Skip main navigation

Intro to user stories

How to write great user stories
3.4
Hi! my name is Alicia, and I’m your product user today. I want to tell you my story. Listen well, because I have a lot of potential to become a great story. And who knows how well that will turn out for your product or service! A good place to start is getting your tools ready. Simple things like index cards and markers can serve this purpose. These small cards encourage you to note down basic benefits-driven descriptions about me or any other user. You can use these later during your team collaboration sessions. My story is unique. Although other users may behave like me, their stories will also be unique.
43.8
Make each story come alive by using maps, diagrams, storyboards, and mockups to add detail to them. Next, define my characteristics. This could be anything that you notice about me. It will help you to get a better understanding of who I am and what I’m all about. And why certain things are more important to me than others. Keep the focus on me. Carry out discussions and conversations, approaching them from my perspective. It will help you consider the context of what I consider “a job done”. Why will I use the product? Why is it important to me? What features do I require? Remember to keep my user story short and simple.
85.5
Select the feature that is my top priority and describe how I’ll use it to solve a challenge in my life. Don’t crowd it with too many features and their benefits. I am happy with just one that works well. Also, don’t get technical. While it is good to go into the detail of how you will build my favourite feature, it is not required for my user story. Use this space for pure creativity and collaboration, and you will see the ideas flow. Next, visualise the features that I require. Describe how it will look. Use words, drawings, story maps, mockups, anything that brings the feature to life.
125
Lastly, complete my user story by tying up any loose ends and defining the value, benefit, and purpose of my story clearly. Give it the urgency it deserves. When creating your own user story, try to follow these simple tricks to make great user stories, not only for me, but for your other users too.

Now that you understand how initiatives, epics, stories, and themes fit together, we will explore stories in greater depth. A user story is the most well-known tool used to capture product features or functionality. In other words, it is an explanation of a product feature written from the user’s perspective. It describes how the different components of your product or service will provide value to the user.

Agile user stories

A user story forms one of the core components of an Agile project. It is the smallest unit of user functionality that can be delivered within one sprint. It must deliver value to the user, and it must be expressed in simple language that describes the intended outcome.

The basic components of a user story are the user’s role, the goal or desire, and the reason, as shown in this example:

"Graphic shows "User Story Format" on an index card. It reads: As a user role I want goal to be accomplished so that I can reason for the goal"Click to enlarge

The user or role represents one specific person or customer who is using that product, though this may be generalised to describe the user type. The goal is a short, simple description of a product feature. It is a simplified description of a customer’s requirement – i.e. what the user wants. The reason makes the request relevant: it explains why they want the help. Most importantly, the story is told from the perspective of the user.

Watch the video to learn how to write a great user story.

Key benefits of a user story

User stories can be fascinating in their own right because they create intimate snapshots of the person(s) who will benefit from the final product. They motivate and inspire teams to create better products or services users. Of course, user stories do not stand in isolation. We need to view them within the business context, and they should clearly articulate the value for both the user and the organisation.

A user story offers several key benefits:

  • It keeps the focus on the user: While a to-do list keeps a team on task, a collection of user stories keeps the team focussed on solving issues for the real users.

  • It ensures collaboration: The team works together and decides how best to serve the user rather than team members focussing on their individual tasks.

  • It facilitates creative solutions: It helps the team to think out-of-the-box to serve the user’s requirements.

  • It creates momentum: With each story being delivered, the development team gets the joy of accomplishment, which drives momentum and increases the motivation of the team. [1]

When developers, or other Scrum teams, do not meet the envisioned users face-to-face, they should still be able to understand them. A story should offer enough detail to help teams understand:

  • what the user wants

  • what features are important to them

  • what the designers need to design

  • what components are necessary for the design

  • how the design creates value.

User stories help you plot the user’s journey with a product or service from start to end, including all the tasks they would complete in this journey.

Reflect and share

Do you have your own user story about a product? Share the product and the feature you would like to see built, then explain why this feature would be important for you.
Share your response in the comments below.

References

1. Rehkopf M. Epics, Stories, Themes, and Initiatives [Internet]. Atlassian Agile coach; [date unknown]. Available from: https://www.atlassian.com/agile/project-management/epics-stories-themes

This article is from the free online

Introduction to Agile Project Management

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education