Design Scenarios

A Design Scenario template is available at:

Some examples scenarios are available at:

Brief description:

Design scenarios borrow the form of design narratives, adapting it from an account of documented past events to a description of imagined future ones. Design scenarios retain the same basic components that constitute design narratives: context, challenge, theoretical framework, events and actions, results and reflections. However, these elements reflect a hypothesis about possible future states of the world. The context describes a current, existing situation, which is perturbed by the introduction of new material, social and intentional elements such as new technologies, new practices, or new objectives. Consequently, the challenge component may describe an existing conflict of forces, which is altered by the introduction of new contextual elements. Alternatively, it may consist of altogether new requirements arising from the reconfiguration of forces, such as the satisfaction of novel objectives. The protagonists in a design scenario do not need to refer to specific individuals in the real world, but they must describe persons who could, convincingly be present in the domain of practice being explored and be ascribed with the intentions and social relations included in the described context. Such constructs are often denoted Persona in HCI methodology – fictitious characters representing a typical person within the domain.
At the heart of a design scenario are a sequence of actions the protagonists may take to achieve their objectives, events which they may encounter and their reactions to these, and finally – the ensuing results of this sequence. These actions, event, and consequent results are afforded or driven by the qualities of new artefacts introduced into the context. Thus, they express a design claim: that introducing such artefacts into such a context may induce such results. However, this claim is stated in a thickly grounded form, submitting it to elaborate scrutiny.
The claim embodied in a design scenario can be judged theoretically, heuristically and empirically. Theoretical assessment would evaluate the statements in the scenario by comparing them to prior knowledge. For example, if the scenario includes an event to which a protagonist responds in a particular way, we can ask if this response is consistent with evidence of human behaviour in similar situations. Heuristic evaluation is a technique borrowed from usability research, where a group of experts is asked to assess a particular design using a given rubric (set of heuristics). It offers a low-fidelity rapid evaluation which often uncovers design flaws at an early stage. Finally, empirical evaluation consists of implementing the proposed design, introducing the new artefacts into the domain of practice, observing real participants reaction to them and comparing their actions (and their results) to the ones in the scenario.

Links to extended descriptions:

Scenario based design is an established approach in HCI. Here, we extend it to apply to all aspects of techno-pedagogical design.

Rosson, M. B. & Carroll, J. M. (2009), 'Scenario-based design', Human-computer interaction: Development process, 1032-1050 .

Scenario-based design is a family of techniques in which the use of a future system is concretely described at an early point in the development process. Narrative descriptions of envisioned usage episodes are then employed in a variety of ways to guide the development of the system that will enable these use experiences. Like other user-centered approaches, scenario-based design changes the focus of design work from defining system operations i.e., functional specification to describing how people will use a system to accomplish work tasks and other activities. However, unlike approaches that consider human behavior and experience through formal analysis and modeling of well-specified tasks, scenario-based design is a relatively lightweight method for envisioning future use possibilities. A user interaction scenario is a sketch of use. It is intended to vividly capture the essence of an interaction design, much as a two-dimensional, paper-and-pencil sketch captures the essence of a physical design.

Bødker, S. (2000), 'Scenarios in user-centred design - setting the stage for reflection and action', Interacting with computers 13 (1) , 61-75

This paper discusses three examples of use of scenarios in user-centred design. Common to the examples are the use of scenarios to support the tensions between reflection and action, between typical and critical situations, and between plus and minus situations. The paper illustrates how a variety of more specific scenarios emphasising, e.g. critical situations, or even caricatures of situa- tions are very useful for helping groups of users and designers being creative in design. Emphasising creativity in design is a very different view on the design process than normally represented in usability work or software/requirement engineering, where generalising users' actions are much more important than, in this paper, the suggested richness of and contradiction between actual use situations. In general the paper proposes to attune scenarios to the particular purposes of the situations they are to be used in, and to be very selective based on these purposes.

Mor, Yishay (2013). SNaP! Re-using, sharing and communicating designs and design knowledge using scenarios, narratives and patterns. In: Luckin, Rose; Goodyear, Peter; Grabowski, Barbara and Winters, Niall eds. Handbook of Design in Educational Technology. London: Routledge, (In press).
In order to enable a culture of critical, informed and reflective design practice we need a linguistic framework for communicating design knowledge: the knowledge of the characteristic features of a domain of practice, the challenges which inhabit it, and the established methods of resolving them. Such an infrastructure must “serve two masters”; on one hand, it should adhere to the requirements of scientific rigor, ensuring that the proposed conditions and challenges are genuine and the solutions effective. On the other hand, it should maintain pragmatic adequacy, ensuring that the insights it encapsulates are readily available for practitioners to implement in real-world situations. Several representations have been proposed to this effect: design narratives (Mor, 2011; Barab et al, 2008; Bell, Hoadley and Linn, 2004; Hoadley, 2002; Linn & Hsi, 2000), design principles (Kali, 2006, 2008; Linn, Bell, & Davis, 2004; Merrill, 2002; Quintana et al., 2004; van den Akker, 1999), and design patterns (Derntl & Motschnig-Pitrik, 2005; Goodyear, 2005; Mor & Winters, 2007; Retalis et al, 2006), to name a few. The aim of this chapter is to characterise two of these forms – design narratives and design patterns, and propose a third form – design scenarios, and suggest how these could be embedded in a cycle of reflective learning design.

"Scenario-based Design: Common Ground between HCI and RE", in Sutcliffe, Alistair G. (2011): Requirements Engineering: from an HCI Perspective. In: Soegaard, Mads and Dam, Rikke Friis (eds.). "Encyclopedia of Human-Computer Interaction". Aarhus, Denmark: The Interaction Design Foundation. Available online at 

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Design Scenario