Let’s Reflect: Cognitive Walkthrough

cwalkHello everyone!  Hope all is well!  Alright, so today I’m going to reflect a bit on some information that I’ve learned from some readings on Cognitive Walkthroughs.

A Cognitive Walkthrough is a method other than a Heuristic Evaluation that can be used to evaluate the usability of an interface that’s been created.  Now, this is done with usability experts, designers, and developers.  With CW’s, you are trying to answer some specific questions (courtesy of Cathleen Wharton):

Will the user try to hit the right effect?

Will the user notice the correct action?

Will the user associate the action with the effect that happened?

The people doing the evaluating  will use these metrics in performing tasks in an interface (this could be a website, an application, a web app, etc.).  Problem-solving is being check here, before users even see this product.

Cognitive Walkthroughs are very task-oriented, whereas Heuristic Evaluations take a bigger scope approach.  Both, however, use rules that are clearly defined.  Usability is the key factor here.  You’re trying to really see “Can people use this?”

Alright, so let’s talk about the ones doing the evaluating:  UX experts, Designers and/or Developers.

…Yeah, there may be a problem here.  In fact, there may be a few:  time pressure, long discussions, and (of course) designer defensiveness.

Sometimes you won’t have all the time in the world to go through a CW.  A session you thought that would take an hour may end up taking 5, and that’s time that should not be wasted.  Discussions about a specific task may run over because people in the session may want to “fix it then and there”.  It’s important to keep in mind that this is an evaluation and supposed to give you info, not fix designs.  

Now designer defensiveness is a different story.  Let’s face it, nobody likes being told their baby is bad.  You’re gonna get designers (or developers) that will justify why something they did was correct and will work.  Again, we’re not trying to make personal attacks on designs, we’re just looking at the usability of the tasks to be performed in the interface.  We’re identifying usability issues, not harpering on designs here.