Monday, July 30, 2012

User scenarios | why & how

Designing | part 3

In my last 2 blogs I explained that in the life cycle of experiencing the services/products of your company, users of your website can be visitors, customers or relations.
I also explained the importance of knowing the needs, wishes, knowledge level and habits of the users of your website and how to personalize this information by creating personas.

In this blog I will explain how stories of how a persona interacts with a website/application (scenario), puts the persona in motion and how this helps you to design a website in which the navigation steps are obvious to a user.

Writing scenarios

Scenarios put personas in motion. Scenarios are stories of how a persona interacts with a website/application. The persona is the character, a scenario is the plot. I wrote scenarios for each persona visiting the Vennster website-to-be.

In the scenarios I described:
  • The most important situation in which the future users of the Vennster website,  Afra, Bernice or Carl would use – I set the scene
  • What Afra, Bernice or Carl want to achieve while visiting our website
  • Which steps they would take including their thoughts and considerations at each step
  • What feedback or guidance they expect from the website.

Underneath 2 parts of a scenario I wrote for Carl – the persona representing the Vennster relation.

The benefits of scenarios


  • By writing down in a scenario what a persona wants and expects from your website/application what he thinks, assumes and how he acts, you create:
    • A story which makes the persona come to live for all people involved in the design/development process of the website/application. – This helps them to reason from the user context instead of their own context
    • An indication of the navigation structure: the user takes steps in a certain sequence to achieve his goal – make sure the website/application supports this.
    • Ideas for new functionality which is needed by the user; he wants to accomplish something - the application should provide him the means for this.
    • Recognition and acknowledgement from users. When confronting them with the right scenarios you will receive remarks like: “Yes I see…, this is what I meant, I only couldn’t find the right words for it myself.” You actually help users to formulate or order thoughts they sometimes even aren’t aware of.
  • Scenarios also include what can go wrong by describing typical problems that occur and how the characters in the scenario solve these problems.
  • Scenarios contain information about what feedback a user expects at which moment when using the website/application. Make sure you supply them with this feedback.
Personas give you an indication of who the users are. User scenarios provide information on how users will be interacting with the website/application you intent to design.  Therefore personas as well as scenarios are crucial to be able to develop a website/application for visitors/users to achieve what they really want/need.

N.B. The scenarios describe the most probable cases that the user will need and that you want to support. Keep them in mind when designing and developing your website or application. However, as Alan Coopers states in one of his design axioms:  “Design for the probable; provide for the possible.”  In other words, the use of scenarios shouldn't result in a restricted user interface. It should result in a structure that is optimized for the most probable usage scenarios. The more exotic or less frequent scenarios should obviously still be possible and accessible. Think for example about changing your personal data on an e-commerce site. This is less important than the ordering of products, but you still make it possible for users to execute this task.

With the personas and scenarios for, I gathered crucial content for the User eXperience Design Quadrants model (XDQ copyright 2009 by Akendi) which I use as a guideline to great UX-design.
In my next blog I will tell you more about the XDQ-model and how I use it while defining the UX for