UXPA – Contextual Task Analysis for an Enterprise Mobile App

traneThis event worth the drive to the opposite side of the city in traffic 😉  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 😉

One thought on “UXPA – Contextual Task Analysis for an Enterprise Mobile App

  1. Pingback: Mobile Twin Cities – Beyond Mobile | Online Marketing Moment

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