Computers must support the way in which people naturally and comfortably work. This is needed both for personal job satisfaction and for corporate survival. I care about whether the team is thriving, and whether the software is being delivered. Keeping the people trained and the process light are key to both.” Alastair Cockburn
What are scenarios of use?
Scenarios of use, also known as use cases, are a usability method used in user interface design. They describe a particular use or scenario of users performing specific tasks on your web site or application to achieve specific functional requirement aims. The term use case was coined in the mid-80s by Ivar Jacobson and contributed to by others such as Alistair Cockburn. These user-oriented and task-oriented scenarios of use are brief, semi-formal ‘stories’ that include steps a user, also referred to as an actor, would take trying to accomplish a goal as well as the way your software program or website and its respective user interface responds to the user’s actions. Scenarios of use are written in plain language so that a large number of stakeholders can all understand and benefit from this usability method in order to achieve a buy-in to important interface design(https://pidoco.com/) or other decisions.
What are the benefits of scenarios of use?
Scenarios of use hold many benefits when it comes to software or website user interface design and GUI prototyping. Scenarios of use are similar in application to a black box in an airplane with the main difference here being that you get to learn what irregularities caused the crash before the plane even takes off (i.e. before your code has been written and the program or website has been launched to the public)! Scenarios of use are thus useful in exploring usability or user experience issues early on in the development process enabling you to identify usability targets as well as in gleaming other information such as probable task completion times. Scenarios of use are very useful in establishing what your program or website does – or rather will have to allow the user to do – and should be done even before embarking on interface design through the use of interface design or wireframe software or other GUI prototyping tools(https://pidoco.com/) tools such as pidoco. As a usability method that can be used not only by individual interface designers but within a group of people, it is possible to create better team cohesion and stimulate teamwork or foster buy-in by team members. Another advantage of scenarios of use is that they require minimal resources to be generated and they keep the focus on users, usability and user experience. This ultimately leads to happy customers – which should be the goal in user interface design since it means that your product is successful.
How do you generate scenarios of use?
Creating scenarios of use is often a group effort. As with many group tasks, the direction of a good facilitator with inter-personal aptitude can be crucial when generating scenarios of use. As a general rule, try to generate a number of scenarios that cover a wide range of situations and be sure to include some negative scenarios, also known as misuse cases, to also investigate other non-functional requirements (such as security and accessibility) of your systems and interface design. Go through all the scenarios by yourself first before including other stakeholders.
What are the 8 steps to developing scenarios of use?
According to Edward Kenworthy’s 1997 book Use Case Modeling: Capturing User Requirements the eight steps to developing scenarios of use for a new website are:
1. Identify who is going to be using the website (or other piece of software). 2. Pick one of those actors. 3. Define what that actor wants to do on the website. Each thing the actor does on the website becomes a scenario of use. 4. For each scenario of use, decide on the normal course of events when that actor is using the site. 5. Describe the basic course in the description for the scenario of use. Describe it in terms of what the actor does and what the system does in response that the actor should be aware of. 6. When the basic course is described, consider alternate courses of events and add those to “extend” the scenario of use. 7. Look for commonalities among the scenarios of use. Extract these and note them as common course scenarios of use. 8. Repeat the steps 2 through 7 for all other actors.
The results will give you a basis for deciding what the user interface design should be like and what needs it will have to satisfy.
What are the limitations of scenarios of use? According to Alistair Cockburn, scenarios of use are indispensable but they do not “take care of system design, user interface design, feature lists, or testing”. Instead they give you valuable information for how to craft a good user interface design. Scenarios of use should focus on what the user wants to do with your program or website but not yet what the interface design should look like. It is easy to edit a list of requirements but changing a design is a more taxing process. Scenarios of use can be a great input into subsequent testing processes but actual test cases have to be created to match the scenarios of use.