Homework 2: cognitive walkthrough

In this assignment, you will be performing a cognitive walkthrough of a privacy or security interface of your choice.


This homework is due 23:59 on Tuesday, February 5.


This assignment should be completed in groups of 2.


Your task is to perform a cognitive walkthrough of a security or privacy interface. The instructions below are based on an article by Kim Salazar at the Nielsen Norman Group but there are many other resources that you can draw on.

Decide the software interface and task you will be studying

You’ll need to choose one concrete task as part of a larger interface, subject to the following constraints:

  • It must have something to do with security and privacy.
    • Try to pick something reasonably complex to make it interesting!
    • If in doubt, please ask.
  • There must be at least 4 distinct steps to the task you are studying.
  • It must not be an example we used in class or one of the following tasks:
    • Authenticating with two-factor authentication
      • (However, more complex operations related to MFA may be okay.)
    • Logging in using a password manager or adding a login to one

Prepare your task

Define what success means for your task and figure out the sequence of steps that is necessary to correctly complete the task.

Choose a persona

Decide and define the user from whose perspective you will be performing the analysis. While you don’t need to create a complete persona with a fully developed background and character, you should think about and establish your assumptions and expectations for the user. (For example, what concepts and terms are they familiar with?)

Perform the walkthrough

For each of the steps you identified in preparing the task, discuss with your partner and come up with a detailed response to the following questions:

  1. Will users try to achieve the right result? 
  2. Will users notice that the correct action is available?
  3. Will users associate the correct action with the result they’re trying to achieve? 
  4. After the action is performed, will users see that progress is made toward the goal?

Come up with conclusions

When you finish with the walkthrough, talk about what insights it provided about the task and interface. What do you think about the user experience for this task as a whole? How could it be improved?

What to turn in

Your write-up should include the following:

  • Name and link to the software or service you analyzed
  • A description of the task (including its goals) you chose
  • A description of the persona you’re using for the walkthrough
  • For each step in the task, please provide:
    • a screenshot
    • a description of the correct action
    • answers to each of the 4 questions above
      • not just a yes/no answer, but an explanation for why you decided this
      • If applicable, describe the errors you think the user might make.
  • A summary of your conclusions and recommendations for improving the user experience of the task you studied

Please submit your write-up with the parts listed above. Your submission must be in the form of a PDF created using LaTeX.

Late policy

  • Assignments submitted up to 24 hours late receive a deduction of one letter grade (10 percentage points).
  • Assignments submitted more than 24 hours late receive no credit.
  • The late penalty will be waived for up to 3 homework assignments.
    • However, this cannot be stacked (you can’t use more than one late day per assignment).
    • Even with this waiver, an assignment submitted more than 24 hours late receives no credit.