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Cognitive Journey

The so-called cognitive walkthrough (CW) is a usability inspection method used to test a product in a simulated use situation.


The importance of usability and user experience has increased enormously since the early 2000s. At this time, product development also uses its own testing methods. The cognitive journey was a method developed in the 1990s in cognitive science, based on the understanding that people learn through discovery. Cognitive walkthroughs are created with the goal of design a program that the user can use almost intuitively.

Simple steps and implementation

A cognitive journey usually takes place in four stages:

  • Step 1: Preparation

Here the typical user and entire groups are characterized and defined. The sample tasks and the path are then set to certain action sequences that the user must perform.

  • Step 2: Analysis of action sequences

The expert verifies each individual step of a previously defined sequence of actions. In doing so, they question, for example, every user input from a piece of software.

  • Step 3: Detect potential problems

Now the tester tries to detect possible problems throughout the operation. For this, they collect the necessary data, as well as questions about its use.

  • Step 4: Review the user interface

Possible indications for product improvement are taken from the analysis of the previous steps.

Cognitive walk test vs. usability test

Like usability testing, CW is a method of testing a product's ease of use. However, it differs significantly from the second mentioned. Here, both methods are briefly contrasted to shed more light on the similarities and differences:

Advantages of cognitive tours

  • Cheap.
  • Little effort.
  • Cognitive test method (theoretical).
  • An expert is usually sufficient.
  • It can be carried out at an early stage of development.
  • The goal is to discover how easy it is to learn a product.
  • Very detailed analysis of the required tasks.
  • Not rated by 'real users.
  • The evaluation takes place during the simulation.
  • The users are simulated and are not real.

Advantages of usability testing

  • The goal is to improve the ease of use of an existing system.
  • Empirical test method (practical).
  • Several test persons involved.
  • It is only viable at a later stage of development.
  • Definition of variable tasks.
  • More complicated test environment (eg eye tracker).
  • An evaluation is necessary after the test.

Concrete results

A cognitive tour can help you design a website or a program. For example, these findings can lead to the buttons being repositioned. A CW can also help make the most of the content of a website, for example, by placing additional information on the web portal so that the user can find their way more easily.


The benefits of a cognitive tour are versatile. For example, the easy placement of items on the page can increase the time spent on the page. Therefore, in the broadest sense, a CW can also be part of the optimization of a page. At the same time, a website optimized in terms of usability leads to a better user experience and, therefore, more satisfied visitors. The commercial web offers higher conversion benefits.