Saturday 15 May 2021


Scenarios are descriptions of how specific users are leveraging technology to solve a particular problem within in a defined context.

"Scenarios are short stories about specific users who are using technology designed to accomplish specific goals in a specific context."

Scenarios bring together the research results of user needs and ideas and how to solve those needs; they are used to address user needs with design ideas. Scenarios are usually one ore two paragraphs long and they describe a particular use case, they expose various characteristics about our user and under what circumstance that user would need the solution; the elements of a scenario are:
  • Setting: the situation or state of the system/context of use in which the activity occurs
  • Actor(s): person or people performing the action in the given scenario
  • Objectives: what is the person or people trying to accomplish
  • Actions: activities that are being done to accomplish the actors objectives
  • Events: things that happen to the users while performing the actions in the scenario.
Scenarios should aim to answer the following questions directly or indirectly  
  • What: what problem does the user need solved?
  • Why: why can't your user solve their problem without your solution
  • How: how is your solution going to facilitate your users solution.
  • Where: under what circumstances would your user want to engage with your application
  • When: at what point in their day would your user want to engage with your application
Scenarios are a process, they are open ended, easily revised stories that are up for discussion, once a scenario is created it can be revised numerous times by the team, it is a design artifact that can be shared with the client for feedback or to gain further insight, it's used as an input not output. Scenarios like personas and all other design artifacts are used to understand a problem and communicate that understanding to further investigate and collaborate on the solution.

there are multiple types of scenarios
  • Problem scenarios: define the problem that is faced before and type of solution is proposed
  • Goal scenarios: describe the the goal and any roadblocks between the user and what they're trying to accomplish
  • Activity scenarios: briefly describe how the proposed solution is going to help the user with their problem.
  • Task scenarios: are elaborate activity scenarios that describe with great detail the interaction between the user and the proposed solution. 
  • Information scenarios: describe how the users view and interpenetrate the information presented to them
  • Interaction scenarios: describe the physical actions a user must take when interacting with a solution and how the solution responds to the actions.
Good design is a pragmatic process, not all types of scenarios are going to be valuable every single time, the key is to focus efforts on value added artifacts. If there is no value added, if the artifact doesn't help the team understand or communicate the problem or solution then the opportunity cost is taking away from effort that can be spent on something more valuable. the catch however is it take a lot of experience to know which artifacts will be value added and under what circumstances, thus a try it before you buy it approach is recommended; that is start each type of scenario and mature it to such a point that you can either definitely see value or definitely see no value.

Scenarios are short stories that help the design team understand:

  • What the users problem is?
  • Why the user has the problem?
  • How is the solution going to solve the problem?
  • Where is the user going to use the solution?
  • When are they going to use it?

Scenarios should also be quick; these aren't suppose to be master works, they are after all just a tool to help understand and design the solution, 15 to 30 minutes per scenario assuming that you understand the problem domain and have completed your research. Rough and fast is the idea, get your thoughts on paper, iterate and refine. The reason you don't want to put too much effort into scenarios or any design artifacts is because you don't want to become a victim of "Escalation of commitment"

Scenarios are an excellent artifact to build before getting into wire-frames, and prototypes, they are a sounding board to help designers understand how to best go about designing solutions to help users accomplish their goals. Scenarios facilitate the reflection of intended and unintended consequences of their designs to maximize the value added aspects and minimize the unwanted side effects.