As the development of new technologies brings more users online, the design of user interactions has become increasingly important to developers who aim to keep users engaged, deliver long-term value, and provide enriched experiences. A Web site that is easy to use, is appealing, and provides a positive user experience attracts and retains users, leading to conversions and, thus, contributing to business success, as Figure 1 demonstrates.
Use cases have become popular as Web sites have become more complex and require more planning. Today, use cases help developers understand what users need and determine whether the system they’re developing can meet them. Let’s see how use cases can be a game changer in enhancing user interactions.
What Exactly Is a Use Case?
Use cases are tools that help you define the requirements for user interactions by describing the functional requirements for a system from the user’s perspective. Use cases describe, in writing, how users would perform a task using a system. A use case focuses on the functionality of a feature or a process that is under development.
Each use case represents a simple task, defining the steps from the user’s goal to the fulfillment of that goal. Elements of use cases include the user, the user’s goal, the steps to accomplish a task, and the ways in which a Web site or application responds to the user’s interactions.
Some benefits of use cases include the following:
Use cases help analyze what areas of a system require greater focus and, thus, are priorities for development and what setbacks could occur when the user is performing a task.
Use cases are useful in project planning for software development, UX design, and quality assurance.
Use cases help explain a system’s behavior and let you brainstorm what could go wrong.
Use cases provide a list of goals that help establish the cost and complexity of a system.
The Purpose of a Use Case
Use cases add value because they help explain a system’s behavior. More specifically, they provide information about how the system responds to user interactions and describe how the system helps users achieve their goals. Use cases show how users should interact with the system and how the system should respond.
What Does a Use Case Look Like?
A use case comprises the following essential elements:
actor, or system user—A person or group who performs a behavior, interacts with a system, or follows a process.
system—The steps a process requires to reach a goal, including functional requirements and the user’s anticipated behaviors.
goal—A successful outcome that completes a process.
Figure 2 provides an example.
To put this concept into context, let’s consider a practical example of a use case for a mobile-banking app, as follows:
actor—In this case, the account holder is the actor who interacts with a mobile-banking app to carry out a series of actions or tasks.
system—The mobile-banking app is the system, whether the user accesses it via a smartphone or a Web user interface. This platform provides the necessary functions and processes, enabling the account holder to achieve the goal.
goal—The account holder’s goal might be paying bills or transferring funds between accounts. The account holder can successfully accomplish this goal by navigating the system—that is, the mobile-banking app.
By highlighting the interactions between the actor, system, and goal, this example provides a clearer understanding of a use case within the context of a mobile-banking app.
Benefits of Use Cases in Enhancing User Interactions
Use cases benefit developers in many ways, including by improving their communication, clarifying requirements, reducing errors, streamlining development, and enhancing the user experience.
Use cases provide a common language and understanding of the use of systems in achieving specific goals or tasks. They can help prevent misunderstandings between developers, managers, and users. They provide an effective means of communication between stakeholders, helping them to identify and clarify system requirements, establish project scope, and organize functional requirements.
Use cases provide a concise, easy-to-understand way of presenting system requirements and defining unambiguous specifications for the development team. Each individual use case documents a distinct scenario that the software must support, serving as an explicit guide to the functionalities the system should comprehend. Their use increases precision in our understanding of the system’s intended behaviors and reduces the possibility of interpretation errors.
By defining the precise step-by-step process that the user would take, use cases can identify possible user errors or points of system failure. They provide a comprehensive depiction of user-system interactions that enables teams to reduce errors in software development. Use cases can highlight possible failure cases, as well as unexpected user behaviors. All these details let development teams understand usage scenarios and build solutions to mitigate potential issues.
The clear, step-by-step representation of user-system interactions lets developers map out the necessary functionality for each feature. This streamlines developers’ efforts by helping them to focus on the implementation of necessary features instead of dealing with uncertainties. Use cases let you preemptively identify and resolve potentially problematic scenarios, enhancing the efficiency of the development process.
Enhanced User Experiences
Use cases provide a blueprint of how users would interact with the system. They enable development teams to design user interfaces that reflect natural user behaviors and, thus, are easy to understand.
Developers could also use personas to better grasp the user’s perspective and create an easy-to-understand, engaging, user-friendly Web site, resulting in an improved user experience.
Tips on Creating Effective Use Cases
Here are a few tips to remember when creating use cases.
Identify User Personas and Scenarios
Begin by identifying who the system’s users are and what scenarios they might encounter when using it. This lets you better understand the user’s goals and needs for the system and anticipate potential errors or problems that may arise.
Map User Flows
Create a visual representation of how the user interacts with the system from start to finish. This helps you create an organized structure and identify potential error cases or alternative flows.
Write Clear, Concise Use Cases
Once you’ve identified possible use cases, ensure that you write them in clear, concise language and, thus, avoid confusion. These descriptions should be detailed enough to capture the system’s entire flows.
Address Alternative Flows and Exceptions
In addition to documenting typical user flows, ensure that you address alternative cases. This process lets you anticipate any exceptions or errors, enabling a smooth user experience for all scenarios.
Applying Use Cases in Real Scenarios
You can apply use cases in real-world scenarios such as the development of Web applications and mobile apps. Let’s look at how use cases can optimize user journeys on a Web platform, then explore the impact of use cases on a mobile-app’s usability and functionality.
A Web Application Scenario
When developing Web applications, use cases provide a roadmap for developers to follow. This lets them create a platform that addresses users’ needs and goals while ensuring an easy-to-understand, engaging user experience.
The use cases should describe various user flows through the system from start to finish and address exceptions or alternative scenarios. The development of use cases helps ensure that you address all user journeys on a Web platform, improving customer satisfaction. Figure 3 shows an example of the high-level use cases for a Web application for administrators.
A Mobile Application Scenario
For mobile apps, use cases are particularly important to ensuring a seamless experience. Recent research shows that 57% of Internet users say they would not recommend business Web sites that are poorly designed for mobile. Developers must create a mobile app that is easy to navigate and use, while addressing users’ needs and goals.
By documenting a system’s various use cases, developers can anticipate users’ behaviors and design features that are optimized for mobile. This helps them create a user-friendly app that encourages user engagement, ultimately resulting in long-term customer loyalty.
In software development, use cases clarify the developers’ understanding of the users’ needs. They offer a roadmap for creating user-centric applications. Whether for Web or mobile applications, they can help ensure that the end product is highly functional and offers an engaging, easy-to-use user experience. In a world where digital interactions are becoming increasingly prevalent, the development of effective use cases can significantly enhance a software product’s competitive edge.
A seasoned entrepreneur and digital-marketing expert, Kevin started in digital marketing in 2010, specializing in search-engine optimization (SEO). He is helping finance, insurance, ecommerce, medical, business-to-business (B2B), and software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies. Read More