Dec 4, 2023 Written by Tamar Barlev
time on task clock and phone on a tray

Welcome to the dynamic realm of app development, where the pursuit of a flawless user experience (UX) is akin to an intricate puzzle waiting to be solved and in which one metric stands out as both an enigma and an incredible clue: Time on Task.

Doing a UX Audit and feeling that yours is a bit lofty? Well—today we’re going to be diving head first into the reasons as to why that might be, and offer some solutions while we’re at it. Let’s get into it.

What is Time on Task?

Time on Task refers to the duration a user spends completing a specific task within an application. It’s a pivotal metric in UX design, offering a quantitative measure of user efficiency and satisfaction, as well as the intuitiveness and user-friendliness of design.

How to Measure Time on Task?

Measuring Time on Task is a crucial aspect of understanding user behavior and optimizing app UX. You can use different tools and methods to get valuable insights into how users interact with your app:

  1. Analytics Platforms: Leverage analytics tools such as Google Analytics, Mixpanel, or Hotjar to track user interactions within your app. Set up custom events or goals to specifically monitor the time users spend on particular tasks. These platforms provide detailed reports, allowing you to identify patterns, user flows, and potential bottlenecks affecting Time on Task.
  2. Session Recordings: Utilize session recording tools like FullStory or Crazy Egg to capture real-time user interactions. These recordings offer a visual representation of user journeys, enabling you to observe where users spend the most time and pinpoint areas of friction or confusion.
  3. Task Completion Time: Include task-specific timers within your app to measure the time it takes for users to complete essential actions. For example, if your app involves a checkout process, track the time from product selection to successful payment. Analyzing task completion times provides granular insights into specific user interactions.
  4. Surveys and Feedback: Implement user surveys or feedback forms to gather qualitative data on Time on Task. Ask users about their perceived difficulty in completing certain tasks and inquire about the time they feel is reasonable for specific actions. Combining quantitative analytics with qualitative feedback provides a holistic view of the user experience.
  5. Usability Testing: Conduct usability testing sessions with real users to observe their behavior in a controlled environment. Use scenarios that mimic common user tasks and measure the time it takes for participants to complete them. Usability testing provides direct insights into user struggles and helps identify areas for improvement.

What Does a High Time on Task Mean?

It can mean user frustration: If users are taking longer than expected to complete tasks, it may signal that they are encountering difficulties or obstacles within the app. Frustration can lead to a negative user experience and, ultimately, user abandonment.

Or, it can mean complexity in user journey: Users may be struggling to navigate through various screens, find essential features, or understand the steps required to complete a task. Complex user journeys can hinder overall usability.

It can mean potential usability issues: Unclear instructions, confusing layouts, or inefficient workflows. Analyzing the specific tasks with high Time on Task can help pinpoint these issues and guide improvements.

Or, alternatively, optimization opportunities: While a high Time on Task indicates challenges, it also presents opportunities for optimization. By identifying the specific areas contributing to extended task durations, you can implement targeted design changes, streamline processes, and enhance overall user satisfaction.

In e-commerce or service-oriented apps, a high Time on Task can impact conversion rates. Users spending excessive time in the checkout process, for instance, may abandon their carts. Understanding the correlation between Time on Task and conversion rates is crucial for optimizing user flows.

And, lastly, it’s possible that your elevated Time on Task could be a result of increased user engagement, particularly in apps with content consumption or interactive features. In such cases, a longer Time on Task may be positive, indicating that users are actively engaging with the app’s offerings.

What is a Good Time on Task?

Measuring time on task is a valuable metric for evaluating the efficiency and usability of a product: a shorter task time generally indicates a more intuitive and user-friendly design, as users can quickly and easily accomplish their objectives.

The thing is, determining a “good” time on task is not a straightforward process. It depends on many factors, including the complexity of the task, the user’s familiarity with the application, and the specific context of use. Additionally, time on task benchmarks vary across different types of applications.

Time on Task Benchmarks

  • E-commerce: 1-3 minutes for completing a purchase
  • Search engines: 10-30 seconds for finding relevant search results
  • Online banking: 1-2 minutes for transferring funds or paying bills
  • Productivity apps: 2-5 minutes for completing common tasks like creating documents or managing emails
  • Social media: 30-60 seconds for navigating and engaging with content

Also Consider:

When evaluating this metric, it’s also crucial to consider other factors beyond the absolute time it takes to complete a task, like:

  • User error rate: A high error rate indicates that users are struggling to complete tasks, even if the time on task is relatively low.
  • User satisfaction: Users should be able to complete tasks efficiently without experiencing frustration or difficulty.
  • Task completion rate: The percentage of users who successfully complete a task is an important measure of overall usability.

Reasons and Solutions for a High Time on Task

1. Complex Navigation

Reason: Complex navigation structures refer to intricate or convoluted paths users must traverse to access specific features or information within an app. This complexity can stem from poorly organized menus, nested submenus, or unclear hierarchies, making it challenging for users to find what they’re looking for efficiently.

Solution: To address complex navigation, designers should prioritize simplicity and clarity. This involves restructuring menus, adopting straightforward labeling, and ensuring that the most critical features are easily accessible. Conducting usability testing can provide valuable insights into how users navigate through the app, allowing for adjustments to improve the overall flow and reduce Time on Task.

2. Unclear Instructions

Unclear instructions or ambiguous prompts can leave users uncertain about the actions they need to take, resulting in prolonged Time on Task. This can manifest as confusing button labels, vague error messages, or unclear guidance during crucial interactions.

Solution: Enhancing user guidance involves employing clear and concise language throughout the app. Providing tooltips, interactive tutorials, or context-specific hints can guide users through tasks seamlessly. Regularly update instructional elements based on user feedback to ensure that users are consistently supported and can complete tasks with minimal friction.

3. Inefficient Workflows

Reason: Inefficient workflows occur when users must navigate through unnecessary steps, encounter redundant processes, or face overly complex task sequences. Cumbersome workflows can significantly impact the user’s ability to complete tasks swiftly.

Solution: Optimizing workflows requires a detailed analysis of user interactions. Identify and eliminate unnecessary steps, streamline processes, and prioritize a user-centric design. Regularly test and refine workflows based on user feedback to maintain efficiency and reduce the overall Time on Task.

4. Slow Loading Times

Reason: Slow loading times can be a major contributor to extended Time on Task, as users are forced to wait for pages or features to load. This can lead to frustration and a negative user experience.

Solution: Addressing slow loading times involves optimizing the app’s performance. This includes compressing images, leveraging browser caching, and minimizing server response times. Prioritize a swift and responsive user experience to mitigate the impact of slow loading times on Time on Task and overall user satisfaction.

5. Lack of Personalization

Reason: A lack of personalization means that the app does not tailor content or features based on individual user preferences. Users may spend more time searching for relevant information or features that align with their interests.

Solution: Implement personalization features by utilizing user data to understand preferences and behavior. This could involve suggesting personalized content, customizing user interfaces, or providing tailored recommendations. Personalization enhances user engagement, reduces Time on Task, and contributes to an overall more satisfying user experience. Regularly update personalization algorithms to stay aligned with evolving user preferences.

Best Practices to Keep Your Time on Task Low

  1. User Testing: Regularly conduct usability testing with real users to identify pain points and areas of improvement.
  2. Iterative Design: Embrace an iterative design process, incorporating user feedback to continuously refine and optimize the user interface.
  3. Clear Communication: Ensure clear and concise communication throughout the app, from onboarding to task completion, to minimize user confusion.
  4. Analytics Monitoring: Utilize analytics tools to monitor user behavior and identify areas with high Time on Task. Use this data to guide optimization efforts.
  5. Mobile Responsiveness: Optimize your app for various devices and screen sizes to ensure a consistent and efficient user experience across platforms.

To Sum it Up

Wrapping up this “Troubleshooting” post, we want to emphasize: addressing a high Time on Task in app development requires a multifaceted approach. By understanding the metrics, identifying potential issues, and implementing user-centric solutions, developers can enhance the overall UX, resulting in more satisfied and engaged users. And you can do it.

But, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by all of this—reach out to your friendly neighborhood UX Design, App Development, and Product experts.

We’d love to talk 🙂