Most user experience professionals have experienced that moment in the lifecycle of a product or service when a manager asks, “How does it work?” 

As UX experts know, that answer will vary depending on the use case, or the actions that the user will take in order to successfully complete the task ahead of them. For example, a CPA would use a cloud-based accounting system differently from a person looking for information about their tax returns. Those are two separate use cases.

Creating a use case is an essential part of the framework of user experience design. And use cases impact far more than UX, too, including the role of the development team and the goals of the marketing department. 

So how can you create a solid and accurate use case for your product or service? We’ve put together 5 tips to help you get started.

Put users first. While it may seem obvious that a use case would need to prioritize the user, it can be tempting to include the ways that your product or service can impact their actions. To be most effective, however, use cases should focus only on the perspective of the user trying to complete their desired goal.

Make use cases work for different teams. UX designers aren’t the only members of your team who will be relying on use cases for their work. For example, your colleagues in marketing may incorporate use cases into their user personas, while your product team may use them to guide project planning.

Think about successes. Ideally, most use cases will end in success. The user will be able to complete their task following a series of actions. Make sure to consider that there may be multiple different paths to success for the same user. 

Think about failures. In some cases, the user will try to complete a task with the wrong combination of actions or using a tool that wasn’t designed to work a certain way. Sometimes users will do something unexpected that a particular product or service simply can’t accommodate. Thinking through use cases that end in failure can help you predict those moments. 

Think about the future. Products and services change over time. How will they adapt to meet user needs as they also evolve? While you can only document use cases as they currently exist, thinking about how your product or service road map may change (and what that means for users) can allow you to stay ahead of the curve. 

Want to learn more about use cases? Some recommended reading includes the Hows of Documenting UX Design, Smart UX: Use Cases, and How to Create Use Cases.