Task Times

Recording Task Times is a way to benchmark product usability and to discover usability issues. Excessive time-to-completion can suggest too much complexity, too many steps in the task, technology issues, or poor usability. Be aware that although there is a great deal of variability in the time different individuals require to complete a task, there should be a standard for the maximum acceptable completion time, for both new and experienced users. Another metric to consider is the length of time users will spend on a task before giving up. Because of the importance of capturing data in the user’s natural environment, consider recording task times during Ethnography. If it’s not possible to observe users performing a task, some Web Analytics software can be configured to generate task times for key processes.

Task times can present frustrating results that suggest there is a problem, but gives limited insight into the cause of the problem. Practical UX Methods can provide the qualitative techniques for further usability investigations.

Description

Schedule Time & Gather Materials

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Schedule Time:

  • Testing Time: 4 Hours
  • Analysis / Documentation: 4 Hours
Gather Materials

Gather Materials:

  • Current live site
  • Spreadsheet
  • A watch

Carry Out This Method

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  1. Determine the task to be tested and whether you will be testing new or experienced users.
  2. Review the result of previous product task time tests.
  3. Check with the analytics team for relevant reports.
  4. Recruit 6-10 participants.
  5. Ask participants to perform a task.
  6. Ask them to talk while performing the task (see Think-Aloud Testing). Some research indicates thinking aloud doesn’t impact greater task completion times.
  7. Record the completion time or the time it takes for participant to give up.
  8. Ask questions to clarify usability problems.
  9. Conduct your analysis of the data.
  10. Present your findings and recommendations to stakeholders.

Try These Tips

  • If you can document faster completion times for the new design of a key task, it is a powerful argument to stakeholders for prioritization.
  • Consider testing the same tasks on competitive sites to benchmark industry task times (see Competitive Analysis).
  • Be careful about what you choose to measure. Stakeholders may choose to focus on a usability metric that has limited applicability to overall usability.

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