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I was wondering what the difference is between a use case and a user journey? To me they seem to be doing the same thing?

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    Hi and welcome. Have you checked the definitions for Use cases and User journeys? It would probably improve your question if you stated the definitions and pointed to exactly which parts you're confused by. – RobbyReindeer Jan 28 '19 at 10:43
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    When I would read or write use cases, they were more than the summary of the action being taken. They included the list of steps. Maybe it was just that we didn't have a name for "user journey" back then that we'd put the two together—I can't tell. I do want to ask though: isn't a user journey about the journey of a single user through the system? A user-centric view? If so, where does a list of steps involving multiple users fit? Use case to the rescue? – Mihai Danila Oct 30 '19 at 12:14
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I would say there is a difference, it might be difficult to explain outright but let me try by using examples of how I use both Use cases and User journeys.

Usually in my projects I will use Use Cases and User Journeys to break down the needs and process of the user. I'm going to use a library for this example.

In the first step I will create Use Cases which essentially outline what goals the User has.

Use Cases examples:

  1. As a library member... I want to take out a book.
  2. As a library member... I want to return a book.

Now that I have my Use Cases I need to break down these goals into steps, to define the process at every possible stage. So, taking each Use Case I will usually create a flow diagram for that (User Journey).

User Journey example:

  1. User Journey 1 (based on Use Case 1)

User enters the library -> User goes to the historical section -> User finds desired book on WW1 history -> User goes to reception ... etc etc and you follow the flow at each possible step until the Use Case has been fulfilled.

The journey will help you identify areas in the process which can be improved.

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  • When I would read or write use cases, they were more than the summary of the action being taken. They included the list of steps. Maybe it was just that we didn't have a name for "user journey" back then that we'd put the two together—I can't tell. I do want to ask though: isn't a user journey about the journey of a single user through the system? A user-centric view? If so, where does a list of steps involving multiple users fit? Use case to the rescue? – Mihai Danila Oct 30 '19 at 12:14
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+50

The 15 seconds answer

  • Use case: A functional requirements process-centred graph.
  • Scenario: A path within a use case.
  • User Journey: A non-functional user-focused elaboration of a scenario.

Use-cases & Scenarios

Use case

  • Credit: Ivar Jacobson (et al.)
  • Definition: "A use case is all the ways of using a system to achieve a particular goal for a particular user." source
  • Discipline: Requirements Engineering
  • Purpose: Functional requirements
  • Pivot: Process (action) centred
  • Agents: Humans (action) + System (response)
  • Includes: Both ideal and alternative paths
  • Structure: Cyclic or acyclic graph

Although often described in a textual format:

A use case in textual form

It is best visualised as a graph:

An activity diagram for withdrawing cash from ATM

Scenario

  • A path (ideal or not) within a use-case graph
  • Testable (see Gherkin)

Green lines represent scenarios within the same use case (source):

Various paths on the same graph

User Journey

  • Discipline: UX
  • Definition: "A visualization of the process that a person goes through in order to accomplish a goal." Source and good overview
  • Purpose: UX analysis + Non-functional requirements
    • Emotions
    • Mindset
    • Opportunities
    • Pain point
    • Etc.
  • Pivot: May be process (action) or state (site pages, touchpoints) oriented
  • Scenario based
  • They shed insights on the actual/assumed user experience and business opportunities

A user journey map

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Below are a few links, 2 are IBM Knowledge Center articles. From reading these articles, the tools for each appear different. Which tool to use may come down to a choice based on perspective and situation.

Perhaps the "Journey" may be more for a business goal (i.e. marketing campaign) or user experience (UX) review; whereas the "Use Cases" may be more for gathering functional and non-functional requirements where technical and business collaborate during systems analysis, requirements gathering and test case development.

It's been a while, but I used to use Use Cases when working with business to gather requirements for developers and testers. If I'd have known about User Journey tools, I'd likely have used them for scripting usability studies.

Here are 3 links to relevant articles that may be of interest: User Journey (usability) Use Case (IBM) Creating Customer Journeys (IBM)

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Use cases are used by both the development and business teams in application development, to describe user flows and the interaction between users and systems. It's a technical document that can be shared between the different state holders in the team (information architects, frontend and backend developers, quality assurance, business analysts). A use case captures details on the different types of flows - ideal, exceptions, alternates, and the various conditions involved. They are very useful for UX/UI designers because you get an overview of the possible system states e.g. errors, edge cases, which you can account and design for.

A user journey also describes the steps involved in the task but does not branch out into the different cases. A user journey contains more details on the user as a persona i.e. user profile, emotions and context of use, so it serves as a document for communicating product design information, rather than technical information.

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I think the user journey is a user-centric view of the task and the use case is a system-centric view of the same. They are the same but from different perspectives.

A user journey may involve multiple users (and obviously it may involve multiple systems). A use case may involve multiple systems (and obviously it may involve multiple users). Like that, they are equally expressive.

If the above is true, then the user journey is the better vantage point and a slight evolution from the use case, but if you have the right values in mind, you can use either tool and get a user-friendly outcome.

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I am going to refer to the definitions that exist in the Tags section of UXSE rather than going to the web references, since this is an opportunity to help us refine the definition.

Use Case (tag definition)

a list of steps, typically defining interactions between a role and a system, to achieve a goal

User Journey (tag definition)

A scenario involving a series of steps taken by a user while they are interacting with a system.

My 2 cents:

  • based on the tag definition, both artifacts relate to some interaction between the user and the system/product/service
  • based on the tag definition, both artifacts document a logical process in which there is a beginning and end-point
  • in my experience, user journeys are usually presented more visually (so as to allow people to understand or explore ideas) while use cases are often written for the purpose of implementing a design (i.e. for specifications or requirements)
  • in my experience, user journeys often capture the sentiment of the user through that process, to highlight areas that can be improved on or to be focused on for further research

Conclusion

While both use cases and user journeys capture similar information, they are often structured and presented differently, often with additional details for their intended audience. However, as they are artifacts that are typically used at different stages of the UX design process (and that process is often iterative), there should be some level of consistency in the language and style used to develop these artifacts.

To avoid confusion, you may choose to focus on the stage of the process that you are using to develop the product, and the information that you need to capture (or questions/assumptions to be answered/tested), and that will provide sufficient context regardless of the term you use for the artifact.

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A use case is a description of the scenario and the user experiences and actions as well as the system responses etc...

A user journey describes the need and emotion of the user leading to the scenarios and is often prefaced by a user persona. It is meant to allow you to put yourself in the position of the user and answer some of the questions regarding what the user experience meant and felt like. What implications it had and in what ways did it affect the user, their experience, and possibly other aspects of their life.

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  • "A use case is a description of the scenario...". Never - a scenario is a path within a use case. – Izhaki Feb 6 at 0:46

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