How to Write Good Task Scenarios for User Testing

A task scenario is the number of steps a user has to take to complete a goal. It describes what the user is trying to achieve by giving context with the necessary details to accomplish the goal without being too prescriptive.

How to Write Good Task Scenarios for User Testing

Task scenarios accompany user tests and are used as a way to check whether a user story is effective, efficient and satisfies the user needs. The following tutorial will explain how to write a good task scenario.

What Makes a Good Task Scenario?

In my experience, writing a good task scenario is more of an art than a science. I’ll use an example, and then go into each principle of good task scenarios and how they relate back to that example, so that you have a better idea of how to create your own.

Task Example: Find Lodgings on Airbnb

Say you have an international flight to Kathmandu, Nepal in October. You arrive on the 5th, but your friend will only be available to host you from the 8th onwards. Find a place on Airbnb from the 5th to the 7th for less than the average price per night ($58).

How to Write Good Task Scenarios for User Testing

The steps in this scenario might look like this:

  • Step 1: Enter your destination
  • Step 2: Enter your date range
  • Find a place that is instant booking
  • Step 3: Find something closest to the Patan district in Kathmandu
  • Step 4: Make a booking and let your host know why you’re coming
  • Review and pay

Good Task Scenarios Give Context

A good task scenario gives you a bit of context, so that users can behave as if they actually need to perform the task.

In the example above, I have given a realistic backstory to give context “You have an international flight to Kathmandu, Nepal in October. You arrive on the 5th, but your friend will only be available to host you from the 8th onwards”.

Good Task Scenarios Provide Details

A good task scenario provides specific details that the user needs to know. These may be model numbers, prices, items, categories, dates etc

In the example above, I have given dates (5th to the 7th of October). I have also included a location (Kathmandu, Nepal) and the average price per night ($58).

Good Task Scenarios Aren’t Too Prescriptive

When setting a task, you should aim to provide details and context without telling the user what to do (otherwise, what’s the point of doing a usability test?)

For example above, I have stated, “Find a place on Airbnb from the 5th to the 7th for less than the average price per night ($58).” And not “Click on the calendar at the top of the screen to find your booking”.

Good Task Scenarios Have a Correct Solution

Task scenarios have a correct, definitive solution. If you ask a user to “find a place less than the average price per night at $58” you should make sure there actually is a correct solution. Having a correct solution tells the user if they were successful or not.

Conclusion

A good task scenario is critical to running a valid user testing session. Without framing the question correctly you may get biased or inaccurate data. This tutorial isn’t an exhaustive list, but more of a fundamental overview. There are many factors to consider. In my experience, if you give context, have a strong backstory with details, and provide a correct solution, you are likely to get a smooth user testing session.

Do you have any other tips of how to write a good task scenario? Leave them in the comments below!

Further Reading

To learn more about user testing, check out these articles on Tuts+:

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