Understanding What Users Want: Creating Task Models – Richard Caddick

Understanding What Users Want: Creating Task Models – Richard Caddick

In this workshop, Caddick aimed to look under the surface of what people want and their behaviour when they use the services we design. He illustrated this with anecdotes from real projects, showing how understanding the task and nature of the decision making process can often lead to what looked like a logically designed project having to fundamentally rethink its structure.

He emphasised that the task model is his most important deliverable. Throughout the workshop he discussed how to research these and how they inform the design decisions we make.

Caddick defined a task model as a representation of what people do, the behaviour they adopt and their specific requirements. He reinforced that this needs to be the individual person’s specific requirements, not a group’s requirements. A task model sets a vision. It doesn’t just show you the details of the project you’re working on, but helps you to understand the user’s lives better, and therefore how your solution fits in to their lives.

Richard Caddick speaks at UX Bristol

He observed that we are seeing a change in the way people are using websites across different devices. People are using smart phones, tablets and desktops at different times and in different ways. For example, he suggested that people often research things like holidays on an tablet device, but move to a desktop to complete their booking. Caddick feels that understanding this flow will be really important.

A task model uncovers the emotions involved, the pain points and the areas for delight. Caddick cited a case study that demonstrates that often decisions are not made rationally, but emotionally. Without the emotional response, it can be impossible to make decisions, no matter how much you rationalise.

Caddick went on to compare task models, mental models and user journeys, discussing the similarities in terms of the building blocks, and differences in terms of the way these are grouped and arranged to help you understand the process.

We looked at a task model in more detail, examining the behaviour patterns that are grouped together. This helps to show how someone moves through the decision process and highlights places where you can offer delight or reduce the pain in a process to help guide the user more effectively.

Richard Caddick speaks at UX Bristol

Next the participants took part in an exercise. Caddick provided a diagram of a check out process, starting with a basket, ending with confirmation, with two missing steps. Participants considered what they thought those steps should be. Their suggestions included: address, name, payment details, login, up sell, review order, charges. Caddick boiled this down to address and payment details, noting the similarity between the suggestions and how limited the number of options were within this process.

This was followed by a second exercise that looked at a controlled evaluation process. Participants were provided with the following scenario:

You want to book a train ticket from Bristol to London to make a 2pm meeting. What are the things you need to find out in order to make a booking?

They discussed the wider range of options involved, and separated the different information elements out depending whether they were generic or more personally specific. They looked at the flow of this information to establish whether there is an orderly process that could be followed.

Caddick built upon these observations with another case study, showing how modelling the ways in which men buy shirts and shoes that are best for them helped to increase sales for a clothing website. Building product pages around the information that men need provided a significant increase in conversion, because they were able to give their users what they needed to make a decision.

Richard Caddick speaks at UX Bristol

The final exercise asked participants how did they choose their last holiday. Participants considered their overall goal, the phases they went through, their specific requirements, the information they needed and where they looked for that information.

Caddick observed that it can be really difficult to spot the patterns in this process. To get over this, they told stories, highlighting the elements of the case studies identify the information they used and the channels they used to find it. From this, they created a huge list of requirements and questions. The resulting task model was therefore quite conceptual, with lots of flexibility in the data stage so people could move between the different elements.

The effect this had for the client was that without any publicity, there was a 500% increase in sales, as people could find the information they wanted and put it together in a way that made sense to them.

You can follow Richard Caddick on Twitter @richardcaddick

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