What is a Cognitive Walkthrough?
Cognitive Walkthroughs are used to examine the usability of a product and are usually carried out internally.
Internal staff are asked to think like a user when evaluating the products UI. They will walkthrough user scenarios following the "perfect path" and check the communication between the UI and the user. The evaluation is based on cognitive psychology — how people learn.
Cognitive Walkthroughs are a cost-effective way to gather fast feedback and insights prior to product development. They are also useful for when you don't have immediate access to users.
The four questions to be asked during a Cognitive Walkthrough
Blackmon, Polson, et al. in 2002 in their paper Cognitive Walkthrough for the Web offer four questions to be used by an assessor during a Cognitive Walkthrough:
- Will the user try and achieve the right outcome?
- Will the user notice that the correct action is available to them?
- Will the user associate the correct action with the outcome they expect to achieve?
- If the correct action is performed; will the user see that progress is being made towards their intended outcome?
Conducting a Cognitive Walkthrough
- Choose which tasks that you would like to evaluate.
- Determine the persona whose cognitive functions are relevant for these tasks.
- Break the tasks down into individual steps to create our "happy path" and write a script for the journey.
- For every step in the task, you ask the four questions. You do this before, during and after each step.
Who should conduct a Cognitive Walkthrough?
Anyone can conduct a Cognitive Walkthrough; however, it is often better to conduct a Cognitive Walkthrough with people who are not already familiar with your UI. This is due to the fact that they are likely to miss things.
I've conducted a Cognitive Walkthrough, now what?
I usually collate all the reports together and share these with the team, then bring everyone together for a brainstorming session in order to determine and prioritise solutions.