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I been recently reading about User Journey - as a Methodology to capture how user would use a website or interface - a journey as such broadly. But is it synonymous to "Task Analysis" - because both seem to capture how user moves through a task.

Any insights?

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4 Answers

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Both answers above would be sufficient to help anybody understand the differences and the relationship between user journey and task analysis. Just wanted to add a few things that might be interesting and helpful:

  • Task analysis follows the specific steps users need to go through to complete a defined task - like making a purchase. CPM (Critical Path Method) is a term used to identify the most efficient path (set of steps) somebody needs to take to complete their task (purchase). If identified, that path needs to be obvious by design (UI elements, cues and navigation). Task analysis is used to determine usability issues for specific sections. The goal is to identify issues and fix them.
  • The user journey can include multiple tasks (like adding an item to a "Favorites" list, browsing by categories or browsing by recommendations, and so on). User journeys are closely related to user scenarios.

Creating a good experience is related to both: make sure that the system performs flawlessly when it comes to tasks and that the interface helps users reach their goals, as they go from one task to another (user journey).

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If you want some more contrast between User Journeys & Task Analysis why not relate them to non-functional and functional requirements.

Non-functional being the more general, high level scenario encountered in users daily lives, beyond the web.

and in contrast...

Functional, more granular, being that which defines specific behavior or functions carried out by a user on the web app.

You might have read this already, if not a good place to start: User Journeys on Boxes and Arrows: Pioneering web designer and artist Auriea Harvey (zentropy8) describes web design as “thought patterns, processes, paths.” User journeys tap directly into this model, reflecting the thoughts, considerations, and experiences that people go through in their daily lives, beyond the web.

Also, a resource about non-functional thinking, you might find useful.

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A Task Analysis shows what tasks a user expects to complete a specific goal. The focus is on how how the user behaves and what information is required to achieve the goal. A Task Analysis may contain complex information such as user behaviour.

A User Journey would be based on the information gained from the Task Analysis. It helps you understand the flow and functionality the system will require. User Journeys can often be combined with wireframes.

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The big difference is where your focus lies, as with this purposefully extreme example about a short form:

Task Analysis

Start > Enter value > Enter value#2 > Confirm input > Exit

User Journey

How does the user get to this form? > Where does the user know the value from? > What format does the user have the value#2 in? > Does the user know what impact confirming the input has? (Irreversible?) > Where does the user expect/want to go after completing the form?

Arguably as a User Experience designer you should consider the User Journey whenever you look at analysing any process.

It's worth noting that the differences are not usually as pronounced as in my example, but the nomenclature makes a difference in setting the expectation of stakeholders on what they'd get out of the process.

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