How to turn user goals into task scenarios for usability testing


man completing tasks for a usability test


It is very important to understand the working status of your user interface. The best way to figure this out is to watch people using it. This will help you find out the positive and negative points. The same goes for the importance of usability testing. You will be able to get qualitative insights into the root causes of users' problems by choosing the right participants to perform realistic activities. The benefit of these insights is to help you figure out ways to improve your design.

In order to determine the overall usability of your site, it's important to pay attention to the percent of tasks that are performed correctly by the users. The best way to get accurate data on this is to take your user goals and turn them into task scenarios in your usability test.

What should the users be able to do?

A major question that arises here is what should the users be able to do in this scenario? In order to observe and understand your participants and how they interact with your design, you have to give them a set of tasks to perform. An important part of that process is making sure they understand the tasks and have reasonable context for them. A major mistake UX researchers make is assigning tasks to the users and leaving without any explanation or background information.

It is important to create a short scenario to help users understand the purpose of the usability test. Before writing the task scenarios mentioned prior, make sure to list the major goals that the audience visiting your site might have. To help yourself with this step, you can simply ask yourself what is something that your target audience would want to accomplish on your website.

These goals might include sign-ups for a demo, knowing more about consulting services, and reading articles on a specific topic.

Engage users with the help of task scenarios

After discovering your user goals, it’s time to move to creating, task scenarios. It’s crucial that these scenarios are appropriate for usability testing.

In basic words, any background information about the product and interface being tested by the participants is known as a task scenario. For better understanding, we also have an example here for you:

You are going on a vacation, and you need to consider both hotel and flight expenses. In this scenario, you visit two well-known competitive airline websites and figure out which one has the best deals.

Another major thing to keep in mind is that your tasks scenario must include appropriate context. This will lend itself to better engagement with the interface. As a result, users can enjoy completing tasks with full clarity of their purpose.

A major mistake that people make when writing tasks is to heavily direct users to use a specific feature or follow a specific workflow within the design. Instead, it is recommended to allow the user to take their time, and observe how they prefer to use the interface. A scenario ideally motivates and guides the participants by putting the task and workflow into context.

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Tips to follow

  • Make the Task Realistic

Asking your test participant to complete a task that they normally wouldn’t within a certain context will lead to a lack of engagement or challenges with the interface.

Participants have a more difficult time suspending disbelief when given assignments that are written in a confusing or unclear manner. Participant freedom should be allowed within the scenario.

The participants you choose and the features you test will play a role in creating a believable workflow and positive user experience. It's imperative, for example, that participants in a hotel web usability testing study are the ones in their families who handle vacation planning and booking.

  • Make the Task Do-able

You cannot determine how simple or difficult it is for people to navigate a user interface by listening to them discuss it. It’s imperative to create tasks for users to follow and complete during a usability test. The only way to get data and feedback that you can leverage into positive changes in your user experience is by providing testers with appropriate and relevant tasks to complete.

  • Avoid Providing Hints and Defining the Steps

It's common for step descriptions to include hints about how to interact with the user interface. If you instruct someone to go to the main menu and click on “Benefits,” for example, you won't know if she finds that menu label significant. These tasks influence the behavior of your users, resulting in less accurate findings.

Users are swayed even more by task scenarios that involve interface words. "Pre-register for the company's weekly update" is not the greatest approach to communicate what you want users to do if your website features a big "Pre-register for the newsletter" sign-up button. Rather, you should create a task such as, "Identify a way to get email updates about the company and sign up."

Although it may seem like a simple task, coming up with alternative names for things that already have a standard, well-known name is not necessarily simple or natural, and it might even be confusing to consumers. If that's the case, it's best to stick with the accepted terminology.

Tips for best usability testing

To get the best usability testing results, we have gathered some special tips for you. Improved usability testing increases the chances of improving your relationship with your users and creating a better user experience. For that you must consider the following tips:

  • Curate your tester pool, based on the target audience of your product
  • Make sure that your expectations and instructions are clear to the users
  • Do not take the answers personally
  • Consider the honest opinions of your audience
  • Ensure that you are not overloading your participants with multiple tasks; keep the testing process easy for them


Participants may seek clarification or struggle with the test if the task scenario is too open-ended or unclear. Without directing them where to click, provide the participant with all the information they need upfront. Be as realistic as possible while doing a usability test. Participate in user recruitment and make sure that each scenario of the task encourages users to interact with the interface in a way that makes sense to them. These tips will help you achieve a smooth and convenient usability testing experience with accurate data and information that will help you improve the user experience.

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