Usability: What is test scenario and how to design it?

Here it is, third part of Usability series dealing with test designs. Once you know what the user should do, design the entire test session.

What is test scenario: Main scenario

The main scenario contains the end goal that users need to complete during the test session. For example, imagine you’re testing the usability of the Vodafone online shop. One of the possible scenarios is:

“On the Vodafone website, find the smartphone and tariff that suits you most, and then purchase them.”

When the user completes this task, the session is over.

Of course, to complete this task, the user has to go through a certain number of steps, such as “Find the list of tariffs,” “Find the list of phones,” “Proceed to checkout.

These are the parts of the workflow that the user should (and probably will) go through to complete the task.

Usability: What is test scenario? Designing a Test Scenario
Usability: Designing a Test Scenario

Small tasks

However, the majority of users will not go through the steps in such a straightforward manner. Some of them will want to check other stuff first, before making a decision to buy, simply because that’s what they naturally do. Every scenario will have a number of steps that are not directly on the main line, but they are important to some users.

Examples of these might be:

  1. “Find out how many text messages this tariff offers,”
  2. “Compare this phone with another,”
  3. “Show only Samsung smartphones,”
  4. “Find out how long the battery lasts,”
  5. “Is VAT included in the price?”,
  6. “How long will I have to wait for the phone to be delivered?”

Of course, no participant will carry out all of these actions before completing the main task. And that’s fine. Not everyone is interested in knowing exactly how long a battery lasts or the details of roaming costs. Nevertheless, you should still come up with as many relevant small tasks as you can before the testing begins.

As the user is going through the main workflow (the one that is supposed to complete the scenario), let them carry out any of these actions and just keep track of what they have done. After testing 20 users, you will have a pretty clear picture of what actions users consider relevant to the completion of that scenario.

When the scenario is finished, you can ask users to try and complete the other tasks that weren’t the part of the first run. You can say:

“So, you’ve chosen an iPhone 4S. Can you tell me how large the screen is?”

You can even ask them why finding out this particular piece of information wasn’t important to them when they were completing the main task.

The usability issues you notice while a user completes each of these small tasks will not have the same impact as the ones that might occur during the main task because most users won’t take those paths. Still, it’s worth knowing that there are some usability issues there. So, take you time and make sure you know what is test scenario and how to design test scenario.

Missed the previous part?

No worries, you can catch-up and see our previous article in the series: “Usability: Setting usability goals for user testing“.

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