Cognitive Walkthrough Method

What is Cognitive Walkthrough Method?

The cognitive walkthrough method is a usability evaluation method that focuses on the learnability of a system for new and infrequent users and has been used successfully to evaluate walk-up-and-use systems like postal kiosks, automated teller machines (ATMs), and interactive exhibits in museums. This method is valuable due to its ability to generate quick results at minimal cost and apply early in the design phase. By analyzing how users interact with the system, cognitive walkthroughs can provide insights into areas where enhancements or changes need to be made for a better user experience.

What are the elements of a cognitive walkthrough session?

1. Determine preconditions for the implementation strategy

Before a cognitive walkthrough session can take place, preconditions must be identified and articulated by individuals with detailed knowledge of the strategy in order to ensure a valid usability test. These preconditions may include having previously completed a training course on the topic, being from the service sector, or being a candidate for the consultation strategy. Additionally, research must be conducted to develop cognitive walkthrough profiles for hypothetical users and use case situations.

2. Define user goals

It is important to define user goals when conducting a cognitive walkthrough session in order to ensure that the system is designed to meet the needs of the intended users. By defining user goals, it can help the user better understand what they need to do in order to complete a task and provide them with clear guidance as they work through it. Additionally, having user goals defined can also aid in visualizing complex processes by providing flowcharts and list formats which may be helpful for understanding more complicated tasks.

3. Identify the “happy path”

It is important to identify the happy path during a cognitive walkthrough session in order to ensure that users understand how to use the product correctly and have a clear, straightforward set of steps for reaching their desired outcome. Identifying the happy path helps eliminate overwhelming choices and encourages users to make the right navigational decision. This also makes it easier for users to complete tasks without confusion or frustration.

4. Convert top tasks to testing scenarios

The researchers would first identify the top tasks that they want to test. Once these tasks have been identified, they would then create written descriptions of scenarios and subtasks for each task. They would also develop scripts for a facilitator to use when introducing each subtask, as well as images or visual cues that represent the scenario and can quickly communicate the intent of the subtask. After carefully assessing each task’s importance in relation to its error likelihood, five tasks are chosen for testing using the CWIS process.

5. Conduct the walkthrough

To conduct a cognitive walkthrough session, it is necessary to prepare task lists and copy the questions onto paper so that participants can easily follow them. During the session, an internal employee should evaluate the difficulty of each step in order to determine if there are multiple ways to complete steps and if the correct action is clear. The participant should be asked questions that will determine if they take the correct action. If not, it is important for them to be asked how they would proceed with their task. Each step should also be listed separately so that they know exactly what needs to be done in order for a successful outcome. Additionally, users conducting cognitive walkthroughs must be compensated for their time as this adds recruitment time and expense. Finally, it's important that all instructions are evaluated using four fundamental questions: Is the task easy to understand? Does it help participants understand how your system works? Are they able to apply what they've learned in a practical way? Is it valuable?

6. Identify, prioritize, and classify usability issues

Identifying, prioritizing, and classifying usability issues during a cognitive walkthrough session is important for improving the usability of a product. By classifying issues into categories according to severity, impact, and complexity, it becomes easier to identify which issues need to be addressed first. This helps ensure that the right problems are tackled during the cognitive walkthrough session in order to improve the user experience. Additionally, this allows for more direct links between usability problems and potential implementation strategy redesign solutions.

7. Record results in terms of success and failure

It is important to record the results of a cognitive walkthrough session in order to gain valuable insights into how users interact with a specific interface or design. By recording success and failure rates, developers can identify areas that may need improvement or further review. Recording sessions also allow designers to measure the efficacy of their designs and better understand user behaviors. This feedback can be used to make any necessary changes before launching the product or service.

8. Survey participants after the walkthrough

It is important to survey participants after a cognitive walkthrough session in order to gain qualitative data that can be used later during the assessment period. Through surveying, questions can be asked that are specifically tailored to ensure participants are able to complete the task. Asking about specific details not only allows for more accurate results but also encourages participants to elaborate on their experiences. Additionally, surveying after a cognitive walkthrough session ensures that the right action is clear and there is a direct correlation between the user's actions and the correct outcome. Furthermore, it helps ensure that steps are short and easy to follow so that participants don't get lost or confused while going through them.

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