10 Tips in working with a Use Case Template

10 Tips in working with a Use Case Template

use case templateBeing able to articulate your use case is critical for your customers and development staff to better understand what you want to build. But having a great use case template that is easy to review, can also be a make or break component of delivering your use cases and selling your requirements.

In my days as a business analyst and a product manager I’ve seen some good use case templates and some hideous ones. When you combine well written use cases in a poor use case template, it can really retract from the goal of selling your use case to the full team.

Following these tips to developing, automating and publishing a great use case template should be able to help you get your use case documentation to  a better place.

1. Name your use cases and identify the primary use cases
Before you start filling in the use case template, be sure you have named all of your use cases and understand the primary use cases. Ideally you should capture the 80:20 rule of getting the most common use cases done first.

2. Do you have a user story or description to put in the use case template?
The use case story or description isn’t required because the use case steps should explain everything. But most audiences may not stay engaged long enough to read through the steps, so being able to explain the use case in a simple summary or a few sentences is very helpful.

3. Make sure to include the pre and post conditions
Your use case template must include a section for pre and post conditions, and possibly some assumptions. Just for a quick clarification, the precondition is the “state” of the system before the use case starts. And the post-condition is the state of the system after the use case completes.

4. For completeness, the use case should be tied to your requirements
The use case template should accommodate linking to business requirements. If you have already generated a list of requirements prior to having written your use cases, you’re ahead of the game. Now you should be able to tie these requirements to the use case.

5. Have a clear and concise title for the use case
At the top of the use case template should be the title of the use case. It should be a sentence long that describes as much of the use case. Chances are when you had named your use cases in step #1, these will be the titles for each use case.

6. While more optional, having images that tie to the steps can be very helpful
The use cases that have images associated with each step are the ones that are far more likely to be understood. Over and over we’ve heard that a picture tells a thousand words and this is especially a case for the use case. Don’t worry about perfection here, just make some crude wire-frames if that’s all you have time for, but these images will help foster discussion more so than just words on a page.
So what does this have to do with your use case template? Make sure that the images can fit within this template.

7. Are you using good fonts and font colors?
We’ve all cringed when reading articles online with white fonts over a black background, or when the fonts are too big, or too small or too dark. I’m not trying to state the obvious, but use a clean combination of blacks (when necessary) and opt for dark greys and blues. Softer and cleaner fonts go a long way when you need your audience to read your content whether on paper or online. A good use case template will have a clean, appealing look.

8. Including other attributes can be helpful during a review cycle
Having all of the basic elements of the use case in the use case template is obvious, but you can go a step further and provide some attributes that are project related. For example, things like priority, complexity, important dates (created and updated), who the author is, what iteration it’s tagged to. When it comes time to automating your use cases, a good software vendor would include this in their use case template.

9. Automate the process of creating your use cases
Think how valuable it would be if your use cases were in a repository where stakeholders could log in and by tapping a few keystrokes they can re-generate the use cases in an elegant template. Otherwise, you’ll be manually doing this yourself. That’s where a good product management tool comes in to play. Finding a way to automate your use case template can be a highly efficient part of your product life-cycle.

10. Publish your use case as HTML, not just MS-Word
As part of #9 above, generating use cases with the use case template and being able to publish this to the project team is far easier than sending out a document via email. Especially when engineers or management is reviewing with their smart-phone, having a lighter weight doc can be the way to go.

While you can see a variation of this use case template below, to see the version of the use case template you can automate, please click this link.

Image of use case template

This is the use case template that is automated by

: Customer logs in and finds a free spot.
Description/Story:   This user story demonstrates the person looking for a parking space and will be able to use their iPhone app to locate a space, interact and transact with the person offering the space.
Actor(s): All Actors Assigned
Package: No Package Assigned
Status: Submitted
Priority: High
Rank: 0.0
Assigned To: Unassigned
Created by:
Created Date: 2011-08-14

Step: User Action: System Response:
1 User opens up app App shows credentials screen
2 User types in credentials App shows current location on a mapp
3 User selects they are looking for a spot App accepts info
4 App generates the updated screen with live spaces
5 Customer clicks on a live available space App shows details including time of departure
6 Customer accepts free spot and updates App clears out available spot.

Req ID: Requirement Name: Priority: Created: Assigned To:
BR1 System shall allow a user to log in to the app High 2011-08-14 Not Assigned
BR3 System shall provide a map of offered spots in real-time High 2011-08-14 Not Assigned
BR5 Providers can set a price for their spot High 2011-08-14 Not Assigned
BR6 Provider can change their spot from fee to paid and vice versa High 2011-08-14 Not Assigned
BR7 Searcher can offer to the provider to hold a spot for a given time High 2011-08-14 Not Assigned
BR8 Provider can reject a bid High 2011-08-14 Not Assigned
BR11 Users can fund account via credit card High 2011-08-14 Not Assigned
BR13 Customer can transfer money from account to their checking account High 2011-08-14 Not Assigned







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