How To Write A Use Case

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Sunday, 8.44pm

Sheffield, U.K.

Many artists use their own lives as a kind of case study to examine what it’s like to be human. – Terry Gross

I need to write some use cases soon so I thought I would get my head around what that means.

I’m not interested in the software approach to a use case – where you write out what someone does on your website. The general principle, however, of a software use case can be used to think about your business and what a user or customer might want to get out of their interactions with you.

So, lets step through what we need to figure out.

The first thing is to understand who your users or customers are. Let’s pick an industry I know nothing about – the craft brewing business. Who are the users? From what I’ve seen it’s reasonably well off folk, probably with a good education but who don’t want mass market consumer stuff and want to try something different, and support the people who are making the actual product as well.

So, pick a user. It might be useful to think of a specific individual – perhaps your user is a woman, 18-35, with a desk job.

How could she experience your product – what literal or metaphorical door would she go through to try your craft beer? Would she see it at a festival? Is it the kind of thing that would come up on an online ad? Is it a magazine article that talks about it?

Pick one of those experiences – say the festival. Think of it like walking through a door. What’s the normal course of events that would take place? Would she order for herself, or take a number of orders for friends? Would she try samples before ordering or go for a favourite? What if you had a sign out saying, “Ask for a sample?”

Now, that’s your base case – so what else could happen? Would you walk around with a tray of samples? Would you have a sign somewhere? Would you have a prize of your beers at a particular event? What are the other scenarios that could play out once your customer or user enters that first door?

Okay, now that you’ve worked that out, go back to the beginning. Start with the same user or pick another user and then pick a door. Repeat the process, working through the base case and the possible alternatives.

This might sound a little mechanistic, especially if you’re the kind of person that thinks you already know what your customer wants. But the chances are that you know what you want, but not what else could happen. Perhaps taking some time to think through these steps will mean you’re better prepared for the routes people take and the way they experience you and your business.

After all, you want them to have a good time.

Cheers,

Karthik Suresh

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