Step-by-Step Guide to UX Research Scenarios

During the UX research process, one of our big aims is to understand the user behavior when visiting a website or using a mobile application. Over the course of building this understanding, different types of documents and tool can be used to put us on the same page with the user goals and ensure that the suggested solutions are having the user in the heart of the developing process.

One of the easy to use and efficient methods to help us understand the user experience is the scenarios. For long years, stories have been used to fuel our imaginations and help us to understand the world around. The scenarios are used in the UX research in order to help us to visualize the steps that the user take in order to achieve a special goal such as buying a product, finding information, or using a service in a website or a mobile application.

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The scenarios are visual narration for the user behavior that is based on one persona that represents one of the website or application users. Each scenario is based on a specific goal that needs to be achieved. Based on the UX research data, the user experience is visualized in a number of steps that progress toward achieving the intended goal. There are a number of tools that are very similar to the scenarios such as the task analysis grid and storytelling. However, the scenarios are quicker to use and focus on the understanding that user actions rather than integrating it into the project plan.

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Example for visual persona.

Types of Scenarios

There are three main types of the scenarios that can be used in the UX research. These scenarios vary based on the level of information visualized and its involvement with the team future plan. These types are as following:

Task-based Scenarios

This scenario is based on understanding the user goal and the steps taken to reach this goal. It shows only the steps the user need to take specific action on the website. It is helpful in building the website or mobile design layout and structure.

Elaborated Scenarios

In addition to describing the user steps, this type elaborate each step to includes analysis for the user behavior and provides suggestions that can improve the user experience such as eliminating the hinders that may face the user to build a seamless user experience

Full Scale Task Scenarios

In addition to the above two parts, this type is more detailed and include the required steps to improve the user experience when using a specific feature. This may involve building a plan to improve this feature. It is similar to the task analysis grid

How to Apply Scenarios in UX Research

In this example, we will explore how to use the scenarios during the UX research in order to understand the user behavior and reflect this on the website or mobile application design layout. The session can include discussing one of more scenarios that may involve one or more features in the applications. If the website or application has more than one persona, those can be discussed separately during the session.

Step 1: Prepare for the session

At the beginning, we start by preparing the meeting room which can be used in 2-3 hours for each session based on a number of scenarios, persona, and features that will be discussed. Along with the room, we need to prepare a number of tools and materials such as post-it notes, papers, whiteboard, markers, and pens.

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Step 2: Assembly the discussion team

Along with organizing the room and resources, we need to assemble the team who will involve in the discussion. Around five members are suitable in order to ensure good results and avoid wasting time in discussions. The team may include the UX researchers, designers, developers, and testers working on the project.

Step 3: Introduce the scenario goal

At the beginning of the meeting, the facilitator starts by introducing the session and the goals that will be discussed during it in order to make sure the all the team members are clear about what is going to be discussed.

Step 4: Start with the first scenario

The facilitator defines the first scenario that will be discussed and the associated persona that will be used in the scenario. For example:

Persona: Jeanne is 27 years old student with a casual taste that prefers to shop online to save time and get more varieties.
Goal: Buy a unique present for her friend that is affordable in price

Step 5: Visualize the user steps

Use the post-it notes to write the steps that the persona needs to walk through to achieve the goal. Under each step, other notes are added related to each step such as:
Team comments on the step such as previous clients feedback or observations
Questions and assumptions related to the step and its features such as the display of the products and where it can be located in the layout
Ideas and suggestions that can improve the step

Once the steps are completed, it is all posted on the whiteboard and documents by photographing it. This can help sharing the scenario with other team members, managers, and CEOs who couldn’t attend the session.

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Example for a scenario of one goal.

Step 6: Repeat until done

Repeat the steps 4 and 5 with each goal and persona until all the features are covered. This may involve the need for more than one session in order to cover all the planned goals.

Step 7: Get Feedback

Once the scenarios are completed, the stakeholders can provide feedback that can contribute to improving the user experience when using the website or mobile application features. The photos can be taken to get feedback from a wider number of stakeholders.

Once the feedback is collected, another meeting can be done to analyze all the feedback and comments and modify the scenario according to this feedback. Then, the final version can be shared with both the design and developing team in order to implement in the production phase.

The scenario is one of the easy-to-use and efficient tools in the UX research can help us to visualize the user experience in order to build a better understanding of the user behavior and the steps required to accomplish each task. The visualized scenario can help us to discuss the suggestions and comments related to each step with the team members in order to discuss the possibilities to improve it. Once the scenario is improved and approved, the design and developing team will have a better idea about how to translate this experience into a functional design layout.


Rafiq Elmansy

Rafiq Elmansy is the founder of Designorate.com, author, and design and innovation consultant. He is an affiliated faculty teaching design at the American University in Cairo. He holds a master degree in Design Management with Distinction from Staffordshire University, UK. He has more than 17 years experience in the field of UXD and interaction design, and his books are published by John Wiley, O’Reilly Media and Taylor and Francis. He is also a contributor at the Design Management Review. Rafiq is a jury board member for the A'Design Awards, Poster for Tomorrow, and Adobe Achievements Awards. His design artwork was exhibited in many locations including Croatia, South Africa, Brazil, and Spain.