‘How To’… Create User & Buyer Scenarios

Product Managers are faced with the multi-prong challenge of carrying out all of the following:

  1. Managing their products at a strategic level to define the key markets to serve.
  2. Identifying the valuable market problems worth solving.
  3. Understanding the very detailed interactions that the users will need to have with the product to make it a success.

The transition from high level focus to a very detailed focus can be difficult.

User Scenarios are a great tool for systematically linking the different focus levels to drill down from the high level requirements that may be described in a business case to much more detailed requirements necessary to develop a great product that users love.

What are User Scenarios?

A User Scenario is a structured description of a situation or event that a potential User (or Buyer) of the Product is likely to experience as they seek to achieve their goals. They are used during the product planning stage to reduce higher level market problem descriptions into smaller problem chunks where the more detailed requirements can be identified and documented.

Creating User Scenarios is similar to the creative process in designing storyboard for an advertisement or a writing a script for a play, however the source of inspiration for the scenarios is based on real customer insights gathered prior to this stage.

When do Product Managers create User Scenarios?

User Scenarios are collated after the Product Manager has defined the attributes, behaviour and goals of the target markets in the form of Personas, and is crystallising the series of situations the Personas will experience to achieve their goals when interacting with the Product.

What is the structure of a User Scenario?

With a User Scenario we are trying to provide a frame for a number of related tasks that will eventually bring the user to their desired goal. To do this each User Scenario needs to have a start point and a desired end point that describes frames the resulting tasks. Often the end point of one User Scenario will be the start point of the next one, and the scenarios will be linked together to describe the overall user experience.

For example if we consider the common process of travelling to work every day we could map out several User Scenarios that explored different transport methods or User specific challenges.

This Scenario may begin with our User (eg Angela) fully dressed and ready for work, just leaving their house and it will end when they have arrived at their place of work. To better understand the different challenges that potential challenges that our user may face we can now explore each step that may be required to get them to their destination.

  • Primary Actor: User interacting with the Product to achieve their Goal – Angela
  • Goal of the Primary Actor – Angela needs to get to her office in the city before 8:30 am but wanted to leave home no earlier than 7:30am.
  • Start conditions – Angela is at home and is ready to go to work
  • Trigger conditions – It is 7:30am and Angela has just stepped out of her front door.
  • Ending Conditions – Angela has arrived at work at 8:25am.

Completing the User Scenario

Once the User Scenario has been defined we can explore all of the different steps that the user will need to complete to reach the ending condition. These can be brainstormed on ‘Post-It’ notes that can be later sequenced into an overall flow of activity. The tasks should try to avoid specifying any particular components of a potential solution, although sometimes this is difficult to avoid.

In the above example we may specifically want to explore the User Scenario where Angela catches a bus to work. In this case part of the solution definition will be required clarify the tasks that are followed in the User Scenario.

“User scenarios” should not be limited just to situations when the User Persona is interacting with the product. They should be developed do cover the entire customer experience with a product, and should include the marketing, sales, purchasing and support experiences. This is where the User Scenario for the Buyer (Buyer Scenario) will be applied instead.

What are the benefits of using User Scenarios?

During the customer-centric design and product development process, Product Managers are continually trying to understand the unmet needs of target customer. Scenarios provide a focus for product management, marketing, the development team and salespeople to understand the context of when and where a new product or service may affect a target user or buyer.

Scenarios not only describe the context of each touch-point between the user and the product, but also the typical situations the user is likely to encounter during each whole end to end decision making process, purchase, and usage.

User Scenarios are particularly useful for more complex situations where a number of them can be linked together break a larger interaction down in to smaller, more manageable components. They are also very good at forcing Product Managers to look at the problems through the eyes of the Target Market rather than putting themselves in the User’s shoes.

How do you write compelling user scenarios that guide the planning process?

Developing a series of Scenarios for each of your target markets can be a fun creative and collaborative process.

Step 1 – Gather Customer Insights

Gather all the available customer insights about your target markets from a number of source including qualitative and quantitative market research, website usage statistics (if you are managing a digital product) as well as other channels such as customer interviews, and your observations of customer behaviour.

Step 2 – Define the Target Markets in the form of Personas

Develop the primary and secondary Personas to represent the desired Target Market. Ideally, you develop Personas for both the User and Buyer. In some case, it the Buyer and User may be the same so the Scenarios will be different, depending on whether are at pre-purchase stage or they are a customer.

Step 3 – Develop the user scenarios for each persona

Starting with the overall Market Problem, and the primary Target Market, create a high User Scenario that covers defines the User starting without knowing that a solution exists, and ending with their Primary Goal being met. Each task that this Scenario breaks down in to can be used as a new, more granular User Scenario.

Depending on the size of the organisation, running a workshop with all team-members who have the most amount of knowledge of various aspects of target markets could be one way of developing a series of user scenarios in a collaborative way.

When Brainmates run market segmentation workshops, we start the workshop by understand the organisational, business and product goals and objectives. We then build or valid the User and Buyer personas.

Step 3 – Articulate the Customer Needs

List out the all the tasks, frustrations & problems during each Scenario for each Persona.

Step 4 – Consolidate the Market Segmentation

Once all the User and Buyer Personas, Scenarios, goals, tasks and problems have been collated and mapped out then the information can be easily packaged up into a Market Requirements Document (MRD). The Scenarios not only bring the users’ tasks to life but makes the document come to life for the readers, internal stakeholders for the product being designed, developed and marketed.

User Scenarios Examples

Brainmates have developed User Scenarios as a part of the Market Requirements Process for a diverse range of clients, including the following two examples:

Example #1: In gathering the User Requirements for a new translation process and system for a large multinational technology company, we captured the diverse needs of each of the 3 main users, including the translators, internal approvers and project managers to a broad audience including management, software developers and process designers. Here’s an example of one Scenario:

  • Primary Persona: Helena, Translation Co-ordinator
  • Goal: To have a translation plan for a new software interface for each region.
  • Start Condition: Product Manager briefs the Translation Co-ordinator about the product, which languages it needs to be translated into, and time-lines.
  • Trigger: The product development project is approved.
  • End Condition: A translation plan is drafted for each global market.

Example #2: As a part of the project scoping and requirements gathering process in planning for the launch of a new government travel website, we articulated the needs of the various travel planner personas, the main targets to organise travel to a specific destination.

  • Primary Persona: Janice, Singaporean Events Planner
  • Goal: To plan the most memorable event at an exciting new destination for her client.
  • Start Condition: Janice is scheduled to meet with a longstanding clients to be briefed on a new event.
  • Trigger: The client briefs Janice what they require for the event, where they would like it held and the budget.
  • End Condition: Janice has all the information she needs to research and collate a proposal including a 3-day itinerary and costings for the client.

Next time you are embarking on the Market Requirements stage, consider articulating more detail around your target customer’s needs through the use of Scenarios. They bring your Personas to life and provide context to the User Tasks that the rest of your team are trying to develop and market for.

For more advice on how to develop User and Buyer Scenarios, feel free to contact info@brainmates.com.au to see how we can best assist you.