Do you know what task analysis is in the context of UX research? To find out, make sure to read our article. We’ll also show how to properly prepare for task analysis, present its different approaches and method as well as point to the benefits it can bring to the design process.

Task analysis in UX research – table of contents:

  1. What is task analysis in the context of UX?
  2. When to conduct task analysis?
  3. How to perform task analysis?
  4. Summary

What is task analysis in UX?

Task analysis is the process of learning about users by observing them in action (performing tasks). This method proves effective in finding out how potential users interact with the product and see whether they succeed in applying its functionalities (and to what extent). With the help of task analysis, UX researchers can get information about, among other things:

  • What personal (or cultural) experiences do users bring to the task?
  • How does the participants’ prior knowledge affect the approach to solving the task?
  • What impact does the physical environment have on users’ actions?
  • At what place and time do the participants perform the task?
  • What is the estimated (from the participant’s point of view) time to solve a given task of the assignment?

When to conduct task analysis?

Task analysis is worth doing first and foremost before creating a user flow. If they don’t exploit a particular product function in the expected or intended way or can’t complete the process of achieving a certain goal, that something was overlooked during the task analysis.

Task analysis will be a good choice for early prototyping or research validation. By knowing the likely path of a user from point A to point B, you can base a design that meets realistic expectations (and not just assumptions) on it.

Preparation for task analysis

The data gathered for conducting a task analysis can come from user interviews, observational studies or another research method. To start analyzing a task, you should have enough information to answer the following questions without too much trouble:‍

  • What makes users start the task?
  • How do users know when a task has been completed?
  • What do users need to know to perform this task?
  • What tools do users need when performing a task?
task analysis

Selecting the type of analysis

There is more than one approach to task analysis, and each of them, depending on the project, the nature of the research problem, overall circumstances or conditions, can work. One of the easiest methods to carry out is hierarchical task analysis.

  1. Hierarchical Task Analysis
    • Identify tasks and subtasks – the study should begin by identifying the main task, divided into smaller subtasks since each event needs its specific purpose. If the task contains more than eight subtasks, the issue under study is likely too broad or complex. In this case, it is better to separate the process, into separate cases.
    • Draw a diagram – the next step is to create a diagram of all the activities required to complete the task and each of its subtasks. Not everything will be equally important to the project, so you should incorporate your knowledge, experience together with guidance from the data you already have, to determine which steps are critical. The diagram should show how the tasks relate to each other and in what order they should progress – if, of course, the order matters in this case.
    • You can draw the diagram in any way that suits the entire team. There is no set standard or any guidelines for what it should look like. It can be sticky notes taped to a whiteboard, a sketch in a notebook or a diagram made in a graphics program. What matters is that it should be editable if necessary and understandable to project team members.

    • Write a story – diagrams are just figures and do not tell the whole story. They will mean little to someone who is not familiar with the task at hand. As an addition to the diagram, you should describe a story that will expand and complement it.
    • Provide external feedback – having the diagram and story prepared, it is a good idea to contact a person (or even several people) from outside. This person may not belong to the project team but must know and understand the situation. Make sure to get feedback on whether the prepared description of the task and all its subtasks are clearly understood. Such guidance will enable you to catch ambiguities and understatements that need improvement.
  2. Cognitive Task Analysis
  3. Cognitive task analysis is similar to the hierarchical analysis described above. However, it differs in that in addition to looking at how the different steps relate to each other and how they are interrelated, it also examines how the user makes his or her decisions at each step, how many cognitive challenges are involved in each step, and how the overall process may vary depending on the user’s individual experience and level of knowledge.

  4. Parallel analysis
  5. Parallel analysis means that the same task is analyzed multiple times (with any method or even several different methods) to reflect the perspectives of different user groups. The tasks get examined by sampling various groups. In such a way, the final product becomes tailored for different target groups.

    Another reason for conducting parallel analysis is to obtain and compare the other team’s data. Each can conduct its separate analysis and then compare the results.

  6. Applying analysis in the project
  7. At this stage, look for elements in the predefined steps (subtasks) in which the user can be helped in some way. Examples of solutions are to include recommendations and guidance or to remove subtasks that have proven to be unnecessary. However, this must come from the data, i.e. from the user’s perspective, and not from the assumptions or suspicions of the project team.

A well-created and consistent diagram allows you to identify the steps that can create problems and the tasks that can be automated in some way. At the end of the analysis, record all observations and, based on this, decide which design challenges should be improved and which are not currently relevant.


The task analysis is relatively easy. The more difficult part is certainly gathering the data necessary as it is worth remembering that common mistakes are widespread because intelligent, well-meaning people make them, sometimes even after learning the warning message. If one task analysis is properly applied it can become a key factor that will make your design functional and intuitive and your product enjoyable.

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What is task analysis in UX research? | UX research #30 klaudia brozyna avatar 1background

Author: Klaudia Kowalczyk

A graphic & UX Designer which conveys into design what cannot be conveyed in words. For him, every used color, line or font has a meaning. Passionate in graphic and web design.

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