Task Analysis and Some Fresh Paint

Task analysis is an essential part of any design, involving the layout of the tasks from the perspective of the user. A designer uses task analysis to better understand the user’s needs in order to determine the most effective solution. This also helps to eliminate any preconceived notions the designer may have. A similar process is used in the field of software engineering. The flow chart (see below) is a diagram created to represent the flow of a computer algorithm. This is a critical step that enables the developer to lay out the logical sequence of the code, thus ensuring the program’s success in fulfilling the client’s requirements.

For the designer, a typical task analysis begins with defining the problem. What is the problem the user wants solved? To better understand their needs and goals, the designer must then conduct research as well as perform interview with users and other stakeholders. Once all the data is collected, the designer begins the process of creating the task model.

As a simple example, suppose a design student, living with roommates in a flat in San Francisco, has decided to paint the unappealing walls of the living room. What are the required steps to achieve this goal? As the sketch below shows, the student will first discuss the problem with his or her roommates. Upon reaching an agreement to move forward with the painting, a meeting with the landlord is arranged (luckily in this case the landlord has decided to pick up the tab!). The next step involves brainstorming. Basic questions including the color of the paint, the size of the budget, etc. are asked. This is followed by a trip to the store where paint samples are obtained and supplies are purchased. Next comes the testing phase which will lead to the final decision in regards to color. Finally, it’s time to paint but not before moving the furniture, taping the edges of the walls, and laying down the drop cloths. And of course, let’s not forget the celebration afterwards!

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