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How and Why to Write Great User Stories

    The product development team can think big, define the super-set of user stories, and then assign priorities . You don’t have to make hard decisions and flag items as ‘out of scope’. Instead, you can assign a lower priority to those ‘crazy’ ideas, while moving up the user stories reflecting the core functionality of your product. Defining the ‘cut lines’ which determine the scope for each iteration, phase, or version, is then a matter of the resources available and the velocity of the team.

    The user story format helps to ensure that each requirement is captured in a feature-oriented, value oriented way, rather than a solution oriented way. INVEST is an acronym that was developed originally for agile software projects by Bill Wake. It serves as a structure that helps to ensure the quality of the elements of a product backlog. User stories are a common way to develop product backlog elements.

    Why create user stories?

    Apart perhaps from what Mike Cohn calls conditions of satisfaction with which a user can expand and explain concepts. You add other details as you get closer to implementing the story. For example, during the exploration phase in Behavior Driven Development .

    definition of user story

    Then, the confirmation stage takes place, to make sure that the story is compliant with the requirements. Most often, user stories are written through the cooperative efforts of all product team members. All specialists regardless of their qualifications can help in the creation of user stories. Agile methodology used in Scrum, Kanban and Extreme Programming doesn’t need heavy documentation.

    Sources of Stories

    It is a great design method that enhances collaboration among all stakeholders. User stories are descriptions of features—not the feature requirements. Now you can better understand the who, what, and why of user stories. As you create and collect user stories, there are a few specifics to consider.

    definition of user story

    Stories are typically driven by splitting business and enabler features, as Figure 1 illustrates. User Stories are one of the most important parts of agile development. In an incremental construction process, small sets of stories are chosen for an upcoming increment as the target for the next round of construction.

    In some cases, however, they serve as a means to explain and develop system behavior that’s later recorded in specifications that support compliance, suppliers, traceability, or other needs. While anyone can write stories, approving them into the team backlog and accepting them into the system baseline are the responsibility of the Product Owner. Of course, stickies don’t scale well across the Enterprise, so stories often move quickly into Agile Lifecycle Management tooling. As this epic user story climbs higher on the priority list, it will eventually be broken down into much smaller chunks, each of which could fit inside a two to four week production sprint. During the development of user stories, ensure you work with all important stakeholders.

    There could be multiple user stories and multiple would-be users of the software, so a definite name is necessary. Every user story has three permanent elements that name the customer (who?), state the needed feature (what?) and express its intent (why?). This template is known as the role-feature-reason, or role-goal-benefit model.

    Characteristics of a user story

    They do not need to know how the development team will actually code that solution. In agile software development, a user story is a brief, plain-language explanation of a feature or functionality written from a user’s point of view. Many agile experts also describe a user story as the smallest unit of product development work that can lead to a complete element of user functionality.

    You can use flow diagrams, charts, sketches, and story maps to improve your display. Every team member can be kept on the same page with user story maps being available online and remotely. To confirm the feature, they could be given access to a testing environment or an alpha version. Confirmation will be based on the acceptance criteria discussed earlier.

    A team’s velocity is far more affected by changing team size and technical context than by productivity variations. Capacity is the portion of the team’s velocity that is actually available for any given iteration. Vacations, training, and other events can make team members unavailable to contribute to an iteration’s goals for some portion of the iteration.

    User requirements are expressed in the form of short laconic texts known as user stories. In this article, we will focus on the concept of user story and learn how to write it. If you don’t, and you just keep your stories on sticky notes, chances are that you will miss opportunities in terms of clarity, innovation, efficiency, and collaboration. You need metrics that are also linked to direct user feedback, capturing how happy and engaged your real users are. While acceptance is good to control the development life-cycle of the feature, success is about mid/long-term impact and value created for real users of your product.

    It’s often best to think of the written part as a pointer to the real requirement. User stories could point to a diagram depicting a workflow, a spreadsheet showing how to perform a calculation, or any other artifact the product owner or team desires. definition of user story Only after gathering and analyzing this feedback should you begin crafting user stories. That means outlining tasks and subtasks and assigning them to the right people. Start by evaluating the next, or most pressing, large project (e.g. an epic).

    Epic – It is something so large that it will almost certainly not fit into a sprint, is unclear in terms of client requirements, and should be split down into stories. Epics are often defined at the early stages of product road mapping and then broken into stories in the product backlog when additional information becomes available. Do not underestimate the meaning of conversation between the development team and business stakeholders. It helps define the customer’s ultimate intent and clarify all the necessary details.

    In fact, these discussions are more important than whatever text is written. See user stories Mike Cohn wrote as part of several real product backlogs. Like user stories, a use case describes how a user might interact with a product to solve a specific problem. But the two are not interchangeable; they are different tools used in product development. Another common step in this meeting is to score the stories based on their complexity or time to completion.

    User Story Map

    The requirements do not statehowa solution will be physically achieved. The story contains enough information to allow it to be tested. The story always elaborates an advantage for the user, customer or client. This dives into the details of effective agile methodologies. I am sure that the most valuable advantage is a strong focus on effective communication and collaboration.

    • The point is the conversation between users, business professionals, developers, and testers.
    • We actively use them to make estimations, prioritize and plan sprints which helps us stay agile and flexible to any changes.
    • For example “…I would like to have a video chat function…”
    • Once a story has been written, it’s time to integrate it into your workflow.
    • Eases the addition or removal of features from the product.
    • This is the equivalent of a Product Backlog in other Agile approaches.

    Confirmation are the acceptance tests that confirm whether the acceptance criteria are met by the software. The acceptance criteria are the examples from the conversation. Preferably in an executable form, as executable examples save a lot of effort in building the acceptance tests. In Agile a user story is a short, informal, plain language description of what a user wants to do within a software product to gain something they find valuable. With this brief statement, user stories make for a very short learning curve! If you are involved in any form of participatory design approach, you can also involve users in the write-up of user stories.

    User Story Template and examples

    As you now know, user stories are a great way to keep everyone focused on delivering value for your users. So, when a user story is coming up for implementation soon, you need to add the details that’ll keep everyone on track and prevent unnecessary work. As a product manager with a remote team, I want to put user stories on a digital board, so that we can all see the one we’re discussing in an online meeting. The point is the conversation between users, business professionals, developers, and testers. It’s that conversation, the back and forth between the different perspectives of each participant, that’ll bring you better, simpler, and more valuable solutions to users’ problems. All project stakeholders are expected to participate in the definition and sorting of user stories.

    In fact, the only purpose of user story, for now, is just for reminding all parties for a future discussion of user’s request written in this user story . It is possible that the user story will be discarded in the future. It’s the product owner’s responsibility to make sure a product backlog of agile user stories exists, but that doesn’t mean that the product owner is the one who writes them. Over the course of a good agile project, you should expect to have user stories written by each team member. In many agile organizations, the product owner takes primary responsibility for writing user stories and organizing them on the product backlog. In reality, though, this is a shared responsibility among the entire cross-functional product team.

    What Does a User Story Look Like?

    User stories are crafted in a way that makes them understandable for both business people and technical people. They are structurally simple and typically expressed in a format such as “As a I want to achieve so that I get .” They provide a great placeholder for a conversation. Additionally, they can be written at various levels of granularity and are easy to progressively refine. You can add further information after the description, such as acceptance criteria, specifications and wireframes. Acceptance criteria are particularly important, because they tell the developers when the user story is completed, and the steps necessary to achieve it. A user story should be short and concise, so that its contents can fit on an index card.


    Bill Wake, coined the acronym INVEST , to describe the attributes of a good user story. But only the Product Owner can add them to the product backlog – the development team’s prioritized to-do list that consists of all their user stories. There are scenarios where a user story is given a distinctive identifier and a precedence level. A distinctive identifier is usually a number that helps the developers keep tabs on the number of available user stories and their completion period. On the other hand, the precedence level indicates the number of developers required, the duration, and the demands of the feature.

    Do user stories replace a requirements document?

    Enabler stories can be expressed in technical rather than user-centric language, as Figure 4 illustrates. Those of you who’ve been in this business a while will recall how “complete” a project’s technical requirements documentation had to be. Every feature was mapped out and explained in painstaking detail. Every technology was specified and practically configured right there in the documentation. User stories come with their challenges, just like most events of life.

    In software development and product management, a user story is an informal, natural language description of features of a software system. They are written from the perspective of an end user or user of a system, and may be recorded on index cards, Post-it notes, or digitally in project management software. Depending on the project, user stories may be written by different stakeholders like client, user, manager, or development team.


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