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Last updated on 9/29/20

Break down the workflow through task analysis

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Doing a task analysis or examining the workflow is a good way to understand each step of the user journey. (Yes, journey mapping is another tool you could consider here). Task analysis is another tool you can do on your own without bringing in users to test on. The result of task analysis is a list or flow chart where you examine each small step that lets the user complete the larger task.

The steps for task analysis are straight forward:

  1. Identify the task you want to examine

  2. Write down every step necessary to achieve the task. (Expect at least 4-8 sub-tasks.)

  3. Start by writing a list.

  4. Re-imagine the task as a flow chart. (Note: steps 3 and 4 can be flipped if you think visually)

Task flows can be done anytime you (or a user) are trying to accomplish a task. A few task flows to consider are:

  • Purchasing tickets online for a museum expo 

  • Buying stamps from the post office online

  • Finding the opening hours or contact information on a business website

  • Finding the return or cancellation policy of a shop


Task analysis starts with a simple assignment such as "purchase a ticket online for a museum expo". Sounds easy, doesn't it? Then you start to break down each step the user actually has to go through, and it's not so straight forward. I decided to revisit an experience I had purchasing tickets for a popular exhibition. I knew it wasn't a very good user experience, but still I was SHOCKED that it involved 17 STEPS!!

In addition to listing each task, I added commentary about my experience in italics for added impact:

  1. Visit the museum website

  2. Navigate to the ticket office "That was not as easy to find as I expected and took too long!"

  3. Land on external site – "Am I in the right place? I don't remember this the last time I bought tickets there."

  4. Select expo [there are 2 options]

  5. Click "reserve"

  6. Select date

  7. Select time

  8. Select quantity

  9. Click "reserve"

  10. Click "finalize"

  11. [OPTION] Enter profile or Create account

  12. Enter credit card

  13. Confirm credit card with text message

  14. Receive email confirmation

  15. Told to print ticket "But we live in a digital age, do I REALLY have to print my ticket?!" [insert added steps to save ticket to phone if it did not go automatically]

  16. Go to museum and wait in pre-purchased ticket line. "It's only slightly shorter than the people buying tickets on site."

  17. Enjoy the expo!

That was WAY more steps than I expected, so for fun I decided to do the same task analysis for a ticket purchased at the museum.

  1. Arrive at museum

  2. Stand in ticket line [note: there is a shorter line for pre-purchased ticket] Ughhh, a line!

  3. Get called to counter.

  4. Say how many tickets you want and for what expo.

  5. Pay with cash or credit card. Options!!

  6. Enjoy the expo!

🤔   Call me crazy, but I think there's a real opportunity to improve that digital experience and make it more intuitive for the user! The benefit of a task analysis is that you can figure out what is a bad experience without even having to talk to users yet. It also wasn't very time consuming. ⏱

Here it is visualized as a flow chart:

My flow analysis had so many steps that it ended up going full circle when I purchased tickets online! I started in the top middle and then drew arrows down for each step. This is a REAL EXPERIENCE! Opportunity awaits! ... And yes, there are digital tools for making flow charts, but I had more fun with pen and paper 🤓

Also, don't stop here. This was the desktop flow. You will want to cross check the flow of mobile purchases as well. Remember, often museum goers are visitors/travelers, or generally out and about so there is a good chance they may try to book from their phones. If you're the owner of the site, you can consult Google Analytics to check if more people are purchasing tickets from desktop or mobile.

Example of certificate of achievement
Example of certificate of achievement