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Designing for humans

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A scenario is a description of a person’s interaction with a system. Scenarios help focus design efforts on the user’s requirements, which are distinct from technical or business requirements. Scenarios may be related to ‘use cases’, which describe interactions at a technical level. Unlike use cases, however, scenarios can be understood by people who do not have any technical background. They are therefore suitable for use during participatory design activities.

Scenarios are appropriate whenever you need to describe a system interaction from the user’s perspective. They are particularly useful when you need to remove focus from the technology in order to open up design possibilities, or when you need to ensure that technical or budgetary constraints do not override usability constraints without due consideration.

Scenarios can help confine complexity to the technology layer (where it belongs), and prevent it from becoming manifest within the user interface.

To write a scenario, you need a basic understanding of the tasks to be supported by the system. You also need to have an understanding of the users and the context of use. Scenarios can be derived from data gathered during contextual enquiry activities. If you do not have access to such data, you can write scenarios based on prior knowledge or even ‘best guess’, provided the scenarios will be subject to review by users prior to being used as a basis for making design decisions. To write a scenario, describe in simple language the interaction that needs to take place. It is important to avoid references to technology, except where the technology represents a design constraint that must be acknowledged. Include references to all relevant aspects of the interaction, even where they are outside the current scope of the technology. Such references may include cultural and attitudinal issues. For example, the fact that Jane is continually interrupted by telephone calls may be just as relevant as the software platform she uses. After you have written a scenario, review it and remove any unwarranted references to systems or technologies. For example, the statement ‘the customer identifies herself’ is appropriate, whereas ‘the customer types her 4-digit PIN’ is not (unless the PIN is a non-negotiable system constraint). You should also have the scenario reviewed by users to ensure that it is representative of the real world.

Use scenarios during design to ensure that all participants understand and agree to the design parameters, and to specify exactly what interactions the system must support. Translate scenarios into tasks for conducting walk-through activities and usability tests.

The following is a sample scenario describing a customer withdrawing money from an automated teller machine (ATM).

Jason Schreier
84.5K

There’s been a lot of confusion about the structure of the upcoming Switch role-playing game Octopath Traveler , namely surrounding the game’s eight main characters. Allow us toclear things up.

Octopath Traveler , which comes out Friday, unfolds in an entirely non-linear fashion. From the beginning, you can pick one of eight characters—the knight Olberic, the merchant Tressa, the apothecary Alfyn, the dancer Primrose, the thief Therion, the cleric Ophilia, the scholar Cyrus, or the hunter H’aanit—to be your main protagonist. Each of these characters has their own story, and you can’t remove them from your party until you beat that story, but aside from that, this choice doesn’t matter much. You can see all eight stories in a single playthrough.

So let’s say you pick Cyrus. After beating Chapter 1 of his story, you’ll see a map that looks something like this:

What that means is that you can go around the world recruiting the rest of these characters by completing their Chapter 1s. You can (and should) get all eight, although you can only keep four of them in your main party at a time. As you recruit them, you’ll get the option of skipping their intro sequences, although you’ll have to go through a simple dungeon and beat a boss before you can finish each Chapter 1.

As you unlock each character, you’ll open up their second chapters, which are sprinkled across the world map. You can go do them in whatever order you’d like:

When you beat a character’s Chapter 2, you’ll unlock their Chapter 3, and so on and so on. It’s up to you if you want to do all of the Chapter 2s at once, or focus on just a few stories at a time until you finish them. But the level gates are steep, and characters who aren’t in your active party won’t gain experience, which makes progression a lot more complicated than it should be. (There is level scaling in the game, but as far as I can tell, it’s only for the first chapters as you’re building a party—after that, the “recommended level” for each new Chapter remains static.)

The optimal way to play is likely to pick your four favorite characters and stick with them, but Octopath Traveler allows you to be flexible. Want to maintain a rotating cast of equally powerful characters as you plow through each story one chapter at a time? Go for it. Want to try to solo the game as Ophilia? Probably a bad idea, but hey, you do you.

We’ll have much more to say about Octopath Traveler in our full review, which you can expect on Thursday morning.

About the author

Jason Schreier

News editor. My book BLOOD, SWEAT, AND PIXELS, telling the stories behind video games like Uncharted 4, Destiny, and Star Wars 1313, is out NOW. Get it here .

About Orchestrate

Orchestrate is a strategy consulting business with a primary focus on helping organisations set and navigate their course through the rapidly maturing digital economy. We offer a unique blend of Big 4 partner level management consulting skills and experience, in-depth digital industry know-how and capabilities, and direct access to the best digital agencies, service providers, and platforms in the market.

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