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Comparing User Task Flows with the CUTA Method

Your customers will use your site or app in different ways than you might expect.  As the following picture illustrates, we have two customers that solve their problems in different ways.   The first customer goes directly to your site, while the second customer starts at a search engine.

Two User Task Flows

You will need to be able to work with both kinds of customers, who solve their problem(s) in vastly different ways.  The CUTA method is a great to determine these different task flows and look for additional opportunities.

CUTA Method

CUTA stands for Comparative User Task Analysis.  In the CUTA method, you want your customers to use a set of cards to describe all of the steps for a particular task.  You want to document all of the steps, which might include:

  • Mental activity—customer must think about something
  • Technology activity—phone, calculator, computer
  • Non-technology activity—talk with manager, meet face-to-face
  • Physical activity—lifting an object, walking to a map

You want your customers to breakdown the task beyond just the site or app.  You want to look for opportunities to add something to your product.  Lastly, your customers will do their task analysis separately, so you can compare them with other task flows.


  1. Determine the high-level tasks you want your customers to breakdown.
  2. Provide a brief description of the CUTA method.  You want the customers to fully describe the different activities (mental, technology, non-technology, and physical) for a specific task.
  3. Tell them to write an M for mental, T for technology, N for non-technology, and P for physical activity on the top right of each index card.
  4. Participants create their task flow using the CUTA cards (that they build).
  5. Review the task flow with the participant.  If you have any questions, you need to ask them now.  Make sure you can read their writing.
  6. Repeat steps 1-5 with as many participants, as desired.  You will get good results with 7-8 participants.
  7. Compare the different task flows.  Look for opportunities.
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