The term “use scenario” is unique to what we teach at Pragmatic Institute when it comes to product management.
It’s not a use case, and it isn’t a user story. So what is it?
Use scenarios are stories that walk through the typical situations where the user encounters the problem.
It doesn’t talk about your product.
It doesn’t dive into potential solutions.
A use scenario is short and specific, and its purpose is to provide context to all the other professionals you work with—designers, developers, analysts, product owners and testers.
So that’s a basic definition, but we wanted to curate a few examples to show you how you might start using these small but mighty elements of a product strategy.
But First, Use Scenarios Actually Start With Personas
Building user personas is a prerequisite for writing use scenarios.
User personas are a research-based archetype of potential users designed to help teams evaluate multiple solutions and create connection and empathy with users. Just in case you forgot.
For this article, we’ll provide a persona to build examples:
Meet Sam Shopper
- Name: Sam Shopper
- Age: 36 | Gender: Female
- Marital/family status: Married, two children
“I want to make smart food choices that my family will love. I also wish I had time to shop and plan meals.”
Sam is a busy professional with a young family. She wants her family to be happy and healthy, and food plays a role in achieving those goals. There is a problem; she spends her week online working as a mid-level marketing manager from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Her schedule makes meal planning and purchasing groceries a challenging chore. Her spouse is supportive but equally as busy, and they both struggle to find time to shop.
- No time to shop after work.
- The store is packed and the lines are long when she does have time to shop because those are the high-traffic times.
- She doesn’t know what she wants to make or what ingredients she has at home.
- The food she does buy often goes bad before it is eaten.
- Maximizing the weekly food budget.
- Finding/making healthy meals the kids love.
- Getting the kids to eat more fruits and vegetables.
- Learning new recipes that are easy and yummy.
- She quickly browses Pinterest recipes during her lunch break at work to find inspiration.
- Not having a clear plan makes her impulse buy ingredients that later go to waste.
- When she feels overwhelmed, she buys pizza and later regrets that she isn’t ensuring her children have healthy meals.
- She feels stressed every time she is in the grocery store during high-traffic times. She is constantly trying to navigate slow-moving people who are browsing while she is on a mission to get it done as quickly as possible.
Use Scenario Example 1:
It’s Monday, and it’s Sam’s turn to shop for her family: partner Taylor and their two school-age children. She has meetings throughout the day and doesn’t have time to go to the store before dinner. She would rather not turn to fast food, but she needs groceries for the evening and the rest of the week.
Use Scenario Example 2:
At the first of every month, Sam and her partner review their monthly expenses. Sam notices that the grocery bill is increasing for her family, and she wants to find practical ways to reduce what she is spending because it’ll give them a chance to save for a family vacation.
Use Scenario Example 3:
When Sam does have time to shop for groceries, the stores are packed. She shops after office hours and often on paydays, which means everyone is also shopping. She gets frustrated and navigates crowded isles. She loathes waiting in long checkout lines because she wants to be home with her family after a long day.
Use Scenario Example 4:
Planning meals for the week is time-consuming. Sam finds herself scrolling through Pinterest on Sunday nights looking for inspiration but quickly gets overwhelmed. She often gives up and purchases food for their regular meals.
Use Scenario Example 5:
Sam knows they have a variety of ingredients in the kitchen but doesn’t know what she wants to make for dinner. There is a Netflix show, “Best Leftovers Ever!” that she watches at night, and she is so inspired by how the contestants breathe new life into everyday leftovers. She wishes she could know what was possible with the ingredients she has rather than have to take another trip to the store.
Use Scenario Example 6:
Sam knows their typical weekly meals aren’t as healthy as she’d like. She and her partner are trying to increase the number of vegetables in their meal planning, but they aren’t sure where to find healthy and tasty recipes their kids will eat.
Use Scenario Example 7:
Friday is fridge cleaning day, and Sam notices once again that there are many ingredients and leftovers that have spoiled from the week. She hates when food goes to waste because she knows that means they are not maximizing their food budget.
How To Leverage Use Scenarios
The purpose of drafting use scenarios is to help your development and design teams to start thinking about solutions. Context is the foundation of innovation, and you’ll be providing a tool that will be the starting point for collaborative and productive meetings. They’ll gain concrete insights on how the product could solve real problems for users.
Here are the Key Takeaways
- Focus on one persona. Create additional use scenarios for different personas.
- Only one problem for each scenario. Try not to complicate the scenario. Keep it focused and simple.
- Don’t discuss the how. Scenarios are there to provide context and not to prescribe solutions.
Want to Become a Use Scenario Expert?
Enroll in Build
You will learn all about use scenarios in this course. You’ll also get the tools you need to prioritize requirements and plan releases that deliver truly remarkable experiences to your market.
- Roles Worksheet
- Requirements That Work
- Market Requirements Table
- Product Contract