The SpoolCast with Jared Spool

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Episode #105 Designing with Scenarios featuring Kim Goodwin

October 15, 2010  ·  29 minutes

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Scenarios are comprehensive stories that describe the way a persona would interacts with your product or service. If there is a grand dutchess of personas, scenarios, and design processes, it's Kim Goodwin. That's why we asked Kim to do a workshop on turning user research into action at UI15. Jared Spool spoke with her to preview that workshop, and clear up confusion surrounding scenarios in this podcast.

Show Notes

Scenarios are comprehensive stories that describe how a persona interacts with your product or service. They are a powerful design tool that allows you to make intelligent design decisions based on your user research.

If there is a grand dutchess of personas, scenarios, and design processes, it's Kim Goodwin. That's why we asked Kim to do a workshop on turning user research into action at UI15. In this podcast, Jared Spool spoke with her about that workshop and some common myths surrounding scenarios.

Jared suggests that scenarios have grown out of necessity. Requirement documentation simply doesn't cut it when starting the design process. Beyond what's "needed", you need user research. Kim says that requirements are flawed without user input.

"Let's all start from a shared understanding of our users."

Two common misunderstandings about scenarios involve their relationship to Agile processes. It's easy to believe that Agile and scenarios are not compatible. If you have your designers and developers sitting down together on day one, you can't have part of the work done ahead, right? Kim asks, why not? Placing research and scenarios in front of your designers and developers gives them a great starting point.

Some people confuse Agile's user stories with scenarios. They are not the same, but they are compatible. Scenarios are all encompassing. One of their strengths is that they can span your company's silos. A customer doesn't see you as a series of departments, they see you as one brand. Within an Agile environment, your web team will not likely be designing both a web feature and a physical retail procedure simultaneously. Therefore, you can carve out the relevant bits of the scenario to create your user story for your current sprint.

"How hard is it for a three-year-old to make up a story? Storytelling is such a natural human tool… it's really very easy."

One complaint about scenarios is that they take too long to create. But Kim reports she uses them on even the smallest projects with tight schedules. Even if it's just one afternoon with a few key stakeholders, she puts a lot of value in building shared assumptions about who the users are.