July 17, 2021

✪ The Cognitive Walkthrough for Implementation Strategies (CWIS): a pragmatic method for assessing implementation strategy usability


Aaron R. Lyon, Jessica Coifman, Heather Cook, Erin McRee, Freda F. Liu, Kristy Ludwig, Shannon Dorsey, Kelly Koerner, Sean A. Munson, & Elizabeth McCauley

University of Washington affiliated authors are displayed in bold.

✪ Open Access

Published: July 2021

Read the full text in the open access journal Implementation Science Communications



Implementation strategies have flourished in an effort to increase integration of research evidence into clinical practice. Most strategies are complex, socially mediated processes. Many are complicated, expensive, and ultimately impractical to deliver in real-world settings. The field lacks methods to assess the extent to which strategies are usable and aligned with the needs and constraints of the individuals and contexts who will deliver or receive them. Drawn from the field of human-centered design, cognitive walkthroughs are an efficient assessment method with potential to identify aspects of strategies that may inhibit their usability and, ultimately, effectiveness. This article presents a novel walkthrough methodology for evaluating strategy usability as well as an example application to a post-training consultation strategy to support school mental health clinicians to adopt measurement-based care.


The Cognitive Walkthrough for Implementation Strategies (CWIS) is a pragmatic, mixed-methods approach for evaluating complex, socially mediated implementation strategies. CWIS includes six steps: (1) determine preconditions; (2) hierarchical task analysis; (3) task prioritization; (4) convert tasks to scenarios; (5) pragmatic group testing; and (6) usability issue identification, classification, and prioritization. A facilitator conducted two group testing sessions with clinician users (N = 10), guiding participants through 6 scenarios and 11 associated subtasks. Clinicians reported their anticipated likelihood of completing each subtask and provided qualitative justifications during group discussion. Following the walkthrough sessions, users completed an adapted quantitative assessment of strategy usability.


Average anticipated success ratings indicated substantial variability across participants and subtasks. Usability ratings (scale 0–100) of the consultation protocol averaged 71.3 (SD = 10.6). Twenty-one usability problems were identified via qualitative content analysis with consensus coding, and classified by severity and problem type. High-severity problems included potential misalignment between consultation and clinical service timelines as well as digressions during consultation processes.


CWIS quantitative usability ratings indicated that the consultation protocol was at the low end of the “acceptable” range (based on norms from the unadapted scale). Collectively, the 21 resulting usability issues explained the quantitative usability data and provided specific direction for usability enhancements. The current study provides preliminary evidence for the utility of CWIS to assess strategy usability and generate a blueprint for redesign.

**This abstract is posted with permission under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License**