An Introduction to Top Tasks

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A framework to help organisations identify what is important


Developed over twenty years of rigorous research in some of the most complex organizational environments in the world, Top Tasks is a tried and tested information design framework. It helps you identify what truly matters to people. It helps you identify where these top tasks can be improved and made more efficient. It helps you design a Top Tasks classification / navigation so that the top tasks are easier to find. Just as importantly, Top Tasks helps you clearly identify the tiny tasks. It is often the tiny tasks that are most damaging as they clutter and confuse the website / app. Top Tasks gives you clear, statistically reliable evidence that these tasks are not important to people. It thus helps you to remove and simplify, to strip away and focus on what truly matters.

Over a twenty-year period, Top Tasks has been successfully implemented all over the world for hundreds of organizations such as Cisco, Toyota, Microsoft, the Irish health service, Oslo University, and the European Union.

Regular price: €699

Early bird (until December 13th): €499


As a general rule, the larger, more complex and more political the environment, the better Top Tasks works. The smaller the website / app, the less useful it will be. Top Tasks has been designed mainly for medium to large websites and apps. At core, it taps into research, user experience and information architecture skills. The foundation of Top Tasks is a survey which requires at least 100 responses, and ideally about 400.


There are three stages to Top Tasks training:

1. Top Tasks Identification

2. Task Performance Indicator

3. Top Tasks Classification

Top Tasks Identification

Learn how to identify people’s top tasks. This stage uses our unique voting technique to enable people to tell you in precise, statistical terms their top tasks within a particular environment.

The following are the steps in task identification:

  1. Defining scope
  2. Gathering tasks
  3. Shortlisting
  4. Survey
  5. Analyzing and presenting

Here’s what you’ll learn about each step:

Defining scope

  • Learn to identify who in your organization should be involved in task identification: How to put together the right team. A multidisciplinary, multi-functional team is critical for success.
  • Defining the audience and how to get them to vote.
  • Defining the scope for the task environment. For example, are we asking ‘What matters most to you when buying a car on our website?’ or ‘What matters most to you when buying a car?’.

Gathering tasks

  • Defining what a task is: How to get everybody on the same page in thinking about tasks.
  • How to use the task collection template.
  • Sources for tasks: You will be guided through all the potential sources of tasks.


Going from the longlist of all the potential tasks to a final, polished shortlist is the most difficult and challenging part of the whole Top Tasks process. Get this wrong and everything that follows will be built on weak foundations. Here’s what you’ll learn about:

  • Administrative shortlisting versus full shortlisting sessions. Why we need two types of shortlisting and what needs to be done in each one.
  • Cleaning up task wording.
  • Removing or merging overlaps, duplicates, mothers and children.
  • Removing brand names, products, departments and subjects.
  • Removing dirty magnets (wordings that can have multiple meanings).
  • Removing audience and demographics.
  • Removing formats and channels.
  • Dealing with ego tasks. These are tasks that the organization loves, but it is highly unlikely people have any interest in them.
  • Running final reviews with individual stakeholders.
  • Getting the task level right: Not too high, not too low.


  • Designing the top tasks question.
  • Agreeing the segmentation questions.
  • Team / stakeholder survey.
  • Agreeing how many people we need to get to vote.
  • Most effective ways to get people to vote.

Analyzing and presenting

  • How to best present the results in charts and tables.
  • Interpreting overall results.
  • Segmentation question detailed analysis.

Task Performance Indicator

Once you have identified people’s top tasks, the question becomes: How well are these tasks performing? The Task Performance Indicator (TPI) will give you the answer. TPI is somewhat similar to user testing. It is a remote, moderated measurement process that measures how well your top tasks are performing. A representative sample of people will be given examples of top tasks and asked to try and complete those tasks on the website or app. The TPI gives you reliable data on success rates and task time while identifying key causes of poor usability and delivering recommendations on how to improve success.

You’ll learn about:

  1. Choosing tasks and people.
  2. Creating task instructions.
  3. Running a measurement session.
  4. Analyzing and presenting results.

Choosing tasks and people

  • Selecting top tasks for measurement.
  • Selecting people to measure.

Task instructions

  • Creating task instructions. Getting the task instruction wording right is essential to the success of the TPI.
  • Creating expected journeys, the paths that we expect people to go on to complete the tasks.
  • Agreeing target times and start page.

Measurement sessions

  • Facilitator guide. You’ll get a facilitator guide template.
  • Expected journey guide template.
  • How to run a moderated measurement session.

Analyzing and presenting results

  • How to analyze results, identify patterns, prepare videos.
  • Preparing the presentation.
  • Establishing the TPI as an ongoing metric.

Top Tasks Classification

In designing websites and apps since 1994, I have found that confusing menus and links are the number one cause of task failure. Designing a truly intuitive navigation and classification for your website or app is one of the best things you can do if you want to excel as a digital designer. It is a foundation of the Top Tasks approach.

Navigation design principles

You will learn about the key principles of navigation design:

  • Momentum: Making sure the primary navigation path helps people move forward.
  • Unity: Keeping a unified navigation structure rather than spreading bits of navigation all over the screen.
  • Twins: Typically, there are two dominant journeys that people like to take for a particular task.
  • Minimalism: Stripping away all forms of navigation, and other distractions, that are not focused on the task at hand.
  • Word clarity: Making sure that all navigation words are clear and precise.
  • Fidelity: A link is a promise. Making sure that navigation links keep their promises.
  • Magnetism: Designing for clean magnetism (the link draws clicks for what it is supposed to draw clicks for) and avoiding dirty magnetism (the link does not draw clicks for what it is not supposed to draw clicks for).
Sorting: Getting people to group tasks
  • Selecting tasks for sorting: Deciding which tasks people will be asked to sort based on Top Tasks data.
  • Agreeing segmentation questions: Deciding on what profile and number of people are required to do the sort.
  • Carrying out the sort using online sorting service.
  • Creating a hypothetical classification from the sort.

Once you have created a hypothetical classification you must test it. Typically, it takes three rounds of testing to achieve a truly intuitive classification and navigation. You’ll learn about:

  • Defining the success rate: What metrics to use in order to know that the classification is working well.
  • Creating task instructions: The first step in testing is to create at least one task instruction for each of the tasks that were used in the sort.
  • Preparing the online test environment.
  • Carrying out test: Monitoring the progress of the test.
  • Analyzing the results: How to interpret the charts and tables that are output from the analysis. Identifying solutions to reduce the failure rate. This is where much of the skill and expertise resides. I’ll show you what to look out for.
  • Refining classification hypothesis: Where appropriate, making changes to the classification, the task instructions and/or the task instruction paths.
  • Launching the next round.

Top Tasks works. Over twenty years, it has been tried and tested and has been used by everyone from Toyota to the US Internal Revenue Service, from Atlas Copco to the Asian Development Bank, from the UK National Health Service to Cisco, from the Canadian government to Tetra Pak, from Microsoft to the BBC, from Rolls Royce to IBM. Get twenty years of expertise and experience compressed into ten hours of training.

What you will learn


/ How to identify the top tasks and the tiny tasks of your audience.

/ How to measure the performance of the top tasks.

/ How to create a Top Tasks classification and navigation.


Gerry will spend roughly the first 30 minutes of each session presenting and explaining key concepts. Then you will have time to ask specific questions, perhaps about projects you are on. There will be no more than 12 people in each session so your concerns and issues will be carefully addressed. There will be simple, short exercises after the initial presentation that will allow you to see in a real-world context how the methods work.

Trainers/hosts to be announced.
Pay by invoice
February 8, 2021
Dates and Times

Berlin 17:00 – 19:00
London 16:00 – 18:00
Rio de Janeiro 13:00 – 15:00
New York City 11:00 – 13:00
San Francisco 08:00 – 10:00


Session 01 - Monday 8th Feb '21 (2-hours)
08th February 2021 - 1600 - 1800 (Dublin, Ireland)

Session 02 - Tuesday 9th Feb '21 (2-hours)
09th February 2021 - 1600 - 1800 (Dublin, Ireland)

Session 03 - Wednesday 10th Feb '21 (2-hours)
10th February 2021 - 1600 - 1800 (Dublin, Ireland)

Session 04 - Thursday 11th Feb '21 (2-hours)
11th February 2021 - 1600 - 1800 (Dublin, Ireland)

Session 05 - Friday 12th Feb (2-hours)
12th February 2021 - 1600 - 1800 (Dublin, Ireland)

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