Task Analysis: As Easy as Paint on a Wall
Mapping the Simplest of Processes Goes a Long Way
I want to paint the walls in my apartment, they’ve gotten pretty gross. I have about an hour to kill before the season finale of The Bachelor starts so I’ll just grind it out now. Great!!!
Wait… Is my roommate cool with it? Is it cool with my building and the landlord? DAMN… What color do I want to make it? Is this wall drywall? What kind of paint goes on drywall? CRAP… is it cheaper to get paint online? I feel like I want to physically see the colors in person. Do hardware stores even give samples of shades? SON OF A… Where’s that old paintbrush I had? Is it better to do it with rollers? When is my roommate going to be available? Does she even want to help? How long does it take for paint to dry?? UGHHH.
Thank God For Task Analysis
Task Analysis Mapping is the process of learning about ordinary users by observing them in action to see how they perform their tasks in order to achieve their intended goals. Task Analysis is used when researchers and designers are trying to understand how someone completes a task on their own, without guidance or prompting.
To solve my aforementioned problem, lets explore this practice by performing a Task Analysis for Painting a Room:
Breaking It Down In 8 Steps:
- Talk to Existing Stakeholders: The stakeholders in this case are (a) your Landlord, and (b) your Roommate. Let your roommate know you think the wallpaper in the apartment looks like they once served as a backdrop to 80’s porn and see if she agrees that it’s time to for a new look. Once you get the okay from your roommate, be sure to run it by your landlord to confirm you’re not violating any building codes or ordinances. Maybe the walls look like they used to film porn for a reason. Who knows. But find out so your ass doesn’t get fined, or worse, evicted.
2. Research & Discuss: After you get the go-ahead from your Stakeholders, it’s time to dive into discussion with your Roommate. Use search engines like Google and popular idea aggregator Pinterest to research colors, shades, and types of paint. What kind of wall do you have? If so, does flat or glossy paint go better with that type of surface? Figure out what you like and see if places send samples for you to try out.
3. Budget & Means: Wanting a good can of Behr acrylic or Clark+Kensington premium latex paint is understandable. Satin gold infused finish not so much. Figure out how much you’re willing to spend and decide whether you want to make the purchase online or go into a hardware store to physically see and touch the best one for the job within your budget.
4. Procurement of Supplies: You’re not going to paint the wall with your fingers. I mean you could. But it’s not recommended. Figure out what supplies you need. Are you going to go Rollers or Brush? Are you going to do the ceiling? If so, is the ladder you have stored away tall or sturdy enough? Address all the logistical questions.
5. Finalize & Accounting: It’s time to checkout your supplies, either physically or digitally. Pick the color and type of paint, and decide how to split costs. Make sure you’ve purchased everything you need.
6. Preparation: Gather all your supplies. Move furniture so you don’t stub your toe. Open windows so you don’t die. Tape corners and edges, etc. because for God’s sake TAKE SOME PRIDE IN YOUR WORK.
7. PAINT: PAINT THE SH*T OUT OF YOUR WALLS. Remember, good long strokes. Make sure Max doesn’t lick any of the paint. But feel free to dip his paws to make cool paw mark designs. Some people might consider this animal cruelty. #DatPawPatternDoe
8. Get Drunk While Watching Paint Dry: Because it’s the only way to watch paint dry.
As It Relates to UX
As you can see by this example, every task can be further broken down into smaller tasks. Gaining insight into how people break down those tasks is invaluable and imperative to solving roadblocks and obstacles they face along the way. By putting ourselves in the shoes of the person performing the tasks, designers can empathize with the end-user, which results in creating a more human-centered, effective design.
Takeaway: You don’t really think about it, but something as simple as painting a room requires numerous steps. The same can be said for the product design process. First pinpointing the problem, then coming up with a hypothesis to solve the problem. After ideation, we test and test again. And only then do we move ahead with prototyping and finally developing.
All design projects require a carefully implemented plan set in place. By creating a process like Task Analysis, we ensure that time, energy, and focus is being used intelligently and efficiently.
If you got nothing from this, at least you now know how to go about painting your wall like a pro.