A scenario is a few sentences that help set the stage for your test contributor. It appears only after a test participant has passed the screener questions and met the qualifications, and is the first part of the test that they see when it commences. A scenario may complement screener questions, but this doesn’t always have to be the case.


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Why are scenarios important?

When it comes to usability testing, scenarios offer further context for the contributor and humanize the test so that it feels more everyday. Even if the test participant isn’t going through the exact scenario in their personal life, they’re more likely to put themselves in the right frame of mind if they have more clarity on the “why” behind the test. 

For instance, a potential scenario could be for one to envision that they’re online shopping on a website for an upcoming trip. As the test participant goes through the tasks one by one, the feedback they include will likely be influenced by their personal online shopping habits and expectations—and the actions they’d take if they were experiencing this themselves. Without the scenario, there could be various reasons why one would visit an ecommerce site, from casual browsing or purchasing something as a gift, which may skew one’s feedback in an unintended way. 

What are examples of a scenario? 

  • Imagine that you’re shopping for a car on a site you’ve never visited before. Complete the following tasks with this in mind. 
  • Imagine you’re hosting an upcoming get-together and want to visit a grocery site for 1) recipe ideas and 2) a grocery list. Go through the following tasks thinking of this situation. 
  • Imagine you just received an email from your manager telling you to check out a website. 
  • Imagine that you want to buy a gift for a friend and want to use the live chat feature for help. 

What are scenario best practices? 

  • Ensure scenarios are open-ended but specific. You want to have a scenario that’s open-ended enough that users will use their own mental model and linguistic phrases. You want to find problems (or at least the most genuine user experience), so let users do their own thing.
  • Emphasize that this is not a test of their ability. You’re solely interested in hearing their perspectives and feedback on what’s in front of them. 
  • Be careful not to influence the test participant. Their feedback shouldn’t be shaped by what they think you may want to hear.