Week 3 – Scenarios

We have seen so far that when it comes to usability testing, the use of personas is essential, as they help us to define who our users are. But another important thing we have to understand is why are they using our system. Here is where scenarios appear. Putting personas and scenarios together will help us create a good design by making it meet users’ needs, and have a more concrete vision on what the people who use our system can do with it. But let us concentrate on scenarios.

Scenarios are hypothetical stories that are getting real people trying to achieve real user goals under certain situations and constraints. Quality scenarios must be short (time is precious – in general people do not have much time), provide sufficient  information and set up the context in which the users will interact with our system.

When we think about testing the features of a system, we must create a list of tasks that we want to give to the users. Once we have these tasks, we have to decide how to present them to the people who will use our system. This is why it is important to use scenarios, as they help us to describe the tasks in a way that the test will become more realistic.

These tasks – also known as scenario tasks – represent actions that allow us to give people relevant things to do. In order to constitute a good usability test, we must ensure that each scenario task:

  1. Uses end user’s language and not the company’s/product’s
  2. Can be understood by all participants and contains no ambiguity
  3. Provides enough information for a task to be accomplished
  4. Suggests people what to do, and not how to resolve the task.

Creating scenarios for GNOME:

Let’s take a look on Mark persona I created last week. Let us consider the following scenarios:

  1. In the university residence where Mark lives, there are some problems with the Internet connection. Though, he has some great ideas for his next two posts for the organization’s page, that is why he needs to use a local text editor. In this way, Mark can save his work before he publishes it on the organization’s official page.

  2. Mark is a big fan of Game of Thrones and he never missed an episode. Mark just finished the season 5, and he wants to create a photo album with the most significant images and quotes from this season. He would also like to share this album with his friends on his personal social media account.

  3. Mark is planning a goodbye – barbecue party the next week for best friend who will go to study in Poland next year. Mark did not decide the day for the barbecue yet, as he needs to consult the weather first. Mark also needs to listen to his best friend’s favorite songs, in order to make a selection for the playlist of the party he is planning.

In the scenarios above I described some real situations in which a user like Mark can be at a given time. These scenarios may seem different regarding their context, but at a closer look they are all getting Mark to use GNOME features. In order to accomplish his goals, Mark would have to use the text editor, photos, weather, music and browser. In an usability test we may regroup several scenarios, in order to set the scene for the participants and motivate them during the test.


One thought on “Week 3 – Scenarios

  1. Great work!

    You are right about scenarios and scenario tasks. Once you’ve created personas to describe the people who use the software, your next step is to describe actions that they would take to accomplish their goals. These are called user scenarios.

    Scenarios can be very detailed, or they can be left a high level – but they always describe how real users do their work. This isn’t an ideal “I wish people would do it this way” but an honest description of “this is what people are trying to get done.”

    These scenarios will be very useful when you finally do your usability testing.

    In an actual usability test, you will start with the scenarios. These usability test scenarios are usually described at a high level, as you do not want to burden your usability tester with a preconceived notion for how they should accomplish a task. Simply provide a description of the task or tasks they need to perform using the information product. That’s a scenario task.

    The scenario task will start with a brief context, then a textual description of the task the tester is asked to perform. In the usability testing field, these are also called elaborated scenarios.

    For more information, I suggest http://www.usability.gov/how-to-and-tools/methods/index.html


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