User Scenarios User Experience (UX) topic overview/definition

What are User Scenarios?

A user scenario is the fictitious story of a user’s accomplishing an action or goal via a product. It focuses on a user’s motivations, and documents the process by which the user might use a design. User scenarios help designers understand what motivates users when they interact with a design – a useful consideration for ideation and usability testing.

User scenarios can be used in the ideation phase of a design project. This is where visualizing how a user will use a product or service will help generate design ideas. At such an early stage, the flexibility these scenarios offer to a designer’s imagination is immense—a bonus that can expand a design’s potential to be highly versatile and even transcend market use. A well-known example of the latter case is bubble wrap, whose initial purpose had been to serve as wallpaper. User scenarios can also be used to determine the most important areas to test during usability testing, and to provide guidance on how each test should be done.

A fundamental point to bear in mind is that user scenarios do not represent all possible users. Instead, they typically account for only the most common users or user motivations. It is therefore common for user scenarios to be based on user personas. Good user scenarios provide context and detail in order to be as accurate and relatable as possible. So as to represent target users in the truest form possible, user scenarios need to be based on some form of insight into or research done with real or prospective users. Consequently, by working through well-thought-out user scenarios populated with valid user personas, a design team will be able to project a stronger light on their work in progress and expose previously obscure problem areas, which they can then remedy.

Literature on User Scenarios

Here’s the entire UX literature on User Scenarios by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:

Learn more about User Scenarios

Take a deep dive into User Scenarios with our course User Research - Methods and Best Practices.

User experience design requires you to understand your users. If you don't know what your users want, you can only deliver what they want by accident. User research is how we come to understand what our users want—it's the largest part of user experience design. This course will give you insights into all the major UX research techniques and how to put them into practice on your projects.

User research is often the first step of a UX design process, because you cannot begin designing a product or service without first understanding what the users want. By gaining skills, and learning about the best practices in user research, you will be able to get first-hand knowledge of your users in order to design the optimal product—one that sells better than your competitors’.

Through this course, you will be introduced to the various aspects of user research, getting exposed to qualitative and quantitative user research methods. On top of that, you will also learn how to analyze the results of your research and confidently present your findings to your clients and stakeholders. User researchers play an instrumental and valuable role in any organization and, as such, receive a healthy remuneration, from an average of $81,000 to as high as more than $120,0001.

All literature


Ch 30: Personas

The persona method has developed from being a method for IT system development to being used in many other contexts, including development of products, marketing, planning of communication, and service design. Despite the fact that the method has existed since the late 1990s, there is still no clear definition of what the method encompasses. Com...

Book chapter
Design for All

Ch 42: Design for All

42.1 What is Design for All?Contemporary interactive technologies and environments are used by a multitude of users with diverse characteristics, needs and requirements, including able-bodied and disabled people, people of all ages, people with different skills and levels of expertise, people from all over the world with different languages, cul...

Book chapter