Task Analysis

What is a task analysis? Let’s break it down (pun intended).

“Task” can be defined as an action that needs to be performed. “Analysis” can be defined as a separation of a whole into its component parts, a detailed examination of something. In the case of task analysis, that something being separated into its component parts is the action that needs to be performed.

Task analysis is a step-by-step look into the sub-actions that occur when someone is performing a task. It is extremely important to conduct a task analysis prior to design work as it helps you be better informed about the structure your design should have.

Let’s do a real-life example to really bring this concept home!

Task: Brushing your teeth

Brush Teeth.png

Step 1. Grab your toothbrush from its location.

Step 2. If you are not already near the bathroom sink, make sure you are near a sink with a faucet.

Step 3. Once you are near a sink with a faucet, grasp the faucet handle.

Step 4. Turn the faucet handle to open the water tap.

Step 5. Holding your toothbrush, face the bristle side of the toothbrush up.

Step 6. Hold the toothbrush with the bristle side up under the water flow in order to wash and rinse your toothbrush.

Step 7. Grasp the faucet handle.

Step 8. Turn the faucet handle to close the water tap.

Step 9. Grab your toothpaste from its location.

Step 10. Turn the lid of your toothpaste counterclockwise to open it.

Step 11. Place the toothpaste lid down.

Step 12. Squeeze some toothpaste out onto the bristle side of the toothbrush.

Step 13. Pick the toothpaste lid up and place it back on the toothpaste’s opening.

Step 14. Turn the lid of your toothpaste clockwise to close it.

Step 15. Put the toothpaste back in its location.

Step 16. Open your mouth into a wide smile.

Step 17. Bring the toothbrush up to your teeth.

Step 18. Scrub the outside surfaces of your upper teeth with the bristle side of the toothbrush.

Step 19. Scrub the chewing surfaces of your upper teeth with the bristle side of the toothbrush.

Step 20. Scrub the inside surfaces of your upper teeth with the bristle side of the toothbrush.

Step 21. Scrub the outside surfaces of your lower teeth with the bristle side of the toothbrush.

Step 22. Scrub the chewing surfaces of your lower teeth with the bristle side of the toothbrush.

Step 23. Scrub the inside surfaces of your lower teeth with the bristle side of the toothbrush.

Step 24. Scrub your tongue with the bristle side of the toothbrush using small strokes.

Step 25. Take the toothbrush out of your mouth.

Step 26. Spit out any toothpaste and saliva in your mouth.

Step 27. Grasp the faucet handle.

Step 28. Turn the faucet handle to open the water tap.

Step 29. Hold the toothbrush with the bristle side up under the water flow in order to wash and rinse your toothbrush.

Step 30. Run your thumb through the bristles, still under the water flow, in order to thoroughly wash and rinse your toothbrush.

Step 31. Put the toothbrush back in its location.

Step 32. Cup your hand under the water flow to gather some water in your hand.

Step 33. Bring your hand, filled with water, to your mouth.

Step 34. Open your mouth.

Step 35. Tilt your hand up to let the water cupped in your hand to fall into your mouth.

Step 36. Rinse your mouth with the water.

Step 37. Spit out the water.

Step 38. If you still feel some toothpaste residue in your mouth, perform Steps 32 - 37 until you no longer have any toothpaste residue left in your mouth.

Step 39. Grasp the faucet handle.

Step 40. Turn the faucet handle to close the water tap.

Step 41. Smile to show off your freshly brushed teeth!

As you can see, although it might not seem like it, there’s a lot of sub-actions that occur while brushing your teeth. It is important to lay all these steps out prior to design work because they help identify what requirements are needed in the structure of your design and help identify which areas can be provided additional support through your design. As the goal of designing is to design something that is as easy as possible for the user to use, conducting a task analysis allows you to see which areas, which sub-actions, can be automated so that the user doesn’t have to perform as many sub-tasks to complete a task.

Task analysis should be one of the first things you do before designing, but as designing is a continual process, remember to come back and perform task analyses throughout your design journey!