Product design

Fun visual shorthand for use case definition


Our team was trying to think through complex use cases.  To facilitate this communication they were using a cumbersome file with lots of words.  The file was hard to understand and the process was slow going.


I knew we could save time and communicate more effectively if the file consisted of visual icons rather than words.


  • SMEs
  • Business analyst
  • Project manager
  • Developers

Before and after


The opportunity

At the beginning of definition this epic seemed very challenging.  Each story consisted of one or more behaviors that was prompted by a series of complex interrelated factors.  The complex factors were unwieldy to describe using words.  It was taking an inordinate amount of “back and forth” for the team members who were vetting the use cases.  When I asked why it was so difficult to communicate, the BA showed me the excel file they were using.

Immediately I knew there was a simpler way to visualize this.  I popped into and made the team a visual shorthand template they could use to vet each use case quickly and efficiently.

Visual shorthand template
A simple use case visualized
A complex use case visualized

Expected benefits

  • Pictures allowed the team to immediately understand what factors were involved, and the expected resulting behavior.
  • Prototyping became fast and easy.  The team used the time saved to explore the epic and make sure the use cases were thoroughly vetted.
  • The visual shorthand sketches made the stories super easy for developers to understand, especially because English was not their native language.
Visual shorthand in a story

Unexpected benefits

  • Team members learned how to incorporate right brain thinking to save time.
  • The visual shorthand made a laborious and dreaded epic fun.