A use case in product development depicts a specific need a user has that a product can solve. A use case is often just another term for a customer requirement that development teams use to communicate why they’re building what they’re building.
A product can solve more focused use cases. For example, socks solve the following use cases:
- Keep feet warm
- Keep feet dry
- Prevent blisters
- Add style to an outfit
A software product can help a user accomplish many goals. For example, an e-commerce site could solve the following broader use cases:
- Discover products based on custom criteria
- Compare product pricing
- Compare product ratings
- Purchase products
- Deliver product
That e-commerce site could also solve more specific use cases within the product’s broader goals such as:
- Sign in
- Sign up
- Agree to terms and conditions
- Reset password
- Save payment type
- Save credit card info
- Update credit card info
- Contact seller
- Restock notifications
A use case can be formally documented with the following information from the user’s perspective:
- Description of user’s specific need
- What steps are needed to accomplish their goal
- What the desired outcome is
Use cases help communicate why something should be worked on with internal stakeholders such as the product, UX (design), development and other business stakeholders.
When someone asks what the customer’s use case is, their question can also be asked in these other ways:
- What is the customer’s problem that we’re trying to solve?
- What is the customer’s job to be done?
Fully understanding what the customer’s use cases are will help clarify the why behind the what. Often, organizations come up with what features and functions they think should be built without stopping to ask what the customer’s use case is.
Understanding the customer’s use case will also guide the details of the user stories, requirements and acceptance criteria.