Task flow analysis

Decide

What it is

A step-by-step analysis of steps a user must take in order to reach a goal. This analysis is documented in a diagram that traces a user's possible paths through sequences of tasks and decision points in pursuit of their goal. If reaching the goal requires that the user interact with a system, tasks and decision points should represent steps taken by the user, as well as steps taken by the system.

Reasons to use it

To validate a design team's understanding of users' goals, common scenarios, and process, and to illustrate in a solution-agnostic way the overall flow of tasks through which a user progresses to accomplish a goal. Task flow diagrams also help surface obstacles in the way of users achieving their goal.

Prerequisites

User research Task flow analysis requires that you have a baseline understanding of your users' knowledge, goals, and behaviors.

Time required

Medium: 2-3 hours per user goal

How to do it

  1. Based on user research, identify target users' goals that need to be analyzed.

  2. For each goal, identify common scenarios and the tasks and decisions that the user or system will perform in each scenario. Don't assume you and your stakeholders share the same understanding of the tasks. The idea is to make the flow of tasks explicit in the diagram, so that you can check your understanding by walking through the diagram with users (steps 4 & 5).

  3. Produce a diagram that includes each task and decision point that a user might encounter on their way toward their goal. While there are several diagrammatic languages that can be used to produce task flow diagrams, the basic look is a flow chart of boxes for tasks and decision points and arrows showing directionality and dependencies among tasks. The diagram should cover the common scenarios identified in step 2.

  4. Present the diagram to a subject matter expert who knows the task(s) well enough to check for accuracy.

  5. In collaboration with users and/or subject matter exprts, annotate the task flow diagram to pinpoint areas of interest, risk, or potential frustration.

Applied in government research

No PRA implications. No information is collected from members of the public.

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