meta-analyses were conducted on original research when evidence was sufficient.

Main outcomes and measures: Depression outcomes; suicidal ideation, attempts, and deaths; sensitivity and specificity of screening tools.

Results: For depression, 105 studies were included: 32 original studies (N=385 607) and 73 systematic reviews (including ≈2138 studies [N ≈ 9.8 million]). Depression screening interventions, many of which included additional components beyond screening, were associated with a lower prevalence of depression or clinically important depressive symptomatology after 6 to 12 months (pooled odds ratio, 0.60 [95% CI, 0.50-0.73]; reported in 8 randomized clinical trials [n=10 244]; I2 = 0%). Several instruments demonstrated adequate test accuracy (eg, for the 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire at a cutoff of 10 or greater, the pooled sensitivity was 0.85 [95% CI, 0.79-0.89] and specificity was 0.85 [95% CI, 0.82-0.88]; reported in 47 studies [n = 11 234]). A large body of evidence supported benefits of psychological and pharmacologic treatment of depression. A pooled estimate from trials used for US Food and Drug Administration approval suggested a very small increase in the absolute risk of a suicide attempt with second-generation antidepressants (odds ratio, 1.53 [95% CI, 1.09-2.15]; n = 40 857; 0.7% of antidepressant users had a suicide attempt vs 0.3% of placebo users; median follow-up, 8 weeks). Twenty-seven studies (n = 24 826) addressed suicide risk. One randomized clinical trial (n=443) of a suicide risk screening intervention found no difference in suicidal ideation after 2 weeks between primary care patients who were and were not screened for suicide risk. Three studies of suicide risk test accuracy were included; none included replication of any instrument. The included suicide prevention studies generally did not demonstrate an improvement over usual care, which typically included specialty mental health treatment.

Conclusions and relevance: Evidence supported depression screening in primary care settings, including during pregnancy and postpartum. There are numerous important gaps in the evidence for suicide risk screening in primary care settings.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Systematic Review
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Depression* / diagnosis
  • Depression* / therapy
  • Mass Screening* / adverse effects
  • Mass Screening* / methods
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Psychotherapy
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Suicide, Attempted / prevention & control
  • United States
  • Antidepressive Agents

Aspect based sentiment analysis with instruction tuning and external knowledge enhanced dependency graph

  • Published: 14 May 2024

Cite this article

task analysis by

  • Xuefeng Shi 1 , 2 ,
  • Min Hu 1 , 2 ,
  • Fuji Ren 3 ,
  • Piao Shi 1 , 2 &
  • Satoshi Nakagawa 4  

Aspect-Based Sentiment Analysis (ABSA) is generally defined as a fine-grained task in Natural Language Processing (NLP). Recently, the integration of the Large Language Model (LLM) and Graph Convolutional Network (GCN) has been widely studied to excavate the underlying contextual information and support the sentiment polarity prediction. However, in existing research, the LLM is usually employed directly to generate the contextual feature representation without any specific instructions, which is not suitable for learning the domain language corpus. In addition, the existing works usually fuse the contextual feature and graph feature by GCN simply, and it ignores further specific processing to highlight the sentiment representations before the model’s final outputting. To tackle these two imperfections, this work proposes a novel ABSA model Instruction Tuning-based Graph Convolutional Network (ITGCN) to implement the subtask of predicting sentiment polarities \(^\textrm{R2}\) , which leverages the instructed LLM to generate the task-oriented contextual representation and the GCN to exploit the external affective knowledge-assisted syntactic features. In the proposed ITGCN, firstly, the inputting sentence is reconstructed with the designed task-specific instructions, which tell the LLM what is the target in the input. Secondly, this work’s dependency graph, before being processed by GCN, is weighted by the affective knowledge extracted from SenticNet. This kind of dependency graph is endowed with affective information, which is closer to the intention of the related study. Finally, to learn more structured knowledge, a bi-layer sentiment representation module is proposed and utilized to enhance the feature representation. To validate the effectiveness of the proposed ITGCN, extensive experiments have been conducted on five public and available datasets. The proposed ITGCN achieves competitive performance and outperforms the selected state-of-the-art baselines, obviously.

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Data availability and access

The datasets analysed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request ( https://github.com/zhangzheng1997/SSEGCN-ABSA ).

In this work, the spaCy toolkit is used to derive the dependency tree of the review: https://spacy.io/.

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Acknowledgements

This research was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China under Grant 62176084 and Grant 62176083, and in part by the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities of China under Grant PA2022GDSK0066 and Grant PA2022GDSK0068.

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Xuefeng Shi, Min Hu & Piao Shi

Anhui Province Key Laboratory of Affective, Hefei University of Technology, Danxia Road, Hefei, 230601, Anhui, China

School of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, Xiyuan Avenue, Chengdu, 611731, Sichuan, China

Graduate School of Information Science & Technology, The University of Tokyo, Kitamura, Tokyo, 113-8654, Japan

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Xuefeng Shi and Fuji Ren prepared the whole plan and conducted the related experiments. Xuefeng Shi, Piao Shi and Min Hu wrote the main manuscript text, and Xuefeng Shi and Satoshi Nakagawa prepared figures, and Xuefeng Shi and Piao Shi prepared tables. All authors reviewed the manuscript.

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Title: lys at semeval-2024 task 3: an early prototype for end-to-end multimodal emotion linking as graph-based parsing.

Abstract: This paper describes our participation in SemEval 2024 Task 3, which focused on Multimodal Emotion Cause Analysis in Conversations. We developed an early prototype for an end-to-end system that uses graph-based methods from dependency parsing to identify causal emotion relations in multi-party conversations. Our model comprises a neural transformer-based encoder for contextualizing multimodal conversation data and a graph-based decoder for generating the adjacency matrix scores of the causal graph. We ranked 7th out of 15 valid and official submissions for Subtask 1, using textual inputs only. We also discuss our participation in Subtask 2 during post-evaluation using multi-modal inputs.

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