Test Planning

How to Craft Task Scenarios Like a Pro

December 17, 2018

One of the biggest challenges of managing feedback is organizing it. This isn’t news to most test managers. When the bulk of prioritization happens on the back-end of a test, it can create a massive time sink. That’s why using task scenarios to organize feedback on the front-end of the test comes in handy.

Task scenarios give your test structure. By creating buckets, it becomes much faster and easier to surface high-priority feedback. In addition, they strengthen your relationship with both your internal and tester teams. For your stakeholders, task scenarios build the roadmap for answering their product questions. For testers, they set clear expectations for the kind of feedback you need them to provide.

Keep reading to learn task scenario crafting techniques that make targeting and organizing feedback from your beta test easier and more efficient.

Building Out Task Scenarios

Every user test has a goal that shapes your entire project. Task scenarios are the features, functions, and product experiences you can use to achieve that goal. They direct tester feedback to key areas of the product. This ensures the results you receive are timely and relevant to your test’s priorities.

Task scenarios have five key components.

  • Topic Name. This is a simple 1-3 word title that can easily be communicated and referenced.
  • Description. This is a summary of the experience or feature that provides testers a general overview of what they’re supposed to evaluate.
  • Activities. This shows the steps testers need to follow to complete the experience.
  • Size. The size of a task is an estimation of how long a scenario will take to complete and how much energy it demands from testers.
  • Weight. The weight reflects how important feedback about this task is to your test. It’s usually based on your stakeholders’ priorities. For instance, if product setup is a big concern, you would assign more weight to setup-related feedback. This makes it quicker to surface tester responses dealing with setup or other high-priority product areas.
How to Craft Task Scenarios Like a Pro - Example

Recording this information makes it easier to communicate your task scenarios to stakeholders and testers. This way, everyone involved knows what’s being tested.

At Centercode, we refer to task scenarios by their topic name. This makes it simple for stakeholders, testers, and test managers to reference in meetings and correspondence.

Do’s and Don’ts for Writing Task Scenarios

DO: Consult With Your Stakeholders

Your stakeholders will make product iterations on your test results, so your work needs to reflect the things they’re concerned about. If it doesn’t, you risk making product recommendations that aren’t on their radar and may not get implemented.

Sit down with your stakeholders and discuss their priorities as early as possible. Tailoring your task scenarios to reflect their concerns makes your efforts all the more useful to them.

DON’T: Overload Your Testers

Overloading your testers is a quick way to degrade the quality of your data. Too many task scenarios or tasks that are too dense can wear out their attention span. They may leave questions unanswered, or worse, lie so they don’t seem like they’re lagging.

Remember that your testers are volunteers. In my experience, three to four scenarios a week (or one to two hours of testing) is the ideal amount. Caving to stakeholder pressure to include more than that will only hurt your results.

DON’T: Get Too Nitty-Gritty with the Details

Part of the feedback you’ll receive during a test is how hard or easy it is to fulfill a certain task. Instructions that are too specific are not only boring to complete – they kill an opportunity for feedback on the product experience. You want to tell testers what you need them to do, not give them a step-by-step guide on how to do it.

If your ideal testers aren’t tech-savvy, they may need a bit more guidance. But as a rule, you want your testers to have about the same level of instruction that your customers would.

Bad Example of Activities: Open the app. Click Settings in the top right corner. Open the Account Settings. Click User Profile. Write a personal description and upload a profile picture.

Good Example of Activities: Update your User Profile with a description and a profile picture.

DO: Give Your Testers Something Tangible to Complete

Asking testers to “share their thoughts” doesn’t offer any real direction on the product experience. After all, they know you want their thoughts – they’re testing your product. While you want to leave room for unguided experience, you still want relevant and consistent feedback. Giving your testers some focus allows you to get the results you need.

Bad Example: Share your thoughts on the product.

Good Example: Please tell us what frustrated you the most about Mobile Setup.
(Tip: Use the task scenario or topic name.)

With these tips, you’ll be writing task scenarios and activities like a pro. For more tips and techniques to get the ball rolling with your next project, download the Software Test Planning Kit.

Download the Software Beta Planning Kit
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