Top Task Research to Connect and Convert

Website Content to Connect and Convert

Top Task research helps you create websites built around the tasks that people most want to do on your site. The result: a better experience for your visitors. And a better experience means more respect for your brand, higher enrollment conversion rates, and more annual fund contributions.

We’ve worked with more than 30 colleges, universities, and schools around the world.

Our 12 Year History of Success

Based on over 12 years of research by world-renowned web content expert, Gerry McGovern, the Top Task research approach is a unique scoring technique enabling the people who use your website to tell you in precise, statistical terms their top tasks at your website.

Top Task research involves drawing up a list of the tasks that your visitors come to your website to complete and then getting them to quickly vote on this list. The list of tasks can be up to 100 long.

Your visitors are asked to quickly scan the list and then choose their the 5 most important tasks. They must give a score of 5 to the task that is most important to them, 4 to the next most important task, and so on.

According to traditional polling theory, Top Task research shouldn’t work. A list of 100 tasks is simply too much, according to such theory, and people will just choose randomly. But Top Task research does work.

We have developed Top Task research using thousands of test participants in 15 countries. In fact, the longer list has a very important function. We want to get to the gut instinct choices of web visitors, not the considered choices.

  • A website is about self-service and self-service design is about observation-based management. It is now widely acknowledged that traditional techniques such as focus groups and standard surveys don’t accurately predict web customer behavior. “Perhaps the most common complaint about focus groups is that consumers are not honest in front of other people,” according to a Business Week article.
  • “At User Interface Engineering, we hardly ever use focus groups because they just don’t work very well at uncovering user needs,” states Christine Perfetti. “The biggest problem: what users say in a focus group rarely matches what they do in a real-life setting. Users’ opinions about a site or product are very rarely consistent with how they behave when they actually interact with it.”

The long list of tasks that we present brings the visitor to a point close to overload. We have heard test subjects say: “I can’t do this; there’s just too much to choose from.” We tell them to trust their instincts, to vote for what really jumps out at them.

Amazingly, when people do vote in sufficient numbers, rock solid trends emerge. In a typical poll, for example, at 100 voters the top 3 most popular tasks will have been established. Even if you get another 5,000 people voting, the top 3 tasks will not have changed.

Top Tasks research is a hugely powerful tool in predicting the true behavior of your visitors when they come to your website.

Why not do this yourself?

So now that we have told you some of the secrets of Top Task research, why shouldn’t you go off and do it by yourself? You certainly can, and you will probably get pretty good results. But if you engage us, here’s what you’ll also get:

  • The credibility of having the company that developed Top Task research carry out the poll. This will often help you sell the results better to other interested parties within your organization, and more importantly to initiate change within your organization based on the results.
  • Access to our word databases. Over the years, we have built up a range of careword databases and the average votes these words have received. For example, we have an extensive database of the most popular tasks within intranets, universities and government environments. This is very useful to ensure that your final list is not missing vital tasks.
  • Our experience: We have done Top Task research implementations hundreds of times. We have developed special techniques in getting to the final list. The words that your visitors are asked to vote on need to be clear and unambiguous. For example, in one early intranet test we were surprised that the word “Accessibility” was getting such a large vote. Accessibility is normally understood to refer to access to the intranet for people who have certain disabilities. However, what we found on examination was that many staff were voting for it because they wanted remote access to the intranet.

An International Partnership

Gerry and I work to bring the power of Top Task research to colleges and universities in the United States. Our partners at NeoInsight (experts in usability testing and UX design) in Ottawa help Canadian universities achieve the same success. And I have worked with NeoInsight on higher education projects in Canada and the U.S. We also have colleagues in the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the U.K. who provide the same services for European universities.

Take the first step.

To review how Top Tasks research can improve the marketing impact of your website, call me at 248-766-6425 or contact me by email at