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WEB HOSTING HOW-TOS

Use Case Design for Websites, Part 2
By: Michael Swanson
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    2005-03-09

    Table of Contents:
  • Use Case Design for Websites, Part 2
  • Maintenance
  • Customer Interaction
  • Conclusion and Final Words

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    Use Case Design for Websites, Part 2 - Customer Interaction


    (Page 3 of 4 )

    Interacting with customers is one of the most difficult tasks for a programmer. We’re not used to talking to people that don’t understand the “alphabet soup” we call verbal communication. Too often, programmers come off to customers as either patronizing (when talking down to a customer) or arrogant (when talking above a customer).  Use Cases, as you might imagine, can help in this arena as well.

    Giving a customer a set of Use Cases is an easy way to present them with a design for a piece of software. Use Cases allow a programmer to show a client the exact way in which they will interact with the software. Since these are written in plain English, they should be easily understandable by the customer as well as the programmer. These documents help give the programmer something hard and fast that they can present to a customer, which the customer can understand and comment on. 

    Most importantly, Use Cases detail the important part of a piece of software to a customer: their actual interaction with the software. This point is often where programmers fail to understand exactly how a user wants to work with the software, and beyond which customers don’t really care what happens internally within the program. 

    Use Cases can also help foster dialogue between customers and programmers. It allows a customer to understand a design better and thus give better feedback to programmers in order to improve the overall usefulness and usability of the final product. These effects work overall to help your software turn out better for the customer’s uses and reduce the friction between your programmers and the customer.

    Imagine the last time you presented a software design to a customer.  Most often, this takes the form of bringing in a set of specifications produced by programmers and designers and presenting them to a customer in a professional manner. From a customer’s perspective, this may or may not be an easily comprehensible manner to describe the forthcoming piece of software. The difficultly lies in the difference between the mindset of your customers and programmers. 

    Programmers naturally take a specification and turn it into a visualization of what the software will look like, and probably even a rough algorithm of the programmatic logic. Customers do not have the familiarity with software or programming to do this. By presenting a design in terms of Use Cases, you do the job of turning specification definitions into user interaction definitions. These interactions are the terms in which most customers think, and make the overall software or site design more accessible to customers. 

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