Top tasks and task-completion are central

Posted on April 9, 2010 by ssmith

There are a few key things every web manager needs to track about their visitors – like what did you come to the website to do and were you able to complete your task? Let’s call them TASKS and COMPLETION. It’s how web managers focus their organization’s time and effort on supporting the right TASKS, and supporting tasks RIGHT. Applications are no different. Consequently we spend a lot of time providing evidence for tasks and completion. The following table shows how we do that in our various services.

How we help you support the right TASKS, and support tasks RIGHT


Our service
What we do
Support the
right TASKS
tasks RIGHT
Expert evaluation We identify common problems visitors are likely to have on your website, and recommend how to improve the user experience. We verify whether top tasks and search terms are supported, and prioritize usability issues and error conditions. We analyze how well top tasks would likely be completed in real-life situations, based on many years of observing web behaviour.
Customer Centric
We set priorities based on 13 key factors, positive or negative, that visitors say best describe their experience on your website. We summarize priorities for action based on answers to the question what do you typically come to the website to do? We compare CCI scores of users able to complete a task vs. users who were not, and identify where improvements will have optimal impact.
Top Task Identification We gather empirical evidence of tasks most important to users, and of the words users use when scanning for links. We prioritize the TASKS by gathering user votes on specific phrases that they have indicated are most important to them. The output focuses task execution on the “long neck” – those tasks which are most critical to a website’s success.
Usability testing We test a website or application for its ability to support users in effectively and efficiently completing their top tasks. We gather empirical evidence of usability issues and error conditions, and prioritize them as critical, major, or minor. We measure task-completion rate, time-on-task, and disasters – when people think they’ve completed a task yet have not. We analyze the cognitive factors that cause failures, and recommend how to improve task-completion and time-on-task.
Design We make recommendations for improvements to the user experience. We focus navigational links and menus on top tasks and words people scan for, and ensure that users can find appropriate content. We optimize a design to help users complete tasks efficiently and effectively, reduce steps, minimize clutter, etc.
Task Performance Indicator (TPI) We empirically establish baseline performance metrics for top tasks. We measure the time it takes to complete top tasks. We measure the time it takes to complete top tasks, and variance from optimal completion time.
Performance Indicator (SPI)
We empirically establish baseline performance metrics for top tasks in which users begin from search engines. We measure, for each top search phrase, how efficient and effective users can get to up-to-date accurate content. We measure how directly the most frequent search phrases get users to the information they need – visibility in search results, how and ability to complete the task.


Although the table is not a complete description of our services, it does show how top tasks and task-completion are central to much of our work. So if we seem to dwell on the importance of top tasks, time-on-task, and task completion, it is because our clients can’t do business without knowing. Neither could we.

As you plan your projects make sure they focus your constrained resources on top tasks and improve task-completion. Make sure your team is focused on tasks rather than tools and technologies. We hope it helps you keep your eye on the main thing. Here is some further information from Gerry McGovern to stimulate your thinking:


Back to Top [4]



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Quote of the month


“Tasks matter. Tasks are how people get to the answers, and answers turn into sales.”

Kristin Zhivago, Revenue Journal [13]




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[1] Customer Carewords Top Task Identification:

[2] Task Performance Indicator:

[3] Customer Centric Index:

[4] Back to Top: #top









[13] Revenue Journal:

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