UXPA – Contextual Task Analysis for an Enterprise Mobile App

traneThis event worth the drive to the opposite side of the city in traffic ūüėČ ¬†Very insightful presentation – a wonderful overview of creation a usable app and considering customer and business needs.

A few points from the presentation:

  • trane-app-2One of the reasons for the creation of the app is pressure from the competition. ¬†As apps became more common, system specifications included an app as a requirement and a company would not be considered in the selection process if this requirement would not be satisfied. ¬†Interesting: the app is becoming a part of the product itself – an extension of the functionality rather than a promotional element. ¬†The app increases the attractiveness of the product itself.
  • To be useful, the app requires a specific piece of equipment; so far there were more app downloads than equipment sold – it indicates the app popularity.
  • The company decided not to charge anything for the app – as it was technically the extension of the product and the objective was to sell the product itself.
  • trane-app-3The objective of the app was to make “something useful” so this element of the product will be in the specifications of the requirements during next purchase cycle.
  • Two opposite options existed – to create “alarm log” – a minimalist app from the feature perspective or to include into the app “everything the PC has” – the app already had a PC version.
  • The team used contextual task analysis: ¬†observation of the users in the context of their work (the product already existed online so it was possible to see how users interacted with the existing product.
  • Mobile contexts (from Tapworthy):
    • tapworthyMicrotasking (became for focus)
    • I am local
    • I am bored

Enterprise microtasking:

    • frequently performed
    • time sensitive
    • come up when the operator is away from his desk

Task analysis:

    • Which tasks to support
    • What are desired steps involved
    • What is the environmental context
  • The researches wanted to observe an average customer – not the most proficient, not the worst, but an average. ¬†Several buildings and customers were observed.
  • The researchers did not ask about mobile; the objective was to observe how the current online application was used and what the target audience did during their work day. ¬†Only at the end of the observation the question about the app was asked – in some cases, a particular type of user noted that no app was needed.


  • Two types of system users were identified, which became micro-personas for the effort:
    • Perry – a person who wanted to automate everything , a person comfortable using all features of the system
    • Stan – a person who tend to control equipment manually. ¬†From the perspective of the engineers, this approach might be considered “wrong,” ¬†but it gave the use needed tools for the specific job. ¬†For example, a concerned employee comes to Stan’s cube and asks to increase temperature in his/her location – Stan opens the application and increases the temperature by half of a degree. ¬†Though there will be no effect on the temperature, the person who stopped at Stan’s desk will happily leave and assume that his/her surroundings became more comfortable.
  • Only building operators were targeted for the app, but if the app is easy to use, it would find other users. ¬†At the end, sales people (an unintended audience) liked the app too and used it during the sales demonstrations.
  • Evaluation of the existing online app showed that not everything was understood and used on the main interface. ¬†Equipment graphics were linked and used.
  • The app adapts to a specific building; graphic appears only in the landscape mode


  • Removing labels: ¬†as much as possible labels were removed. ¬†For example, just a word “occupied” was used and it was understandable what it was. ¬†Different colors of font was used for current and desired temperature, and anything adjustable had obvious buttons to adjust the setting. ¬†Removing labels allowed to remove clutter and add more useful data to the screen.
  • Unexpected: from the beginning of the project, adding schedules into the app was considered important. ¬†However, because of scope creep of other essential features, the schedules were not added. ¬†If the question about the schedules arise, the fact that schedule overrides are available eliminates any concerns. This is considered a right decision.

It was a wonderful event, and free coffee from Trane made my online marketing moment a little sweeter ūüėČ