Cognitive Walkthrough for SaaS Startups

Every startup runs under one constant problem: everything has to be done as quick and cost-effective as possible. There is never enough time or money. So, I decided to put together a series of posts about DIY methods that every startup can easily implement and see results quickly. It's not about best practices or hacks, but about methods that UX experts are using and you can too.

In this post, I'm going to talk about cognitive walkthrough. A cognitive walkthrough is an ideal way to identify problems that users will have when they first use an interface, without training. In my opinion, it's the most time and cost-effective way to check any funnel for potential UX issues, hence perfect for startups.

 

 

How it works

A cognitive walkthrough begins by defining the task or tasks that the user would be expected to carry out. The goal here is to define a very specific task that can be easily repeated by another team member or someone else. For example, registration flow.


Next, write down the list of actions that a user needs to take in order to complete the task successfully - "happy path". For example, ClickUp registration flow:

  1. Click on "sing up free" button

  2. Enter email and click on "Get ClickUp" button

  3. Fill out the form and click on the "Play with ClickUp" button

  4. Copy and past the verification code from ClickUp email


Sometimes, creating the happy path is all we need to do to realise there is a problem with the interface. We know our product very well and don't consider it hard or as something that requires any efforts. By making a detailed path we can view it from a different angle. On the other hand, when we simplify the path we lose the point of cognitive walkthrough. For example step like "verify email" wouldn't work here.


Finally, we need to "walk" through each step asking 4 question:

  • Will the customer realistically be trying to do this action?

  • Is the control for the action visible?

  • Is there a strong link between the control and the action?

  • Is feedback appropriate?

 

 

Example

For example, let's once again take a look at ClickUp registration flow.

#1 - Click on "sing up free" button

Will the customer realistically be trying to do this action?

Of course. It's a common convention. A visitor who's willing to sign up will search for a "sign up" button.


Is the control for the action visible?

Yes, but not enough.


Is there a strong link between the control and the action?

Yes. The button says "sign up" and it's clear that by clicking on this button I'll start the registration process.


Is feedback appropriate?

Yes. The next step appears after clicking on the button and it's very clear that I'm going to sign up.



#2 - Enter email

Will the customer realistically be trying to do this action?

Yes. It's a common convention. Email is the minimum information that needed in order to sign up for any product.


Is the control for the action visible?

Yes. The design clearly shows what to do. Moreover, the focus is already set on the field, so I can just start typing my email.


Is there a strong link between the control and the action?

Yes. The placeholder clearly says "enter your email".


Is feedback appropriate?

Yes. After clicking on the "Get ClickUp" I'm either taken to the next step or "Please enter valid email address" message appears.



#3 - Fill out the form and click on the "Play with ClickUp" button

02 signup 2.png

Will the customer realistically be trying to do this action?

Yes. There are no hard or personal questions.


Is the control for the action visible?

Yes. The design clearly shows the form, and the buttons are big and vivid.


Is there a strong link between the control and the action?

Yes. The placeholders and labels clearly say what to do.


Is feedback appropriate?

Yes. After clicking on the "Play with ClickUp" I'm either taken to the next step or error messages appear.



#4 - Copy and past the verification code from ClickUp email

03 email verification page.png

Actually, there are more actions here. Like I need to open my email website or app, find the email and open it, copy the code and past it. However, those actions are not related to ClickUp, but to my knowledge of my email app and basic computer knowledge. So they are not relevant and can be skipped.

Will the customer realistically be trying to do this action?

Yes. It's also a common convention to verify email address by sending an email. So it's fine. Do I understand that I need to enter the code on the previous page? Pretty much. However, there is a second option - the "Go to verify" button".


Is the control for the action visible?

Yes. The digits are the biggest same as the form where I should enter them.


Is there a strong link between the control and the action?

I would say pretty much.


Is feedback appropriate?

Yes. Once I enter the number, the verification starts immediately.

That's it :)


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Summary

The goal of the cognitive walkthrough is to understanding product's learnability for new or infrequent users.

Cognitive walkthroughs have one downside - the value of the data is limited by the skills, knowledge and personal preferences of the evaluators. However, they have way more advantages. Cognitive walkthroughs are cheap and easy to conduct, provide quick feedback, can be done by the team (users are not involved) and most importantly can be applied during any phase of development.

Start using this easy but very effective method, and you will see results immediately. And if you need any help, don't hesitate to contact me.