My Notes on HCI, IA, IxD, UCD

Scenarios & Tasks analysis

February 1st, 2009 Posted in UCD

“Scenarios are a concrete description of user activity while performing a specific task, a description sufficiently detailed so that design implications can be inferred and reasoned about” - J M Carroll

Scenarios are about the user tasks n expectations. They help business understand the user decision making, decision influences, motivation.

Scenarios provide the ‘How’ perspective in understanding the following:

· Verifying the tasks and possible tasks combination’s

· Task influencers

· Task relationships based on users mental model

· User expectations from system functions.

Step 1 - Creating task list

This is primarily a data gathering activity. Purpose of the activity is to find out what users are looking for in the new product. It also gathers information about the user tasks, how they currently perform it and how to they wish to perform it in future. There are various techniques of gathering this data.

1. Real time – This is done by simply visiting the user at his workplace and observing his usage pattern to understand the interaction with the system or product at present. For example, if a company wants to launch a new portable media player with the target market being urban girls between the age of 16 to 24, then the best place for gathering real time data will be a junior college campus. Observer understands the way they interact with the system currently. Observer can also ask specific questions about the product they are using with its pros and cons.

2. Discussion support center – A room with several computers loaded with the group meeting software is used for this kind of activity. Focus groups are invited here. The facilitator explains the task and the group performs the task. Meeting software gathers this data and returns it for analysis.

3. Low tech methods – In this method, index cards or sticky notes are used. User arranges the cards in order of priority regarding to the functionality or feature usage parameter.

4. Internet surveys – Online survey sites use the forms for collecting this kind of data from the potential users.

At the end of the exercise, a list of task is created. This list tells the observer about how people would like to use the product & what purpose they may use it for. Once this list is prepared, a task user matrix is formed for further analysis.

Step 2 - Task user matrix

This matrix helps in analyzing, which users do which tasks. This can help business decide on interface design and planning documentation for products aka FRS (functional requirement specification)

For this kind of matrix, all the task gets listed in one column and the other columns shows the frequency of usage.

Step 3 – Task analysis

Method of Task analysis is demonstrated in the excel file attached here:


These tasks are then further divided into four major categories: High, Medium, Low, Future

Each user task is analyzed using this technique. While in the early stages a more generic approach is taken in defining the scenarios as it’s the conceptual stage of product. The purpose here is to identify major tasks & deriving the overall product functionality.

Step 4 – Creating Task flows based on functionality

Task flow is created in order to show the way in which tasks are done step by step. This includes logic & decision the user might take while doing the task. A flow-chart showing the branching & recursion of task.

Wire-frames are useful in:

1. Identifying mismatch with scenarios – Evaluating how well the current task flow supports the scenarios helps business identify aspects in the current flow that match & aspects that do not match.

2. Predicting errors – Inspection of possible errors such as steps out of order, errors of omission, errors of commission & misinterpretation.

3. Optimizing the task flow – Improving efficiency of the system with fewer clicks, lesser branching.

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