Utilize user scenarios as a quick way to gain new internal perspectives on your digital products

As an insight-driven UX designer and researcher, I always advocate that decisions in design processes should be based on knowledge and data rather than assumptions. Sometimes, however, there might be a lack of available knowledge and data, and no time or resources to do thorough research. In these cases, I would never just pull ideas out of thin air and hope for the best, but instead find alternative ways to empathize with the users. While data provides the confidence to make informed decisions, leveraging the power of user scenarios can facilitate a quick – yet comprehensive understanding of our users, and how we need to construct our digital solution(s) to accommodate the end users’ needs and goals.

Katrine Ly
—UX and Insights Manager

What exactly are user scenarios?

You can think of user scenarios as hypothetical or real-life stories that describe your user's experience, interactions, and goals within a specific context or situation of use. Hence, scenarios can help us understand how and when our users may interact with our digital solution, and provide insights about their needs, motivations, and expectations. User scenarios can encompass different steps, actions, decisions, and reactions, illustrating a macro user journey or a specific usage situation. By defining user scenarios, a better understanding of how a solution can be tailored to meet user needs and goals can be achieved.

Example of a user scenario unfolding through a simple journey

When and why should you choose user scenarios?

User scenarios are particularly useful in the early stages of product development – either helping us to form a vision, (re-)define a strategy, or determine what to build; whether it is a complete website or even narrowed down to specific user flows. User scenarios are perfect in the sense that they are broad, less detailed, and cover more of the journey. Yet, they still provide sufficient details to establish a shared understanding of the desired outcome, such as defined page types, flows, and required functionalities – insights that can be used to inform design and development- as well as editorial decisions. I would always recommend applying user scenarios when time is limited, and thorough research isn’t required to develop- or redesign the desired digital solution. They are strongly visionary, though still encompassing the capabilities to define and communicate concrete information architecture, structures and required features.

How to get started with user scenarios

Depending on the scope, user scenarios can be based on limited knowledge and data, or be completely hypothetical. Personally, I prefer the first option, and hence I always seek to apply as much knowledge as possible; e.g. what are the key business goals and objectives? Who are our main user segments? In which situations are they using the solution? What are their main needs and goals? etc. This knowledge can be achieved through a brief meeting with internal stakeholders and/or by dedicating a couple of hours to do research. It is actually truly astonishing how a small amount of research can uncover new perspectives simply by seeing the digital product or service through the eyes of the end user.

Katrine Ly
UX and Insights Manager