I heart task models


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@richardcaddick's ten minute, ten slide presentation from the UK UPA's I heart event February 2011. A quick look at why task models are the most transformational document in the user centred design process.

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  • I wanted to focus on task models as we see them as being the most transformational tool in the user centred design process. The insights gained from developing them help shape a project more than any other.\n\nA few years ago I was asked to facilitate some usability testing for a large financial services company. They were developing a new product and investing a lot of time and money to get it launched.\nAs we were running through the tests the same pattern emerged again and again. The site provided all the right content and tools that users needed... BUT the site never did what the users expected or wanted it to do.\nThe team had gone through all the right steps. They’d developed site maps and wireframes, they knew they needed usability testing to validate the product, and they’d done market research to identify the basic need.\nWhat they hadn’t done is find out what was going on inside the users heads and build a site around that.\nOver the next few minutes I want to do is define what a task model is, talk about some different behaviours we see and finally show how the task model is core to developing a considered UX strategy.\nSo let’s look at what a task model is....\n
  • It may seem logical to build a system that works like this... one step leads neatly onto the next.\n\nHowever if a user interacts with it, and they have a picture in their head that looks like this....\n
  • Then there’s going to be a problem.\n\nThe user has to bend themselves into the way the computer wants them to behave, rather than in the way they want...\n\nSo a good task model does this...\n
  • Through research you understand what’s going on inside a users head and develop a blueprint for how the site needs to behave. This is what you base the design of the system around.\nI haven’t got long enough to talk about research methods in depth, so I’ll talk about one...\nCall centres are absolute heaven for user researchers... you can hear the dialogue that people would have with a web site if only they could - what they’re trying to do, the problems they are having, how their family is involved, and the deep specific content needs that they couldn’t find online.\nHere’s an example... Island Cruises - £10k holiday booking disrupted because they couldn’t see what their kids would be eating a variety of foods on the cruise.\nSo let’s look at some shapes of task models that we uncover through research...\n
  • Firstly... this looks simple, but it will only create a simple site if the user only wants to do one thing in one order.\n\nE.g. a purchase confirmation having bought something would be an example here.\n\nWe find very few scenarios where a user expects this sort of behaviour.\n
  • We see more of these. We call it a controlled evaluation. A user is exploring variations of a defined product or service and the interface needs to allow them to do so in a controlled way.\n\nA car configurator maybe an example of this - the interface should allow the user to play with colour, alloy and trim options.\n
  • Finally we see this sort of task. It’s a complex evaluation of several elements - which may not have a direct relationship.\n\nIt looks random... it kind of is. But understanding this type of behaviour can be key to understanding how to design your site.\n\nLet’s pick an example of where we see this type of pattern emerging. Let’s say booking a holiday. You have\n- Location\n- Price\n- Meals\n- Who you are travelling with\n- Date / time\n- Departure airport etc etc\n\nYou can begin to see how this sort of behaviour actually seems quite rational and normal and the key is to design interfaces that allow users get answers at different points in their journey.\n\nFor one of our clients Island Cruises we developed an interface model that allowed users to access areas, to setting options and getting an accurate price. It was built with this behaviour model in mind, and the week after the site was launched there was a five fold increase in online sales.\n\nSo, finally, what happens if you start to extend your research and explore what happens before and after these tasks as part of a broader journey.\n
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  • You end up with an uber task model that shows the specific type of user behaviour and needs at each stage. We think this view will become one of the key documents when you’re developing the strategy of your products and services.\n\nFor us getting user insight to shape strategy is a very exciting prospect.\n
  • I heart task models

    1. 1. I heart task models @richardcaddick
    2. 2. If a system workslike this... @richardcaddick
    3. 3. ...when what’sgoing on insideusers’ headslooks like this.Then there’sgoing to be aproblem. @richardcaddick
    4. 4. Through research,a good task modelrepresents howthe user wants tobehave. And theproduct should bedeveloped aroundthat model. @richardcaddick
    5. 5. We see threetypes ofbehaviours.Occasionally wesee a straightlinking - e.g.between acheckout and aconfirmationpage. @richardcaddick
    6. 6. More frequentlywe seecontrolledevaluations - auser movesbetween a fewitems of a definedset - e.g. whenchoosing optionson a new car. @richardcaddick
    7. 7. we most oftensee Chaoticrequirements.accepting thecontent needs inthis pattern willhelp you tocreate easy tonavigate sites. @richardcaddick
    8. 8. As you build up abigger... @richardcaddick
    9. 9. ...and bigger... @richardcaddick
    10. 10. ... and biggerpicture of userbehaviour. Youend up with aninsightful modelthat you can useto shape your UXstrategies. @richardcaddick