A scenario is a short story about a specific user with a specific goal at your site. Scenarios are the questions, tasks, and stories that users bring to your Web site and that the Web site must satisfy. Scenarios are critical both for designing Web sites and for doing usability testing.
Scenarios for Designing Web Sites
Of course, you can’t write down every scenario that every user will have. Write down 10 to 30 of the most common scenarios before you start to put the site together.
You’ll find yourself focusing on users and their tasks rather than on your organization and its internal structure.
As a result you’ll know what content the site must have and which pieces of content must be easiest to find and understand.
Scenarios for Usability Tests
You and your team should identify the top 10-12 tasks that your users try to complete using your Web site. But in a usability test, you can also ask users for their own scenarios. Why would they come to your site? What do they want to do?
Scenarios can have different levels of detail. There are goal- or task-based scenarios that state only what the user wants to do. Elaborated scenarios give more details of the user’s stories.
Goal- or Task-Based Scenarios
These scenarios stats only what the user wants to do. Scenarios at this level do not include any information on how the user goes about completing the scenario.
Scenarios at this level should drive your site architecture and content. This is also the type of scenario that you give users in a usability test. It gives them a reason and a goal for going to the site but it lets them show you how they would use the site to accomplish that goal.
Example: A parent who is worried about a ten-year old refusing to drink milk wants to know if it really makes a difference that the child is getting very little calcium.
Example: You are traveling to Seattle for your job next week and you want to check on the amount you can be reimbursed for meals and other expenses.
These scenarios give more details of the users’ stories. Scenarios at this level give the Web development team a deeper understanding of the users. As a result the team is more likely to develop the right content at the right level so that users find it comfortable and easy to work with.
Example: Mr. and Mrs. Macomb are retired schoolteachers who are now in their 70’s. Their Social Security checks are an important part of their income. They’ve just sold their big house and moved to a small apartment. They know that one of the many chores they need to do now is to tell the Social Security Administration that they have moved. They don’t know where the nearest Social Security office is and it’s getting harder for them to do a lot of walking or driving, so they would like to do this on the computer if it is easy and safe enough. However, they are somewhat nervous about doing a task like this by computer. They never used computers in their jobs; but their son, Steve, gave them a computer last year, set it up for them, and showed them how to use email and how to go to Web sites. They have never been to the Social Security Administration’s Web site, so they don’t know how it is organized. Also, they are reluctant to give out personal information on Web sites, so they want to know how safe it is to tell the agency about their new address this way.
Full Scale Task Scenarios
These scenarios include the steps to accomplish the task. A full-scale scenario can either report all the steps that a specific user takes today to accomplish the task, or it can describe the steps you plan to set up for users in the new site. Scenarios at this level are very similar to Use Cases, but they lay out the steps from the user’s point of view rather than from the Web site’s point of view. They explain how the site supports the goal-oriented scenarios that you started with.
Usability Testing Scenarios should not include any information aout how to accomplish the task. The usability test will show how the participant goes about accomplishing the task and shows you whether the interface facilitates completion of the scenario.
You should, however, write down how to accomplish the task. This information is included in the material that the observers and note-takers will use. Include the main pathway and any alternative pathways the participant may use to accomplish the scenario.