Since you already know how to create top-notch user stories, let’s now pay attention to mapping them! Achieve maximum efficiency with user story maps and see your strategy from the bird’s-eye perspective.

User story map created on the desk

What is a User Story Mapping

This term was born in 2005. Since then it has been used in agile development throughout the world. User story mapping helps companies visualize their products to assess how users will perceive it. Unlike backlogs, user story maps allow product development teams to see the big picture from A to Z. Let’s define each term:

  • User. Focusing on end users enables teams to create really highly demanded software based on the perfect user journey.
  • Story. Continuing flow is crucial for products, cause their goal is not achieved when a user downloads and installs the app. The whole experience is important. If there are some gaps, problems with monetization will be inevitable. So, you should identify gaps at early stages.
  • Mapping. This is the most important part of the entire process. Mapping various features helps prioritize them in a live discussion. It’s a great method to improve strategy and tactics.

Why Do You Need a User Story Mapping

It is not obligatory yet very efficient in terms of creating top-notch products. Do you want users to enjoy your app or service? Then try story mapping, as it:

  • Helps understand your audience. Development teams clearly see how every type of user will interact with a product or service and which requirements should be fulfilled.
  • Gives a chance to define priorities. With a sole view of the entire UX (user experience), teams can identify their #1 goals and tasks. Next, they divide the overall scope of work to releases or sprints.
  • Helps enhance products. Once you have prioritized scopes of user stories, you collect feedback for each of them as soon as possible. This empowers you not only to fix current issues but also make notes of do’s and don'ts for future releases.
  • Highlights possible issues. As you have a high-level view of your project, you can identify any risks and issues before they arise in real life.

Pre Phase: Before You Begin

Preparation for user story mapping can take some time, still, this will save you plenty of resources later. Define levels others will see in your map. Usually, these levels are as follows:

  • Goals. What do your users strive to achieve when using your product or service? Think of different user categories and roles, their basic needs.
  • Tasks. These are general tasks users deal with to achieve the goals mentioned above. Use verbs to focus on actions.
  • Steps. There may be plenty of them, as these are the smallest pieces of the map. Imagine which steps a user should take to fulfill the task and achieve their goal. Focus on actions, use verbs as well.

Next, Think of What Tool You Will Use

Offline Tools

Sticky notes, pens, papers, whiteboard. These tools are perfect for teams that are accustomed to offline communication and are usually based in one office.

mapping room

Online Tools

If you’re tired of paperwork and love innovations, switch online. This way is the best for remote teams, as they can collaborate without face-to-face meetings.

How many people are needed for mapping? Ideally, it is a team of 6-7 persons. It should include tech lead, product owner or product manager and UX designer. The process normally takes no more than one business day if you want to plan a 1- or 2-month project. For more lengthy projects, more time is required for mapping. So, check the availability of all specialists involved in planning and mapping.

How to Create a User Story Map

Step 1. Brainstorming

Brainstorm on what a real user would do with your product. What are their goals? What would they value the most? Describe this with verbs. Try to catch all possible user activities. This way, you will create a set of tasks.

If your product will have different audiences, think of whether their interaction with your product will differ. Keep in mind the classic formula of user stories:

As a (user), I want to (perform an action), so that (I get some benefits).

Step 2. Group & Sort Tasks, Set Goals

Sort tasks you have made up during the first step. Group them together and create the backbone of your user story map. Discuss each task with your team. Does everyone agree with it? This is a negotiation part and you’ll have tons of dialogues at this stage. Next, group tasks:

  • Merge tasks of one topic.
  • Group similar or connected ones.
  • Name your groups.
  • Set goals for each group of tasks: Which goal will be fulfilled by completing them?).
  • Prioritize users’ goals: What should be achieved first?
  • Read the whole story from left to right. Make sure it is concise and flows naturally.
  • If there are gaps in your story, think of what your map is lacking. Keep in mind that the details make sense.
  • Start it all over again.

Step 3. Add Steps

The longest part of mapping is creating steps. Brainstorm the smallest steps for each task. Place them below tasks. Answers to the question “What should a user do to complete the task above?” will be your steps.

Step 4. Prioritize everything

This part is mainly about steps, still, you might check if your goals and tasks are prioritized correctly. Next, do the same with small steps. Move items from right to left if they are high-priority. Leave the least urgent things at the right.

Step 5. Define Iterations

Divide everything into several releases or sprints. Also, identify the borders for your minimum viable product. Simply draw the line between semantic elements. Estimate the work and deadlines together with the team.

Step 6. Review and Use

Congrats! Your user story map is ready! Review it before getting to work and start your spring or release!

Backlogs vs. Story Maps

Flat backlogs are great for general planning, still, they won’t show you any gaps. At least, you need great expertise to identify them. Story maps make these almost imperceptible things visible. Also, they allow setting priorities from a high level and user's perspective. In fact, Jeff Patton, the inventor of story maps, used them to discover requirements based on the UX point of view. And this works!

What Are the Advantages of Story Mapping?

The method created by Jeff Patton has a list of benefits:

  1. Obvious product goals and vision. User story maps grow as projects develop. Even if its goals change, teams will see what changes to make to achieve these goals faster and more effectively.
  2. Clear priorities. This point is crucial for startups that are striving to create an MVP. Not only stories, but even their connection may be prioritized.
  3. Open communication. While backlogs are made by one person, the whole team takes part in mapping. This increases the efficiency of each team member and the quality of the results.
  4. Visible user journey. Your user story map represents the entire user journey. So, it will be useful not only for technical implementation of requirements, but for further marketing activities, and so on.

The Bottom Line

As you can see, user story mapping brings teams shared understanding of the entire customer journey. It is a versatile tool opening new horizons in product development. Start with the preparatory phase stage and continue with our step-by-step manual. The only question left is… choosing the perfect tool for mapping.‍

Start Mapping with FlowMapp!

Create a user story map with our User Flow Tool! Collaborate with all your team, add shapes, diagrams, connections, text blocks, images. What’s more, extend your map with personas and customer journey maps. Make your online work even more convenient than offline mapping with sticky notes!

The most great fact is that mapping in FlowMapp doesn’t require extensive expertise. Try the app now for free! Make sure of its maximum efficiency and get things done!