Task-oriented apps provide task-oriented workflows that align with user goals. A task-oriented app is sometimes referred to as task focused or workflow driven. Regardless of terminology, a successful experience is built on useful tasks and guiding users to complete them efficiently.
Task completion and task success are the main metrics for measuring usability and are essential to the success of an app. A single-purpose app that works well is better than an app that tries to solve too many problems at once and is confusing to users. Users get frustrated or even abandon and leave the app if they can’t find and complete what they are looking for. As a result, the task completion rate decreases and affects the usability of the app in a negative way.
A good indicator that a map app lacks task-oriented design is when it looks and behaves like a toolbox or Swiss army knife. See the kitchen sink pattern, illustrated in chapter 7, “Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them,” for more details. Often, this confusion happens when the app tries to solve too many problems and offers too many features. This lack of focus inevitably waters down the purpose of the app, and as a result, users are confused where to start, what to do, and how to accomplish their tasks.
To be task oriented, funnel users into a clear workflow that assists them in successfully completing their task. Avoid scattering tools and functionality across the UI but chain them into a single task-oriented workflow instead. This workflow can be triggered in different ways.
One approach is to provide a single call to action (CTA), such as a button that opens a UI container (for instance, a panel or modal window), with the goal to focus the user on completing the task. A modal window is a child window that opens in front of the main window while blocking the rest of the app.
Another way is through explicit action buttons inside an info pop-up. This approach is especially effective because you can deduce the intent of the user from their clicking a feature and provide workflows that match this intent and context. Having the workflow readily available in a final panel avoids the need for unnecessary interactions to reach it. Partial map layouts work best in this scenario. Another good practice is to embed tools that interact with the map such as feature selection right in the workflow so users don’t need to look elsewhere to “click the right button to turn the right knob.”
The Riverside County Office of Education (RCOE) hosts a custom app that allows employees to evaluate school transfer requests by comparing the distances from applicants’ home locations (such as Dad’s, Mom’s, Grandparents’) to the home school and the transfer school. The task-oriented nature of the app provides steps to first select the home school (abbreviated by an H) and transfer school (T), followed by entering one or more address locations of the applicant (indicated by letters). For each location, the app then calculates the distance to the home and transfer school and shows their respective routes on the map. Each route is displayed in a different color that also correlates to the location card in the left panel. This layout, in which the main workflow is prominently represented in a panel and the map appears next to it, is called partial map. Users can interact with the location cards — for instance, clicking on a location card on the left will zoom the map to the extent of its related routes. An interesting usability detail is that the distance to the target school does not show the actual distance in miles but instead shows the difference between home school and target school — such that a negative number indicates that the distance to the target school is less than the distance to the home school. This seemingly minor detail helps assessors make easier and faster decisions.