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Setting the scene for the perfect user experience.
So, the personas have been created, but now what? It's all well and good to know WHO is using a site, but HOW they are using it is equally as important. Welcome to the wonderful world of scenarios!
In a nutshell, scenarios are stories, or narratives of how a user would use a site on a particular occasion - either in the most common, or least typical way. Using personas as the characters, it's the story about their user experience; their journey from first point of contact with the site, through to (fingers crossed) a positive outcome at the end - plus all the bits in between. Through the research that you would have completed on your personas, you'll be able to write their story and talk about their needs, wants and requirements in the context of the actual site. Like personas, scenarios should be fact based and as realistic as possible.
"But why" I hear you ask?
- To assist designers and developers in testing site structure.
- Ensure the site offers an experience that incorporates all of the basic elements that users will need to reach their goals.
- Help pinpoint areas of the site where users may run into potential issues that you should be addressing.
- Help the team create a list of key actions that users would perform.
- Provide content direction - the type of information that should be on the site, the tone of voice it should be written in, and how much of it should actually be on there.
- Steer the design process, as well as functionality, nav structure etc.
When writing your scenarios, there are a few different types that are used throughout the design process that are a good way of guiding your story - context, key path and key path variants.
- Context. Details important contextual info like 'Where are they when they are using the site?' 'What are they aiming to achieve and why?'
- Key path. Describes them using the site to accomplish the most common of tasks in the most common way, like logging in from the home page.
- Key path variants. Describes them performing tasks in less common ways or with a differing outcome to the norm, like attempting to login but the login fails.
It's up to you on your application of these - either keep them separate and apply them to each persona, or combine them into the one scenario for each persona. There's no right or wrong way, so whatever works best for the whole team is always the best approach.
Now, depending on how you choose to tackle it - a simple bullet list or more detailed narrative, always consider the following: where the user is when they interact with the site, other factors that could influence their context of use, like internet speed, the time they have available, distractions they may experience etc, and the event or act that has triggered the interaction, so in terms of an education provider it might be the high school student completing their final exams who is now looking to continue on to tertiary education. The detail may seem like too much effort, but you'd be surprised at how it can uncover some nuggets of information you may not have previously considered.
Writing scenarios is a collaborative process between designers, developers and account managers, and is a really great tool for a number of reasons.
- It identifies key user information needs early on in the project to help steer aesthetics, functionality and usability.
- It helps remove the element of guesswork, enabling the team to focus their time, effort and available budget on getting the site right.
- Creates better customer centricity.
- Helps clients to understand not only who their target market is, but also potential audiences they hadn't previously considered.
- Provides information that can help a client drive other areas of their business, like marketing and communications strategies.
The challenge with designing and building a website is being able to distinguish between the probable and the possible. By using the persona and scenario approach, you can make that distinction early on in your project, and not on go-live day when it's a little too late.
The Creative Type