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A cognitive walkthrough is a step-by-step exploration of a page to see how well a particular type of user - represented by a persona - will be able to accomplish his or her objectives.

The following must be set down explicitly before the the walkthrough process is begun:

  • a user goal - the specific result desired by the user and motivating the interaction
  • a persona which:
    • is adequate to judge what knowledge the user may plausibly be expected to have
    • specifies the particular needs, preferences, and limitations the user may have

Note that separate walkthroughs may be needed for each persona, although some issues will likely show up in more than one walkthrough, resulting in later walkthroughs going more quickly than earlier ones.

Addressing Usability in a Cognitive Walkthrough

Work out the sequence of steps the user should go through, to accomplish the goal.

For each step, ask the following questions:

  1. Will the user know what to do at this step? Is complex problem solving needed to figure out what to do?

  2. If the user does the right thing, will they know that they did the right thing, and are making progress towards their goal? Is complex problem solving needed to interpret the feedback?
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