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11.8. Textual Use Case Representation

A textual representation of use cases at different levels provide details about captured knowledge so that meaning (semantics) of use cases can be emphasized. When writing textual use cases using specification text, four stages of precision shall be considered:
  • Actors & Goals: List what actors and which of their goals the system will support. Review this list, for accuracy and completeness. Prioritize and assign to teams and releases. You now have the functional requirements to the first level of precision.
  • Use case brief or main success scenario: For the use cases you have selected to pursue, write the trigger and sketch the main success scenario. Review these in draft form to make sure that the system really is delivering the interests of the stakeholders you care about. This is the second level of precision on the functional requirements. It is fairly easy material to draft, unlike the next two levels.
  • Failure conditions: Complete the main success scenario and brainstorm all the failures that could occur. Draft this list completely before working out how the system must handle them all. Filling in the failure handling takes much more energy than listing the failures. People who start writing the failure handling immediately often run out of energy before listing all the failure conditions
  • Failure handling: Finally, write how the system is supposed to respond to each failure. This is often tricky, tiring and surprising work. It is surprising because, quite often, a question about an obscure business rule will surface during this writing. Or the failure handling will suddenly reveal a new actor or a new goal that needs to be supported.
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