User scenarios, user stories, use cases – what’s the difference?

The three are different, but not as much as you may think. Let’s talk about stories.

No, not user stories… stories. We are wired to engage with and tell stories – it is a seminal part of the human species. It is the way we transferred knowledge before the written word, it is the reason why we have words – we need the words to tell the stories. Stories help us understand things, helps us learn and grow – stories nourish us as much as food and water does.

Stories are very effective things.

The three type of stories that are being discussed – user stories, scenarios, and use cases – all are different conceits that help communicate what a solution that is being created needed to do. The differences are in structure and perspective.

User stories are from the perspective of the end user, and very simple in structure:
As a (user type) I want to (action/feature) so that (reason)
As a (user type) I want to (action/feature) because (reason)

Example: As a runner I want to track the miles I run each day so that I can have a good understanding of how much I have exercised.

They also contain details that indicate what should happen, driven by context and other situations:
If (context) and (additional context) when (event) then (outcome)

Example: If I stop running and I stop for more than ten minutes, then the record of my run needs to be saved as a new run record.

User stories are used in the agile development process to scope features. They allow developers to focus on what the user has to do. The best user stories are grounded by user research and understanding – they aren’t “made up” and actually reflect what users have to do.

The next level of detail, the next “format” these stories can take in a design/development project are user scenarios. These are much more detailed and include details such as user’s motivation and environment. As opposed to the simple narrative of above, these are often presented in storyboards and as “blueprints” with a lot of details and texture that may often be superfluous.

User scenarios paint a picture that is more complete, but they are often viewed as superfluous on projects that have an aggressive schedule. When to use scenarios depends on the project and the needs of the project.

Finally, use cases are structured documents that contain requirements and details of what functionality should exist. Use cases are (usually) extremely entailed and detail both user behavior and system response. They are less about user needs and mental models and more prescriptive direction as to what needs to be developed. As these documents usually take some time to create, they have fallen out of favor with many companies who have adopted agile development processes.

So, the difference between the three type of stories? It’s all about approach, the author, and what detail is needed. For user experience practitioners, user stories and scenarios are the way most use to convey design direction and context. For business analysts, use cases is the known and used format. The line is getting blurred though – many business analysts are moving into UX these day. They key is to use the right tool for the right job, and to not overthink or over document.

After all, companies don’t ship design documents… they ship products and services produced from such documentation.

See question on Quora

What are the details of William Shatner’s deal with Priceline?

Are the rumors that William Shatner made $600 million off Priceline stock true? Note exactly. He was paid in stock before, and now he is paid per commercial. Details from Celebrity Net Worth:

Did Shatner Make $600 Million off Priceline?
There has been a lot of debate over the past few years over whether or not William Shatner made $600 million as the commercial pitchman for http://Priceline.com. Here’s the background – Back in 1997, Shatner signed on to be the “Priceline Negotiator” in a series of commercials for the upstart dotcom travel company. At the time, the internet bubble was still growing bigger and companies like Priceline were getting insane stock market valuations from their IPOs. Shatner reportedly insisted on receiving stock as compensation instead of cash. At the time, getting stock seemed like a brilliant move, but soon the bubble burst and Priceline shares lost nearly all their value. The stock eventually fell to a low of $1.80 per share in 2000. Fast forward a little more than a decade later and Shatner was still doing commercials and Priceline had made a huge comeback, now trading at over $300 per share.

Rumors swirled that Shatner didn’t sell any of of his stock during the decade after the bubble bursting leading some to speculate that his shares were now supposedly worth over $600 million. Shatner has vehemently denied these rumors on several public occasions, most notably an interview with Howard Stern. He even took to twitter with the following: “Someone stupid said a stupid thing about me making $600M. It ain’t so. Relatives are coming out of the woodwork. Too bad it never happened.”

Regardless of whether or not Shatner held onto any of his priceline shares he is still a very wealthy man with an estimated net worth of $300 million. He probably doesn’t need to worry about negotiating on travel fare anytime.

William Shatner Net Worth

He apparently sold his stock at a “relatively low price.”: No megabucks for Shatner on Priceline stock: CEO

See question on Quora

What is the best way to create a UX roadmap?

First off, let’s discuss the term “UX Roadmap.” I’ve heard it used in a couple of different ways. Here’s one definition, from UX Game Changers:

The UX roadmap defines the stages of the user delivery. And while demands can change deliverables, the roadmap provides guidance and helps set priorities. The term “roadmap” is defined as being a course of action or a plan for future actions.  Roadmaps provide the underpinnings of what should eventually turn into efficiencies and revenue.

Here’s my take on it:

A UX roadmap details where your users are, where they want/desire to be, and when you will provide offerings that will take them where they want to go. It is a timeline of activities and offerings that is driven by user needs and aligned (and, optimally, influencing) product release schedules.

An example: You sell a widget that allows people to instantly see their blood sugar level. This widget does one thing – the blood sugar check – incredibly well. Your users like it because it is simple and effective. However, they want more – they want to be able to log this sugar over time, and they also want to not have to sync this information with their computers – they want to just have the information “beam” itself to there. And as these users get more exposed to similar technology, they will also want to have multi-function devices that supports more than one function.

They – and the world – are heading towards “multitasking enablers” that support  health monitoring. How do you evolve your product to keep up with that? You flesh out a roadmap based on research, understanding, technology, and society trends.

This is what a lot of product managers do, but their product roadmaps are often “keep up with the Jones” efforts, where they strive for feature parity with competitors. The secrets sauce is the UX roadmap, because it looks not at the competitive landscape but user needs and their mental models. If you don’t do that, don’t understand where people’s “heads” are at and where they are going… Well, it can lead to a failed product line and a dead company.

See question on Quora

Is a disruption of the movie theatre experience imminent?

No, but there needs to be.

The movie going experience is (mostly) terrible, for several reasons:

  • Inconsiderate moviegoers (who text and talk during the film)
  • More (and longer) trailers
  • More (and longer) commercials
  • Longer movies, with no intermissions (which is why the whole Runpee app was created)
  • Higher ticket prices (the only reason that Hollywood has had record box office the last two years, because total ticket sales have declined over the past ten years)
  • Stupider movies (because complex plots and dialogue is harder to sell internationally, which is where Hollywood makes most of their money these days)

Some attempts have been made to disrupt the moviegoing experience, primarily the “dinner and a movie” theatre model that has waiters and a full menu for patrons to choose from.This has met with some success, but it’s unlikely this model will ever be built out so that major theatre chains provide such a service at their multiplexes. Hollywood tried to change the moviegoing experience in two other ways over the past decade – IMAX and 3D – which met with limited success (though many analysts blame 3D for increasing ticket prices while reducing ticket sales).

There’s lots of things that CAN be done to make the movie going experience better, but until Hollywood and the theaters HAVE to change, they won’t. And why change? The money is still rolling in (even though the biggest chunk of it comes from expensive summer blockbusters), and international box office allows movies that don’t succeed in the US a chance to be successful (the most recent example is the new Robocop, which flopped in the states but is doing quite well in China, Brazil and Japan). If anything, Hollywood will look to change things for the WORSE for moviegoers in order to maximize profits (they are already doing this with home video releases – putting out multiple store exclusives of films instead of a single “loaded” blu-ray edition).

Not saying that disruption won’t ever happen, but it’s going to take a BIG drop-off in ticket sales for the business owners to look at ways they need to change to lure customers back.

Want to see the moviegoing experience get better? Stop going to see movies. Wait till Netflix and/or home video to see the big blockbusters. If enough people do this, then things might change.

See question on Quora

What is expected from a UX leader (director, VP, etc.)?

Leadership, mentorship, passion, and business acumen.

Leadership in that that person must set the standards and direction for the organizations’ offerings, be they products, services, or both. How much due diligence should be done to ensure designs align with user needs? What process should be defined and followed to do this? What level of design documentation and testing is required? And so on. He/she needs to be the person who says “this is the way to do things” and they need to be able to convince the powers that be that their way makes sense and is the right approach.

Mentorship in that the person in charge of UX needs to provide opportunities to learn and grow to all of their team members. He/she needs to provide a UX “job ladder”, with a list of all roles and what is needed to get there (so the team will have a “target” to hit) and needs to support the training and opportunities necessary to help the team members get to where they want to go.

Passion in that the UX leader needs to be passionate about making lives better by providing user-centered products and solutions to people. This passion needs to be (somewhat) tempered by pragmatic realism, so that the passion will not override or supplant business goals. Unrealistic passion often results in academic exercises that don’t produce useful results.

Finally, a UX leader needs to have business acumen. He/she needs to be able to read people and situations, understand the “politics” of a particular organization, and communicate effectively both “up” and “down”. UX leaders who fail to have business “savvy” usually end up being ineffective in getting things done and supporting their team.

See question on Quora

What is your favorite line in the James bond movies?

“My dear girl, there are some things that just aren’t done, such as drinking Dom Perignon ’53 above the temperature of 38 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s just as bad as listening to the Beatles without earmuffs!” – Goldfinger

My second favorite:

“No, I like sake! Especially when it’s served at the proper temperature… 98.4 degrees Fahrenheit, like this is.” – You Only Live Twice

See question on Quora