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Cognitive Accessibility Design Pattern: Provide Information So a User Can Complete and Prepare for a Task

User Need

I need to know how to start a task, and what is involved.

What to Do

Emphasize the start of important tasks.

Before a user performs a task consisting of multiple steps, ensure they have an estimate of the amount of effort required to complete the task. This should include:

  • the time it might take,
  • details of any resources needed to perform the task, and
  • overview of the process and next step.

Once the user starts the task, ensure the user clearly understands when the task is still “in-process” and when it has been completed.

How it Helps

Some users find distractions difficult especially when the distractions cause them to switch focus mid-task and subsequently return to where they left off. For example, a web site may have a large arrow pointing the way to the “book here” link. The arrow emphasizes the start of the booking task, and will help users know when they have started the task.

Often people need to manage their times of concentration so they can focus without interruptions. Prior advice on the time a task takes, its complexity, or working memory load enables them to better prepare and complete it. The list of required resources before starting the task, along with the number steps left until completion of the task, will help users avoid failures.

Getting Started

Provide a generous estimate of time required and a list of all required resources at the start of a multi-step task or form. Break the task into steps.



  1. Visual cues when a user starts a task.
  2. An overview of the process including the time it might take, and any resources needed. For example:
    • Before the user begins to book an airline ticket, a message is presented, “The average time for booking an airline ticket is 15-30 minutes. You will need your travel dates, the number of travelers, and each travelers’ passport to complete this process.”


  1. Missing out important details about what the user may need. For example:
    • Another airline does not notify the user that they need their passport. The process times out when the user is trying to find their passport number. The user needs to start over or abandon the booking.

User Stories and Personas

User Story



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