“How to…” Prepare a Use Case

The development of use cases is vital to understanding the “real world” interactions of customers when using a product to meet their need.

Step 1: Create persona and identify her goals

During the planning stages of the product delivery process, it is important to create a user persona, a fictional character that embodies the characteristics of your target audience. A user persona enables you to better understand the habits, activities and more importantly, the goals of your target market. The role of the user persona is to guide you to make better decisions during the product delivery process.

User Persona – Nancy, 25 years of age, single, lives in Paddington, Sydney. Nancy works in the marketing department for a financial services company. She earns $65,000 per annum. Nancy has access to the internet from her phone, from work and at home. Nancy enjoys connecting with friends on Facebook and she is just starting to tweet.

Nancy’s Goal: Nancy wants to be able to access information and emails away from the office. Her company has agreed to pay for her mobile phone bill but only up to the level of the capped call and data plan that she is on. Nancy wants to minimise the likelihood of exceeding her usage and incurring additional costs.

Let’s assume that we have completed our research and Nancy exhibits the characteristics of our key market segment. We have also verified that the target market considers the achievement of this goal to be very important and is currently poorly satisfied in the market place. We are therefore confident that satisfying this goal represents a great opportunity for adding value to the product.

Step 2: Define the use case

Our next step in the planning stage is to bring together the primary persona, the persona’s goal and to describe the situation in which a “user need” arises. A use case will help you do just that.

The minimum requirements of this use case are:

  • Primary Actor who is the user that is interacting with the Product to achieve their Goal
  • Goal of the Primary Actor
  • Start conditions that the interaction will take place in.
  • Trigger conditions thatwill initiate the interaction
  • Ending Conditions that specifically state what has changed from the Start Conditions.

Nancy (Primary Actor) needs to minimise the likely hood of exceeding her usage and incurring additional costs (Goal). She has been receiving emails at home on a weekend (Start Conditions) and has downloaded a number of email attachments for review. These emails seemed quite large and now she is concerned that her data usage allowance may have been exceeded. (Trigger)

At the end of the process Nancy will know her current data usage relative to the phone plan allowance. (Ending Conditions)

You can see that if the start conditions are different then the solution may be different even if the start conditions are for the same persona with the same goal. For example if Nancy is in a bus watching video content on a mobile phone and is concerned about paying for additional charges, the use case may require a different solution to meet her goal.

As there may be a large number of start conditions, it is very important to ensure that only the most likely scenarios are addressed first and as a priority.

Step 3: List the user tasks

For each of the use cases identified in Step 2, additional information should be added to help us gain a deeper understanding of the user’s interactions.

Additional information should be provided in the form of user tasks. We should step through each individual task that the primary actor performs from the starting condition to the ending condition. This is known as the basic task flow. When identifying each task, we should avoid defining the product solution.

  1. Contact mobile phone provider
  2. Identify account number to mobile phone provider
  3. Request usage data report relative to mobile data plan
  4. Retrieve data usage report

Step 4: Translate into market requirements

To ensure that the resulting product is effective in the market place, we should review each use case and extract the market requirements, while applying any relevant business rules or constraints that can place limits on the types of solutions that may be developed.