We’ve described the importance of a customer’s resulting experiences in defining value. But how do you capture, document, and share an experience so people in different functions across the company can understand how to improve it? If you were defining a product feature, it’s pretty easy to state a specification such as the user interface must support Internet Explorer
9, Firefox, and Chrome browsers. Explaining an experience that is superior to alternatives is harder.

There are a number of methods that provide parts of the answer but it’s very rare for them to be combined into a coherent process. Market requirements are intended to convey the details of a customer’s problem to the designer or developer. When these requirements are assembled, they become a Market Requirements Document. Unfortunately, they tend to be functionally oriented and don’t take into account the user’s circumstances, motivation or emotions. Even worse, they frequently abandon the user’s perspective and morph into a collection of desirable product features.

Use cases are a description of actions between a user and a software system which leads the user towards something useful. Sometimes these are illustrated in the form of use case diagrams. Use cases tend to be very functional, for example, the user clicks on this link and a second window opens. To help take the user’s perspective, some companies write personas. This is the technique of describing fictional characters that represent your different user types. Typically they are given names and an explanation of their educational background, professional responsibilities, skills, attitudes and goals. This makes it easier for people to visualize and empathize with the intended customer.

The broadest technique is a use scenario or a virtual video. This is a written description of situations from the intended customer’s life that are relevant to the company. A virtual video tends to be a long narrative describing an experience, such as having a software problem and exploring the various ways to get the problem resolved. It could include exploring a support site on the Internet, trying to call the support line, and having an on-line chat with a support representative. Virtual videos can describe either a current situation or an idealized situation in the future.

Few companies have templates and processes for documenting, storing, analyzing and sharing some form of a current or desired user experience in a systematic and repeatable manner. Do you have any feedback with methods that achieve this goal in your company?