Getting creative with use-cases and scenarios

An entertaining insight from Adam Greenfield in the latest Vodafone Receiver magazine in which he argues that use-cases may not always predict the myriad ways in which new technology will be ‘perverted’ by users…:

The use cases I’ve
seen at work over the last ten years invariably start with a neatly
conventional circumstance (“Jill wants to buy a new ringtone”) and end in a similarly pat fulfillment (“Jill successfully downloads and installs the ringtone”).

I have never seen a use case that starts with a proposition like “Greta wants
to sneak out and meet her lover Patrick, without making her husband
Bertrand suspicious.” Or “Kenji wants his private contact information to be
more available to his close friends than the random boys he picks up
clubbing.” Or “Claudia wants to IM and play games on her computer at work,
while making it seem as if she’s busy getting things done.””


A basic problem with use cases, and the entire product development mindset in which they are embedded, is that they generally fail to anticipate the larger social context inside which all technology exists.

Greenfield concludes that use-cases are still valuable, but would like to see a “more robust appreciation of everyday life and its foibles”. Some creative brainstorming is required. Straightforward use-cases based on existing functionality, or on how *you* think users will interact with the product, may mean that you miss out on some innovative functionality. Go beyond “Jill, the housewife” and “Bill, the businessman”. Instead, try creating use-cases and scenarios for “Juliette, the jilted lover”, or “Bevan, the office bore”.

(via Clagnut)