The first step in top task management is carrying out a task situation analysis in order to understand the whole range of customer tasks that exist. I call this list of customer tasks the Longlist, and discussed longlist information sources last week. The next step is managing your task list.

Collect your task longlist in a spreadsheet with the following headings:

  • Tasks: This is where we place the task word/phrase
  • Duplicates: This column contains task phrases that are very similar to each other.
  • Class: This is the broad classification the task phrase fits into.
  • Source: This is where we found the task phrase. For example, "Top 100 Search Results".
  • Internal Source: This identifies the person who put the task on the list. (Sometimes a number of people will be involved in the research process.)

As we assemble a longlist we may enter words that are exact duplicates or near duplicates. For example, when we were assembling the NHS Choices longlist we found that "Women's health" was on the BBC health website and on That is what you would call an exact duplicate and you would eliminate one of them.

Then, we found that we were left with a number of terms that were essentially duplicative.

  • Women
  • Women's health
  • Women's health information

At this early stage in the process, we don't need to delete any of these, but at some point we would have to choose one and delete the others.

A larger point here is whether we should have a task connected with "women" at all because women are a category or segment of the population. If we do, shouldn't we have "men's health" and "children's health", as well as "old people's health"?

Here are some things to consider:

  1. It's not a good idea to have a task name that is very heavily associated with one particular demographic. It will likely get a high vote from that demographic but may not get a high vote from other demographics.
  2. To identify the top tasks of a particular demographic we add a question that allows users to categorize themselves. (For example: 'What is your gender'?) That way you can segment the data later and see if the top tasks are very different for each category segment or if there is overlap.
  3. It's not a good idea to have a word/phrase in the final list that contains many tasks because if it gets a high vote you can't be sure as to what exactly was voted for. Remember, task identification is about action; it's about helping you change your website so your customers can more easily complete their tasks. You need clear results from this list so you can act on them decisively.

Thus, where possible, we create neutral tasks that are not specific to any one audience or demographic. (They need to work for women, men, etc.)

Here are some examples:

  • Appointment reminders
  • Avoiding and preventing disease
  • Basic facts about conditions / diseases
  • Best place to go for help (GP, emergency, clinic, walk-in centre, pharmacist)