In the age of the consumer, it is vital for companies who conduct business online to identify their overarching goals of their users. By pinpointing the key tasks that the customer wishes to carry out on your website, you are establishing your ‘Red Routes’ or ‘Top Tasks’.
So what are Top Tasks?
They are the activities that matter most to your users. Once Top Tasks have been identified, we then need to ensure optimal customer satisfaction by providing a seamless user experience. This method has been coined as ‘Red Routing’ by Dr. David Travis. He compares improvement in speed and simplicity online with the red routes of buses in London. In London, the route these buses take must be clear at all times for an efficient service to be delivered. By acting like angry traffic wardens on the red routes on London online, he argues that, ‘we can ruthlessly eradicate any usability obstacles on the key user journeys.’
Image courtesy of Rik Williams
To define what the Red Routes or Top Tasks are, we need to identify the frequency and critical nature of customer tasks online. It is important to ensure that activities which are frequently carried out by customers on the website have top ease of use as it is through these activities that the customer’s perception of the website or business will be formed. But a differentiation must be noted between frequent activities and critical activities. A critical activity might be carried out infrequently such as updating billing details. Then you need to figure out what activities are of a critical nature and carried out frequently – these are your top tasks or red routes.
Red Routes must possess 5 characteristics:
- Be complete end to end activities
- Must imply an obvious measure of accomplishment
- Must be portable to competitor sites
- Must be goal orientated, not focused on procedural steps
- Must be accurate and realistic
By following a model such as Top Task Management or Red Routing, you are choosing to focus more intently on what really matters to your customers. Every company differs, but on average a business should have 5-10 Top Tasks. By identifying what the top tasks of your users are it allows you to:
- Anticipate user needs
- Guide usability testing
- Target essential website pages
- Design website with user needs in mind
- Identify your website’s mission
- Reduce unused pages
A Top Tasks analysis should be conducted to fully understand the needs of your user and so to produce the best customer experience. Your customer should be able to navigate their way around directly to the product they desire in the least amount of time possible. The more time it takes for the customer to reach the desired product, the more likely they are to abandon and leave the website, losing you business.
You need to actively support the goals of your users. Thus, it is vital to be aware of what it is your users are really trying to accomplish on your site. What are the top pages visited? How easy is it for them to access them? What isn’t popular on your website? Why is that?
Image courtesy of DigitalGov
But how do we go about identifying what these Top Tasks actually are? A website can have hundreds of different routes and tasks with multiple ways of achieving them. You need to identify all the possible tasks on the website and then prioritise them. It can be very difficult for a website owner or designer to think from the user perspective which is why it is vital to conduct the research and collect relevant. You need to start thinking from what the customer wants to do rather than what you want the customer to do. There are several ways in which to collect this data through customer feedback surveys, stakeholder and employee opinion, via social media routes, site analytics and search analysis.
Remember! Top Tasks are forever changing with the changing nature of the customer and their demands. If you are mindful of this you can implement a flexible UX design.