Participatory Scenario Generation: Communicating Usability Issues in Product Design through User Involvement in Scenario Generation

Mieke van der Bijl-Brouwer, Mascha C. van der Voort

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Scenarios have proven to be a valuable tool in evaluating and communicating usability issues in consumer product design. Scenarios are explicit descriptions of hypothetical use situations. Realistic scenarios can serve as a valuable frame of reference to evaluate design solutions with regard to usability. To be able to achieve this required level of realism, involving users in scenario generation is essential. In this presentation we discuss how and where users can be involved in a scenario based product design process by means of examples of design projects that were executed by master students Industrial Design Engineering of the University of Twente. We distinguish direct and indirect scenario generation. In direct scenario generation the user is actively involved in a participatory scenario generation session: the scenarios are created together with users. Indirect scenario generation is an approach in which scenarios are created by designers based on common analysis techniques like observations and interviews. These scenarios are then offered to users for confirmation. Both types of user involvement in scenario generation can be aimed at either current use scenarios which describe the current situation or future use scenarios which include a new product design. The examples show that all strategies can be applied successfully to create realistic scenarios. Which strategy to choose depends among others upon risks and privacy issues, occurrence of infrequent events and availability of users. Furthermore, the variety of approaches shows that there is still a lot to explore with regard to benefits and limitations of the many techniques that can be applied in generating scenarios for consumer product design. We hope to contribute to this field by means of the research in our group and the work of students in the SBPD course
Original languageUndefined
Pages (from-to)269-288
Number of pages20
JournalDesign principles and practices
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • Participatory Design
  • METIS-255732
  • Design Education
  • Usability
  • Scenario Based Design
  • IR-82022

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