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A cognitive walkthrough is a step-by-step exploration of a service to see how well a particular type of user, usually represented by a persona, is able to accomplish a particular objective or set of objectives.

The objectives selected for testing are dictated by the persona that is chosen.

1. Choose a user

  • Choose a user from whose perspective you will perform the walkthrough. This may be easiest to do by selecting a persona – see UX Walkthrough Preparation and Execution for more information on this.
  • If using a persona, ensure that the persona:
    • 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: separate walkthroughs may be needed for each persona or user type, although some issues will likely show up in more than one walkthrough, resulting in later walkthroughs going more quickly than earlier ones.

2. Define the goal & tasks

  • Determine the specific result desired by the user and motivating the interaction
  • Lay out the sequence of steps the user/persona should go through to accomplish their goal. (Information on defining goals can be found in UX Walkthrough Preparation and Execution).

3. Perform the tasks

Addressing Usability in a Cognitive Walkthrough

Work out the sequence of steps the user should go through, to accomplish the goal (see "Define the Goal & Tasks" above).

For each step in accomplishing a task, ask:

  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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