Task-Oriented Design

Your constantly-updated definition of Task-Oriented Design and collection of videos and articles

What is Task-Oriented Design?

Task-oriented design is an approach to design that focuses on user task completion instead of designing with specific devices, features, aesthetics or technical considerations in mind.

Users do not interact with a product with only one device; not all devices suit specific tasks. For example, a user would use a hand-held device instead of a laptop for driving directions. When planning a vacation, a user might interact with a laptop instead. Then, users might want to send those directions to their phones once they begin their trip.

A task-oriented framework considers all the devices a user interacts with, even when using the same product. Good designs optimize specific tasks for each device interface. Consider all devices as part of the same experience aimed at helping users complete tasks.

Designers create layouts for different devices that are optimized for typical usage patterns. The layout of an application or website may be tailored to fit the screen size and input capabilities of a specific device for the best user experience. A mobile design might not include a function available on a desktop or vice versa.

Task-Oriented Design and Ubiquitous Computing

As the number of computing devices increases, users rely less on a single computer. Additionally, the number of tasks handled by computing devices has also increased. For a seamless experience, devices may send the next stage in a task to another device to be completed. Good task-oriented UX design involves finding where tasks or phases of tasks belong in a larger digital ecosystem. To understand this ecosystem, you can use task analysis and user research methods, such as contextual inquiries.

Task-oriented designs often consider how users will interact with a product in the context of their environment. For example, designers must consider how a user might use a product in public, at home, or in the car. This context helps the designer understand the user's ability to complete tasks, such as their available time or what type of device they are using. Designers also consider how users might interact with the product over time: how does the user learn to use a product, and how do they become comfortable using it?

Benefits of the Task-Oriented Design Approach

One of the main benefits of this approach is that it helps designers identify pain points in existing workflows and streamline them to improve overall user satisfaction. For example, the app Shazam uses a task-oriented design approach. Shazam's primary function is to help users identify songs that are playing nearby. The app achieves this through its clean layout and user-friendly interface, making it easy for users to complete the main task without any extra distractions or complications.

Shazam has a clean layout and user-friendly interface. This helps users quickly complete their primary tasks without any distractions or complications.

© Shazam, Fair Use

The benefits of using a task-oriented design approach are numerous. By focusing on the tasks users want to accomplish, this approach helps designers create intuitive and easy-to-use products. This increases user satisfaction, better product adoption rates, and reduced support costs.

Other benefits of the task-oriented design approach are:

  • It allows designers to create products tailored to specific user needs, which can make a product more appealing to a broader range of users.

  • It helps create more efficient workflows, allowing users to complete tasks faster and with less effort.

  • It enables the development of products that are easier to maintain and update over time by focusing on tasks rather than features.

How to Balance the Task-First Approach with Other Design Considerations

The task-oriented design approach is excellent for prioritizing tasks and helping users achieve their goals. However, designers must balance this focus with other essential design factors: aesthetics and technical feasibility.

© Interaction Design Foundation, CC BY-SA 4.0

Designers can create wireframes and prototypes to test and balance tasks with aesthetics and technical feasibility. Wireframes allow designers to create a basic layout of the website or application without getting bogged down by aesthetic details. Prototypes allow designers to test alternatives and identify potential technical issues before finalizing the design.

Test with Users to Successfully Implement the Task-Oriented Design Approach

User tests can help you implement the task-first approach successfully. Designers can observe users as they interact with a website or applications to identify areas where they struggle to complete tasks. Then, they can use this feedback to refine the design and optimize it for efficiency and ease of use.

User testing helps designers identify roadblocks or issues early in the design process. When you catch these issues in the early stages of the design process, you can make the necessary changes before launching the website or application and prevent frustration and confusion for users down the line.

Learn More About Task-Oriented Design

Take our courses: Mobile UX Design: The Beginner's Guide and  Mobile UX Strategy: How to Build Successful Products

To know more about Task Analysis and a step-by-step process, see this piece: Activity-Focused Design 

Check out this article by UX Misfit about task-oriented design: Task-Oriented Design – the future of UX Design?

Explore how the Task-First approach can help designers create effective mobile designs that prioritize user tasks and lead to better outcomes.

Literature on Task-Oriented Design

Here’s the entire UX literature on Task-Oriented Design by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:

Learn more about Task-Oriented Design

Take a deep dive into Task-Oriented Design with our course Mobile UX Design: The Beginner's Guide .

In the “Build Your Portfolio” project, you’ll find a series of practical exercises that will give you first-hand experience with the methods we cover. You will build on your project in each lesson so once you have completed the course you will have a thorough case study for your portfolio.

Mobile User Experience Design: Introduction, has been built on evidence-based research and practice. It is taught by the CEO of ExperienceDynamics.com, Frank Spillers, author, speaker and internationally respected Senior Usability practitioner.

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