Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off your first 2 months of Unlimited Monthly. Start your subscription for just £29.99 £19.99. New subscribers only. T&Cs apply

Find out more

Design Thinking for Agile User Stories

Watch Alex Cowan to learn about design thinking for agile user stories.
In the last module we talked about what Agile is, how we use it, and what’s hard about it, how we make it actually work. And one of the central elements that we talked about is this user story. And it’s formulation is very simple and obvious and we talked about the benefits of some of these clauses. But, when we really dig in, we learn that creating good user storage is something that we continually get better at, and that we continue to collaborate with using the wisdom of our team and our experience with actual users. So, who is this person? That we’re going to build this product for. What makes them tick? What do they care about?
We need to stay curious and at the same time stay organized about how we gather that understanding, encapsulate it, and share it with the rest of our team. And then we need to keep an eye on, what do they care about? And, how do we know if we are delivering something that’s valuable to them? And we need to keep an eye on that too. In this module, we’re going to learn about how to use personas, problem scenarios, and alternatives to encapsulate that material in a systematic way, that’s not a lot of work, that doesn’t just happen at the beginning of a project and become stale.
But rather, it’s an integral part of our everyday work if we think about what we know, when we’re talking about how we’re going to implement and then when we look forward that, how we validate if what we’re doing is valuable to the user. And then, we’re also going to learn how to do field discovery so that we can go and talk to users. Even if they are in the building, even if they’re out somewhere else. And actually create nice strong personas. We’ve been using this venture design process to kind of think about where everything stitches together and where we ought to be focused. So, here we’re going to be principally focused on these two items.
Now, when I was a kid my dad said to me he’s a doctor, he said Alex take care of your colon and it’ll take care of you. And I was like what’s a colon If you take care of this personas, and his problems scenarios, and you look after them you will always have a nice strong foundation to use in building really good user stories. I will start with the persona, and what do we really mean by personas and this practise of design thinking. Well, in the simple as possible terms, design thinking has these two pillars. Empathy and creativity.
So, back when somebody had ideas about the seems to respire, observing him or her and seeing that they needed a more precise cutting instrument that they needed a way to not get so fatigued over the course of the day and who knows how many durations it took, but somebody figured out the sewing scissor. Now, it’s a great example, a simplified but great example of design thinking. I’ll give you another Now that I’m old, I moved out of the city, and I live in the country. And in the country, we found that at our new country house, we had mice. So I thought, well okay I’ll use design thinking to solve this problem.
And so, I first threw primary and secondary sources, so direct observation and talking to others. I started to learn about my subject. I learned the kind of places that the mice get into the house. I learned that interesting fact mice have no bladder control so they just kind of urinate as they go and we’ll come back to that. They prefer the edges of walls. Keeps them out of harm’s way. And they’re very quick. Your typical Tom and Jerry mousetrap will not actually catch a mouse. They will often get away. And then finally, another myth about mice. They like peanut butter more than they like cheese. So then, I use this to apply creative focused valuable solutions to.
Getting rid of the mice with a minimum of bloodshed and trouble for both myself and the mice. I first went around and patched up those places where I’d found the mice could get into the house. I used a UV light to find out where they were. Interesting fact about that A UV light will show you the presence of bodily fluids in the dark. I put the mice traps on the sides of the walls. I found this mouse trap, Snap-Es they call them, and this only articulates 90 degrees instead of 180 degrees. So, it’s a lot faster and then finally, I use peanut butter in the trap instead of cheese.
And we got rid of the mice, and it wasn’t too terrible, it was pretty effective. So, when we have more complex problems and more complex subjects like people, we use personas. And these are humanized views of who our user is, and what makes them tick And we’re not doing this just because, hey it’s good to humanize things. It turns out that for all the dozens and dozens of little questions that come up about, what you should build for these people, how you should support it, how you should sell it that this is the most vivid, most actionable, and most testable way to achieve valuable outcomes on a reliable basis.
So for example, as we’re creating personas with students ask them what kind of shoes with this persona wear? And that’s not because I’m encouraging to sell them shoes or make shoes for them. But again, it’s this humanized view of who they are that turns out to be the most actionable way to get reliable innovation that connects with demand that’s valuable to the user. We’ve walked through the persona and we’ve looked at how to text around and improve this key element that will be a part of every single user story you write. You’ve learn, why they’re important and we looked at how to make them practical and operational with think, see, feel do.

In this video, Alex explains personas and the practice of design thinking. While watching the video, think about the experiences you’ve had with creating personas and if they were in alignment with Alex’s explanation of important questions and ideas that need to be asked/considered in building personas. Share your thoughts in the comments section and read other learners’ contributions.

You can also access the handout for Week 2 slides below under “Downloads.”

This article is from the free online

Getting Started with Agile and Design Thinking

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now