When improving a website or intranet (or any content product), you can focus on findability with an IA review and assessment and with card sorting and task testing. This article focuses on how to improve findability through task testing.

What is Findability?

On page 4 of Morville’s Ambient Findability, findability is defined as “a) the quality of being locatable or navigable; b) the degree to which a particular object is easy to discover or locate; c) the degree to which a system or environment supports navigation and retrieval.”

It may seem like an abstract definition, but really it’s saying that findability means people can find things!

What is Task Testing?

Task are the things people do in your website, intranet or content product. Task testing ensures that people can do these tasks in your website, intranet, or content product.

Where Do Tasks Come from?

Tasks can come from a couple different places. When going through a user experience project, the UX person creates personas. In these personas there are specific scenarios of things the user wants to do with your website. These are the scenarios you can turn into tasks. Personas are normally based on interviews with customers so the scenarios should reflect real-life situations.

Another great place to collect tasks is from the tech support department. This department keeps records of calls and analytics on support documentation. You can see what are the most popularly asked questions.

How to Do Task Testing?

When you do task testing, you need users, tasks, and a way to record results. When you recruit users, make sure they meet the persona profiles that you’ve outlined.

When you write your tasks, make sure the tasks align with the scenarios and personas. When you write the tasks, make sure you’re not giving away the answer in the question – try to use different wording if possible. Then define the successful paths. Tip: One task can be used for multiple personas (if the tasks overlap personas).

Note: You can recruit users and plan out the tasks at the same time.

Knowing Success

When recruited users go through the task testing, they’ll either get the successful path or they won’t. If the majority of users get the successful path, your content has a higher findability ranking. If the majority of users can’t find the content, your content has a lower findability ranking.

Once you go through the task testing, you can analyze your results. If people can’t find content, you’ll need to look at the structure of the information as well as the labeling you’re using. Make sure the labeling meets audience expectations. Re-examine the information structure to create better success.