Best practices for running a successful Cognitive Walkthrough on your website
Step 1 | Define the customer personas and their journeys on the site
Having a clear understanding of the customer personas that are most relevant to the user flow that will be evaluated during the cognitive walkthrough is an essential first step in running a successful cognitive walkthrough. These personas will inform the journey they will take and will help evaluators identify with the needs and behaviors that these personas would have on your website. Your research partners can help you identify the right customer personas to use for the cognitive walkthrough or your team can provide a set of personas based on the user flows you’d like to have evaluated.
Step 2 | Crate a clear map of the user journey / steps to be taken for the cognitive walkthrough & identify the happy path
In order to get the most impactful insights from the cognitive walkthrough, it’s important to define a clear set of steps that the evaluators will take. These will be presented as tasks and will be used to create the user journey that guides evaluators in the cognitive walkthrough. Identifying the “happy path” for each task— the path that your visitors take to achieve the desired result without encountering any errors — is essential to use as a benchmark against the results of the cognitive walkthrough. This can help you better understand how close or far your product is from its ideal version. Work with your UX research team to define these user flows and tasks before the start of the cognitive walkthrough.
Step 3 | Assign the research team to conduct the walkthrough through the perspective of the customer personas
Once the goals, the personas and the user journeys are defined, the project is ready to begin. The team of evaluators will now walk through the tasks defined in the previous steps, using the perspective of the customer personas to uncover friction points they experience when navigating your website.
Step 4 | Gather the insights
The measure for the impact of the cognitive walkthrough is the capacity for generating useful, actionable insights that can be used to improve the UX of your website. An experienced team of UX researchers can provide not only observations related to friction points and errors they encounter during the walkthrough, but also formulate recommendations for immediate fixes or longer-term improvements that take into consideration all of your business constraints.
Step 5 | Create an action-driven deliverable that provides a roadmap for fixes and A/B testing recommendations to improve the website experience
These insights from the cognitive walkthrough can be gathered in a deliverable (slide deck, spreadsheet etc) that not only presents the issues observed and their recommended fixes, but also prioritizes and defines the next steps in order to give you a clear roadmap for improving the UX of your website. The quality of this deliverable and its ability to generate a clear and useful roadmap is what makes the difference between a somewhat useful cognitive walkthrough exercise and a truly successful project that will have real impact on your business goals.