Understanding HCI


What is a Scenario?

  1. Short stories about people and activities using technology in context
  2. A representation of the designer’s understanding of activities so that it can be discussed and verified
    1. By other designers
    2. By the people undertaking the activities

Why Use it?

  • Forces consideration of practicalities - helps reflection on the context by describing ‘actual’ situations of use
  • More or less detailed depending on the stage of the design, but it is important to capture the variation that is possible in people, goals, contexts, technologies and the details of activities, so a range of scenarios are needed
  • Encourages fluidity in design: concrete (specific & detailed) but rough (therefore readily adaptable)
  • Can be developed to describe many possible views/levels
  • Can be used as a generalised design object for use in other situations
  • Used to describe ‘work’ activities – can involve users in their construction; doesn’t get bogged down in key presses
  • Provides an easily understandable bridge between researchers, designers, users and developers

Participants Needed

  1. This can be completed by the designer.

Conditions required

  • Use everyday language
  • Include details about people and interaction
  • Relevant information about the user
  • Details of interaction sequence and presentation
  • Often give names to the participants in a scenario to make the interaction seem more real
  • A concrete example of the system being used, not a generalised account of all the possible functions and alternative results

Task List

  1. Give the scenario a name, version number, author, etc, and the rationale (reason why) for the scenario
  2. Write up a particular scenario with a particular person in a particular context
  3. It can help to do a PACT analysis on which to base the scenario
  4. Number the paragraphs and include endnotes to record issues with the activity - these might be issues with current problems or future designs


  1. Scenario for Accessing Drug Information using a PDA
  2. Scenario for Writing & Transmitting A Prescription using a PDA

Limitations Of method

The scenario is only a simulation of a real person in a real context. In reality, many occurances take place which are random or personal or political which can be difficult to forsee when constructing a scenario.


Frank Blake is using his new controller for his games console which you have already brainstormed.

  • Write a scenario to illustrate his potential experience.
  • Hence or otherwise, identify 5 key features which you would recommend to be developed.


  1. Five Reasons for Scenario-Based Design
  2. info design scenarios
  3. lifestyle snapshots