User scenarios – a powerful tool for higher conversion rates

What would you call the story of a user who wants to perform a task and fails? Some call it user scenarios but for me they are best describes as “situationas”. Situationas (or user scenarios) are stories that express user needs in a context. Whereas personas are focused on characteristics of users, situationas focuses on characteristics of user situations. It consists of three integral parts:

Who needs to do what and how well they are performing it today.

The situationa of Lisa below tells you nothing about who she is married to, what her interests are or where she lives. It only focuses on what she is trying to complete in her current situation.

Lisa needs to place reviews on remaining students
Lisa is in a hurry when she logs on to the school web. She clicks on the heading “class list” and sees the names of all the students in her class. The list view doesn’t say if a review has been placed or not. She clicks on the name Alice and sees that she has already given her a review. She continues to Oliver. After clicking on his name, she writes a short review about his achievements before its time to head back for class. On her way back to the classroom she realizes that she once again forgot to specify that the review concerned “fall 2011” which means Oliver parents will not find the review where they expect to find it.

Situationas can be effective when:

  • You need to visualize and explain why and where your website isn’t meeting your users goals
  • You or other members of your team need to decide how to improve your website in a way that increases conversion rate

You might argue and say that this sounds just like a use case or a user story. A user story tells you who wants to do what and why. A use case visualizes the steps necessary for a user to complete a goal. A situationa on the other hand helps visualizing obstacles present on the actual path your visitors take on your site today. These obstacles might be known to the ones performing user tests or analyzing web statistics. It is what you do next that is crucial. Do you come up with a solution to the obstacles right away or visualize the them to other team members or clients? By telling the story of your user’s situation you will include more people, more brains 🙂 in coming up with the best solution.

Consider the example below when two team members discuss a certain feature they are about to develop:

“Why are we placing an icon here?” “Lisa needs to see who she has reviewed on an aggregated level” versus “No idea. Maybe someone decided that icons look nice on this site”.

Which case would you rather solve?

By combining user scenarios (or situationas :-), user stories and use cases, you’ll get powerful tools for understanding the nature of the user needs, the reason why they want to perform a task and how to design the quickest path to complete the task without obstacles.