OPW Week 3: Scenarios

Last week, we saw the importance of personas. Just as personas help us understand who our users are, scenarios help answer the question ‘why are they using the system?’

Scenarios give context and meaning to the event of a user using the system. A good scenario not only makes a credible ‘back story’, but also gives insight into the user’s motivations and goals while using a system. And once we know why users are doing something, it becomes easier to pinpoint what they want from the system – and then give it to them.

Documenting scenarios is a key aspect of conducting a good usability test – it helps both the observer and the tester. Scenarios are possible situations in which the user will use the system. Good scenarios stem from solid personas: both help to conceptualize various use cases of the system.

For example, let us consider Aditya Kumar. (Read about him here.) A few scenarios in which Aditya would use GNOME could be as follows:

It’s 10 pm on a thursday night, and Aditya has been working on a script for a TV advertisement all week. He and his team have a few rough ideas, but he feels he should do better. All of a sudden, he remembers a skeleton script he worked on as a college project – it would be a great fit in this case! He knows he wrote notes about it, they must be somewhere on his portable hard disk. He needs to find whatever material he has, and edit it into a readable draft for his team the next morning.

Aditya has a lot of dessert recipe cards and he wants to make a digital catalogue with tags and categories, inspired by the structure of his blog. He’s already taken photos of the recipe cards on his phone. Now he needs to organize and categorize his recipes by type and time, and upload the catalogue to cloud storage.

After a weekend getaway with his wife at Nainital (a hill station nearby), Aditya wants to write a blog post about his trip. Before leaving for Nainital he had read many travel websites about the must-see tourist spots and weather tips, so he wants to include those references in his post as well. During the trip he had posted a few photos on a social networking website, he wants to use them too.

Although all these scenarios seem different at first, they are not that different with respect to GNOME: all of them have Aditya using the file system, browser and text editor. Then depending upon his specific needs, he also uses photos, maps etc. Scenarios are made up of scenario tasks, which form the basis of structuring a usability test. Thus, although the scenarios may be different, the tasks comprising each scenario are not that different from each other.