Blog Post 2: Task Analysis

Task analysis is often used by human factors specialists in order analyze how a user achieves an outcome. For example, in a task analysis on making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, the human factors specialists would note the steps and tools used to make the sandwich. Task analysis is usually outlined in terms of the sequence of steps.

In hierarchical task analysis, an overall task is broken down into steps and then into sub-steps. Task analysis is a great tool that can be used to determine which processes in a system are able to be automated. In the example of the spaghetti, a researcher may identify that “emptying pasta box into pot” may be able to be automated. 

HTA of making spaghetti from ENP 162 lecture

Another type of task analysis is cognitive task analysis. In cognitive task analysis, researchers analyze the cognitive ways people complete tasks. There are over 100 ways to complete tasks analysis; however, these methods follow the following principles. 

“1) Collect preliminary knowledge 

2) Identify knowledge representations 

3) Apply focused knowledge elicitation methods

4) Analyze and verify data

5) Format results for intended application.” 

Cognitive task analysis is often used to define the necessary amount of knowledge when completing a task. This can be highly important in reducing human error in professional place settings; for example, a cognitive task analysis could be performed in order to determine the process of landing an aircraft.

Cognitive task analysis is a great way to get a detailed representation of how a task is completed. In addition, cognitive task analysis can be a tool used in identifying automation capabilities by illustrating the level of cognitive complexity a step requires. Unfortunately, cognitive task analysis is an intensive task that is resource-intensive. In addition, cognitive task analysis does not identify the non-cognitive requirements that are needed to complete a task. 

An alternative way to present a task analysis. Source.

In conclusion, task analysis can be used in academia and industry in order to better understand users and sources of potential conflict. With regards to automation, task analysis clearly outlines concrete steps in a program, which can then be used to identify potential steps that can be automated. In the end, task analysis is a highly beneficial framework that can reveal more about users and inform design decisions. 



  1. I think you did a really good job of summarizing and explaining the purpose of task analysis. The visuals were very helpful and you did a good job of keeping the ideas of cognitive and hierarchical task analysis distinct.


    September 28, 2019 at 2:27 pm

    Great presentation of task analysis! And some wonderful images and references! I am curious to see what you think about the other forms of task analysis we cover later in the class (e.g. Emotional Task Analysis, Decisional Task Analysis, etc).

  3. The visuals were very helpful and you did a good job of keeping the ideas of cognitive and hierarchical task analysis distinct.

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