The end goal of using personas is to, so to speak, let the persona enter a scenario and this way explore the interactions and design through the eyes of the persona.Scenarios do not possess a single definition and in the literature a wide range of different scenarios are mentioned. They serve different purposes and are to be used at different points in the design process. Sabine Madsen and I have tried to get an overview of the different kinds of scenarios, mentioned in the current literature.

In my experience the biggest challenge is between problem scenarios (springboard stories, point of pain stories) and idea generating scenarios (context scenarios, key scenarios). I often find the describing the present problems in a scenario disturbs the idea generation and the possibility to clean the slate. This prevents knowledge that the problems and challenges might not be with the system, but in the context. Or that an IT system might not be the answers to the problem, – (e.g. writing a proper manual, as I have encountered in connection to a system). Problem scenarios are really good at pointing to problems with the present system and creates space for creating solutions to these problems.

So far I have not found a solutions of how to manage the two kinds of scenarios at the same time. Until then I suggest to write idea generating scenarios first and problem scenarios afterwards.

The third kind of scenarios are test-scenarios (validation scenarios, narrative scenarios). I find that this is the most common form of scenario I meet when designers redesign. What they do is to explore the present site from the persona’s point of view, thereby finding problems with the present site. The problem here is that beginning a process with these scenarios might create an process of fixing problems rather than understanding the whole site in a broader context and design from the needs of the personas.

1. Cooper, A., R. Reimann, et al. (2007). About Face 3: The Essentials of Interaction Design, Wiley.

2. Quesenbury IN: Pruitt, J. and Adlin, T. (2006). The Persona Lifecycle: Keeping People in Mind Throughout Product Design. The Morgan Kaufmann Series in Interactive Technologies. Morgan Kaufmann, San Francisco,

3. Pruitt, J. and Adlin, T. (, 2006). <The Persona Lifecycle: Keeping People in Mind Throughout Product Design. The Morgan Kaufmann Series in Interactive Technologies. Morgan Kaufmann, San Francisco.

4. Mulder, S. & Z. Yaar (2006) The User Is Always Right: A Practical Guide to Creating and Using Personas for the Web, New Riders Press

Cooper(1)Context scenario Explores how the product can serve the need of the persona.The most story-like scenario. Functionality and data elements can be extracted. Key path scenario Describes the user’s interactions with a product. Focuses on the most significant user interactions. Maintains attention on how the persona uses the product to achieve goals.Validation scenarioTests design solutions.
Quesenbury(2)Springboard storyShort stories that illustrate a dilemma in present time and provide a brief description of a solution..Points of pain storyDescribe a problem Key scenario Concrete illustrations of interactionswith the product.  Design map and flow diagram Explore details of an issue. Can be produced before or after scenarios.  Use caseLook at details and bridge scenarios and implementation details.  Narrative scenarioPresent entire tasks in a narrative form after the design has been developed.
Pruitt & Adlin(3)Reality mapCapture and communicate the entire end to end experience from the user’s point of viewWalk-through scenarioBased on a persona. Communicate and clarify what a feature is and does.
Mulder & Yar(3)ScenarioIdealistic visions, the persona’s documented journeys through web site.