Week 3 – Scenarios

So, if you read my last post you know that in usability testing we create personas, or fictional example users, to help us design and develop for a more targeted user base. Once we have realistic personas, we can flesh out the story of our user with the creation of scenarios.

“A scenario is a description of a person’s interaction with a system.
Scenarios help focus design efforts on the user’s requirements, which are distinct from technical or business requirements.”(http://infodesign.com.au/usabilityresources/scenarios/)

A scenario will bring the project closer to reality by laying out specific examples of the goal(s) a user is looking to achieve in using the software. We break those goals down into tasks and then we have a better sense of how to develop and design for our users needs.

“Scenarios can be presented as rich narratives (e.g.,an hour or a day in the life of a user) or simple statements describing the triggers and situation that prompts a user to interact with a system.”

(http://www.usabilitybok.org/scenario-of-use)

When designing scenarios, there are a few things to keep in mind.

(1) Know who the user is

(2) Know what motivated the user to choose this particular program/product/site

(3) Understand the goal(s) for the user session

(4) Understand the tasks involved in completing the user’s goal(s)

A really quick example of a scenario might be:

Margaret, a 35 year old finance analyst, realizes that she has too many passwords to keep track of. She has been keeping some of them in a text file on her work computer but knows that this is an insecure method for keeping track of private data. Margaret wants to find a secure central location where she can copy over all of her passwords so that she only has to remember one code to access them all.

It’s a good idea to choose scenarios that target a range of interactions with the program. It can also be useful to keep the very technical pieces to the tasks out of scenarios, at least at first, so that there is room to design/develop from a variety of solutions.

These scenarios will help clarify the needs of the program for development early on and again be utilized during usability testing as tasks for real users to try out. Scenarios clearly play a significant role in discovering and designing for usability.

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One thought on “Week 3 – Scenarios

  1. Good summary! You found a great quote from InfoDesign: “A scenario is a description of a person’s interaction with a system. Scenarios help focus design efforts on the user’s requirements, which are distinct from technical or business requirements.”

    As you highlight, scenarios and personas are very much connected in the design process; and if you start with personas, creating the scenarios should follow naturally. Personas tell you who uses the software; scenarios tell you why they use it.

    Scenarios are really about how and why users will use the system. So the important part of scenarios is that they describe the user interaction with the system. Why is the user trying to use the software?

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