Human Factors International talk about a primary noun table with, from what research I can assume is a similar attitude to task analysis. See this example.

I can only assume it is nothing mere than marketing speak, a buzz word within the industry.

Does anyone know exactly what it is? Specifically I'm after the answer to this question:

Primary noun tables are used by designers to clearly identify all of the following EXCEPT:

  2. Attitudes
  3. Attributes
  4. Actions

2 Answers 2


Nouns are Objects

Most likely Nouns in this context are entities which exist in the task domain. I see direct parallels between Noun and Object in OOP terminology.

An Object incapsulates attributes and methods. Noun contains Attributes and Actions. For visualization Noun use Views. So the Nouns are abstraction tool which is convient for analysis of some domain.

When Nouns are useful?

In user-centered design primary task is to define user needs. One way of doing it is direct observation and task analysis. When you have no direct access to users or just to complete a picture you could also analyse the results of users' activity, users' tools and other artifacts. So this looks like a kind of reverse engineering.

To Summarize Primary Noun Table is a system of "nouns" as defined by interaction objects and tasks to communicate the implications of a design, it's components and it's behaviors. "press play to begin the movie" - this is, believe it or not, a UX/UI component behavior instruction.

  • In this instance, Alexey, which answer would you therefore have picked? Jun 6, 2013 at 14:22
  • David, I would say Primary nouns are used by designers to clearly identify all the important entities in subject domain. Primary noun table contains list of primary nouns and their properties. Jun 6, 2013 at 15:27
  • Potentially the answer is all 4 then in your professional opinion? Personally, I would argue the answer is C) but I understand your viewpoint. Great answer Jun 7, 2013 at 10:36
  • 1
    David, answering on your question I would choose 2 (Attitudes). In your example Primary Nouns Table contains such fields as: Primary Noun, Count, Views, Actions, Attributes. There is not Attitudes there! Jun 7, 2013 at 12:10
  • Alexey - can I ask another question? Which of the following statements about primary nouns is true? a. Primary nouns are the same as programming objects b. Primary nouns typically have only one view c. There should be five primary nouns per task d. Primary nouns connect tasks to the navigation model Jun 11, 2013 at 15:04

Thanks for that link! It's very interesting to see a practitioner in the field using something that looks quite similar to my research.

To toot my own horn a bit, my doctoral thesis demonstrated a method for finding nouns in the topics of conversation, identifying their characteristics, and guiding designers to create UIs for them.

We showed that following this method led to designs that improved task performance, reduced user error, and reduced user frustration.

Identifying the nouns used by a user role is extremely useful:

  • Nouns give you the gist of what your interface should be focused around
  • Nouns also help you understand the language of your users, which makes it easier to design an application that they will understand.
  • Identifying the characteristics of nouns lets you understand how and when to present that information
  • Noticing overlap in the nouns between roles helps you understand when and how to pass information between roles. (This paper gives details on automatically generating a UI from role/task/noun.)

A similar technique is also found in the BRIDGE method, created by Larry Wood et al. (See also this paper from 1998.)

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