Long story short, it’s a short and simple description of a software system feature and its value for a user. A user story depicts how an end-user sees this feature. It answers the questions: “Who is this user? What do they need? Why do they need this feature? How will they use it?”
This agile method helps development teams focus on discussing requirements. It’s a great way to shift the accent from the documentation about code to the entire functionality and how an end user sees it.
We’ll cover this topic in detail in a couple of subsections.
User stories can be written digitally (in Word, Excel, Google Docs, and specialized software) or physically (on sticky notes or index cards).
Every product owner, project manager, and developer knows that requirements are constantly changing. Projects progress, users learn more about them, their goals are changing as well. Delivering a project based on outdated requirements might mean a lack of demand and great losses on a competitive market.
Here come agile user stories! They reduce time on writing requirements and documentation and allow teams to be agile. Users get desired software more quickly, pay more for awaited features, which makes the project successful.
Anyone can tackle this. Product owners, project managers, business analysts, marketers, or other people involved in the software development project. In fact, no matter who writes a user story. The main thing is who discusses and enhances it.
The basic principle for successful user stories is proper storytelling. Every story should answer three fundamental questions about product requirements:
Who? What? Why?
Anyway, they should be brief, unlike ordinary stories. Each element usually consists of up to 15 words. From a bird’s-eye perspective, a user story should be like a concise “to-do” list clear for everyone. It helps teams make sure that the result will meet the requirements and customers’ expectations.
Before starting with your user story, check out the INVEST model used by professionals:
Think of the result. When will your story be done? At what point a user will complete the task in your story? You should be sure of the start and finish lines.
Set tasks and subtasks. Define steps to complete. Split large tasks into smaller stories. Set responsible people for each of them.
Set user personas. Create a single understanding of who is your perfect end user. Who will benefit from using your feature? Describe several personas with different stories.
Divide a user story into steps. Describe which small steps are required to finish your story. Be attentive to the details and briefly describe every step in the clearest way.
Collect feedback. When testing your story, ask for feedback from end users. Replace guesswork with real cases if you want your feature to succeed.
Set deadlines. Estimating your work can be challenging, still, you need to see whether a story fits the sprint. What’s more, if it doesn’t, check if it can fit the next sprint or should be done later, probably, in the timeframes of an epic or several epics.
Except for this guide, consider additional best practices, for example, 3C’s method.
A user story has a general three-stage structure:
Here we’ll talk about the formula mentioned at the beginning of this article.
As a (user persona), I want to (perform an action), so that (I get some benefits).
Let’s break this formula down by parts:
Let’s try using the formula from the above paragraph:
It’s simple! Describe your user, their desires and benefits from using your feature. Use our examples to make yours!
When you have dozens of upcoming user stories, map them! This will give you a chance to prioritize features, organize tasks, plan sprints. Mapping user stories will show you a large part of the customer journey and let you notice gaps in it.
Here is an example of a helpful story map:
Actually, story mapping is not a short process. Still, it’s the backbone of your release. So, be ready to invest more time and effort than in planning sprints. Perceive creating a story map as a general planning session with a detailed overview of projects, iterations, or pivot points.
The main steps for creating a user story map:
These two concepts are very similar. Still, here are the major differences between them:
Grab these bonus tips on how to create user stories!
Before getting your user story to the digital dimension, try using paper cards. Group them on the table or move and replace with other cards.
Once you are satisfied with the pattern, document everything digitally, and share it with colleagues.
User stories are about...users! All in all, you will offer the feature based on this story to the audience, so you should clearly understand what customers need. Gather as much data about them as possible.
Use a simple yet concise approach. Stories should be easily perceivable. Don’t use ambiguous terms and complex phrases.
Communicate data with both words and visual tools. Visualize processes and results to make one say: “I understand what’s going on here from the first sight!”
Except for stories, use various tools to dive deeper into the behavior of your target audience. Customer journey maps, user flows, personas - all this comes in handy when improving your product or project.
You now have a bigger picture of creating user stories. It’s time to act!
And keep in mind three major questions: “WHO? WHAT? WHY?”
Creating personas is crucial — without a user, your product or feature will be useless. Find your end user and model their personas in FlowMapp.
It depends on various presets, still, an ideal user story should be implemented in 3-4 business days.
Map your project from the beginning to the end. Its perspective may be long-term, depending on the project scale.
A user story is agile is a tool helping teams be highly responsive to any changes. Short user stories can be prioritized, switched, moved, and nothing will affect the overall development process.
In Agile, scrum masters commonly perform user story workshops. They train colleagues to create the most effective user stories. These workshops can be in-house or outsourced.