Scenario guidelines

Scenario guidelines

According to
Verplank, Fulton, Black and Moggridge
INTERCHI'93
 
 
What are scenarios?
Scenarios are fictional stories, with characters, events, products and environments.They allow us to explore product ideas and key themes in the context of a realisticfuture.

The stories always have a visual element - because they are the vehicle for expressing visual design ideas and interactions between people and things.
 
 The visual element might be provided by sketches, photographs, video or computer simulations. The choice of medium depends if we want to depict behaviors which benefit from dynamic rendering like animation. We might also want to use sound.
 
Scenarios range from single page renderings and sketchy references of product concepts to detailed multiple frames of interaction sequences. The choice depends upon the resolution level of the design at that point.
 
Why bother with scenarios?
Developing scenarios draws us from the present to the future and from analysis to synthesis. At the same time they keep us connected to the information we have drawn from our observations and allow us to use what we learned as part of a creative process.

Scenarios put us in another person's shoes. By developing stories about characters with different characteristics from our own we are forced to think about the experience of using things from a different point of view.

Storytelling is an engaging way of focusing on user needs and system issues. Both authors and audiences are able to use their innate capacity for empathy to appreciate what using this product ,would be like and vhat attributes it needs.
 
Levels of interaction
Scenarios make us think about many levels of interaction at once.

Scenarios embody information about the environment, person, and details ofscreen and input devices as well as other objects and activities happening. They reflect the complexity of the real-world human interaction with things.

The stories are able to take us along logical, multi-sensory, emotional, and paths simultaneously.

Detailed related ideas can be expressed simultaneously - such as the detailed look of the cursor and the feel of the control as it moves.
 
A balancing act
Good scenarios bring together many different elements to create a coherent vision within each story.

In synthesizing these different elements characters, situations settings key themes, technologies, events, products, logic, emotion, aesthetics, behaviors, social trends - it is important to balance them to serve our specific purpose.

Our specific purposes depend upon our design problem but also upon our own training, discipline, and role in the development team. The psychologist might be keen to explore the cognitive implications, the graphic designer the animation and
aesthetic possibilities, the engineer the underlying structures.

It is valuable to sketch out the scope of the scenario first, identifying key events and issues you want to include. This avoids being dragged off course.
 
Multiples and comparisions
A scenario production needs to take several iterations to ensure a good balance between elements - it is easy to get carried off-track by, an exciting event or idea.

Mutltiple scenarios allow us to explore different visions of the future - to 'cover the field' as much as possible. The balance of elements can be different in different stories.

Scenarios can all be completely different, but some similar events, activities or designs can usefully be illustrated more that once so that we can compare alternatives.
 
Remember the character
We need to stay with our character, it is easy to fall back into being ourselves. Mentally referring back to the people we observed - or reviewing observation photographs and notes - helps to keep us tuned to real characteristics of people we don't know very well. Use perceptions about real people observed - insights into the important differences in style, and preferences.

We need to focus primarily on our characters goals. Our product inventions are tools which should be subservient to what users are trying to achieve in their life and work. This makes us more realistic about what users will find tolerable and usable.

We need to portray our product ideas and the interaction tasks in terms of their benefits for the user - be they productivity, sensory or emotional.
 
Snapshots
Snapshots and storyboards have different qualities which make them suitable for different kinds of exploration.

Snapshots let us look broadly at a composite of situation, character and design idea usually at one point in time. This is a powerful way to deal with design concepts. The snapshot captures and conveys the essence of the idea with as much, or as little, detail as we care to develop.

Snapshots can be rendered in many ways - the term implies a glimpse of the product in use.
 
Storyboards
When tve want to explore more specifically the interactions between products and users, storyboard methods are more appropriate.

Storyboards can be sketches, photographs, video etc. - their main characteristic is that they describe sequences of events.

The storyboard explorations of interactions betiveen products and users may be widely or narrowly focussed. They may cover ²a day in the life² or a specific control and display sequence to accomplish a very specific task. They may also zoom in and out to different levels of detail within the same sequence.

Because they, embody a time element, storyboards force us to design the dynamics of interactions - how people get from here to there and what the transition is like.

Storyboards and snapshots can also effectively coexist within the same scenario production - specific features of a product concept can be detailed to a higher level.
  
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