Source: Unsplash

The birth of the Blue Wall

A UX Academy Task Analysis Mapping exercise

Task Analysis Mapping is a research technique practised by UX designers. In this technique, they put themselves in the users’ place and go through the steps involved in performing a task. This is an effective practice that helps the designer understand the different steps, choices, challenges and decision-makers involved in any task.

For this exercise, I was asked to outline the steps involved in painting a wall. The premise for this is as follows,

  1. I live in a flat in the Mission in San Francisco.
  2. I share the flat with two other women.
  3. I notice that the living room wall needs to be repainted.

What does renting a flat in San Francisco entail?

As an Indian I only have a basic knowledge of what living in the US would be like. But after a bit of research, I realised there were a lot of similarities between renting a flat in San Francisco and doing the same in India. The challenges involved in negotiating with the landlord for repairs and safe habitation were the same.

The San Francisco Tenants’ Union (SFTU) was a very useful source of information. With regards to this task, the SFTU states that,

‘California codes especially Civil Code Sections 1941–1942, the San Francisco Housing Code, and the San Francisco Health Code define your landlord’s obligations to make and keep your home in habitable condition. Tenants have the right to report landlords to city agencies and rights to withhold rent or “repair and deduct”.’

Based on this information, I came up with two scenarios for how this task could be performed.

Both these scenarios begin with a common set of steps where I first notice the problem (that the wall must be repainted) and involve the other stakeholders (my flatmates) in the decision-making process.

Common set of steps before each scenario / Storyboard

Scenario #1

Meet the cooperative, ethical landlord who looks out for his tenants.

Scenario #1 / Storyboard

Scenario #2

Meet the uncooperative, unethical landlord who doesn’t care for his tenants and the plucky, motivated tenants who take up the task themselves.

Scenario #2 / Storyboard 1 of 2
Scenario #2 / Storyboard 2 of 2

What I inferred

By going through the steps, I understood that the nature and motivations behind the task could change based on the people involved and the decisions they make.

In the first scenario, we were content to leave everything to the landlord. We limited our involvement to choosing a colour and setting up a time. In the second scenario, what should’ve been a tedious job became an enjoyable, new experience! Our level of involvement was much higher. We were sampling colours, measuring and sanding walls and calculating costs.

I think the effectiveness of Task Analysis is in the way it makes designers question the context, the choices and the drives of the users during every step of the task.