Characteristics of a Top Task culture

Top Task culture = share the vision + measure behaviour + re-organize for UX

Jared Spool has researched the key characteristics of top-performing organizations. His organization helps people move toward three characteristics: vision, feedback, and culture. We agree. Hats off to the UIE folks for their 3Qs of great experience design. And we’ll up the ante with a hyper focus on Top Tasks. To move your web team forward, make sure the vision is shared, that you are measuring in terms of behaviour on Top Tasks, and that you re-organize roles and responsibilities around Top Tasks in the user experience.

  1. Share a vision of the Top Task experience
    Make sure your web team and stakeholders understand your Top Tasks and the key priorities to supporting them. Is everybody on the same song sheet? Or is the vision blurred, so you get side-swiped by “oughta” links? Focus people on tasks rather than tools, on task performance rather than hits. A shared vision will help you prioritize “gotta” links in main menus and de-clutter by removing “oughta” links. It will keep “oughta” links from cluttering up the search experience.Here is an example. We defined a goal model connecting jobs, skills, and training content for Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. We prototyped how users would do top tasks. It helped the developers build context-aware links for their Career Navigator, so job-searchers can know what skills are expected for a job, or how to get training. The shared vision inspired other approaches like the Working in Canada tool at Citizenship and Immigration.Action item: Read Design for user goals and tasks
  2. Measure behaviour
    Monitor your progress of your web visitors doing Top Tasks. Especially measure the usage of “gotta” links, monitoring areas where performance could improve. Measure time-on-task in Task Performance Indicator testing. In analytics, regularly check how well visitors can do Top Tasks in navigation or in search. Compare A/B test results, and monitor completed goals. Monitor key priorities in a Customer Centric Index. Relentlessly focus your stakeholders on visitors’ tasks and high-level goals. They do not change as quickly as tools and technologies. Measure the outcome, not the inputs or outputs. Outcomes will put everything else in perspective. Inputs will tell you things like how many hits your web pages get. Outputs will tell you things like whether people left right away or clicked around your site. But neither inputs nor outputs will measure the success of your site or your business. Task completion is the primary measure of success – is your visitor satisfied that they did what they came to do, efficiently. Task completion is the outcome of visits and clicking, the litmus test. Manage your website on the outcomes, not the inputs and outputs.Action item: Read Conduct Task Performance testing to improve time-on-task.
  3. Re-organize for the user experience
    Continuously improve task performance. If you are a senior executive, measure your success by it. Give a person the responsibility for how well users perform on a top task. Keep re-organizing for your shared vision, increasingly measuring your success by the users’success. Avoid huge redesign projects. Instead continuously improve how you support user tasks, and how well you serve the visitor’s higher level goal. For content authors, write for the task path, in bulleted lists rather than embedded in paragraphs. ??For the long term, plan for the visitor’s overall goals. Like finding a currency exchange rate is part of a larger goal such as buying something in another currency. Resist long-term commitments to tools and systems. Reward people who learn from risk-taking, and celebrate failures, to share the learning. Begin with the user experience in mind, and everything else will follow.Action item: Contact us for a free consultation about building a Top Task Management culture.
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