My software developer friend just started working on a really complicated product. Without any clear description or user stories, it took him almost 2 whole weeks to understand the product’s value and functionality from the user's perspective.
That’s a hell of a lot of time.
When you’re creating any kind of application, you need to clearly define who the users are and what features they need in your app.
The reason is quite simple: project stakeholders need a shared understanding of user needs.
User stories are great for that.
I’m not saying that creating user stories can save you from any problems, but they can clearly define the value provided to your users.
In this post, we put together the most important things you need to know about user stories.
Use these links to jump to a specific part of this post:
User stories are great to capture product functionality from the end users’ perspective. They clearly show what a specific user type can do with an application.
A good user story defines the following:
User stories can be structured in the following ways:
Here are some reasons:
The very first step you have to take is to clearly define the users who will use your product. It means you should create buyer personas (semi-fictional characters of your ideal users).
You need to be crystal clear what the problem your user personas are facing and define the way your product will help them solve those issues. This is the foundation of your project, and you should be very thorough at this step; otherwise your whole project could easily go backward no matter how good user stories you write.
Here is what you do:
Before writing any code, it’s highly recommended to create simple mockups that can be tested or reviewed by users. Just in case, here is a list of 20 easy-to-use mockup tools.
It’s quite easy to create app prototypes in PowerPoint. Here is an example and a free template.
Prototypes are great to test your assumptions and help you get closer to building an app that provides real value.
An epic is a big user story, a high-level description of what your target users can do with your product. It helps you sketch your product’s main functionality without going deep in the details. An epic contains a collection of smaller stories and also provides a hierarchy for your project.
Here is an example:
You’re creating a social mobile app with the option for users to create and edit their profiles. In this case:
Epic: Managing user profile
👉 Read this: 7 Things You Need to Do Before Building an App📗📘📙
So, you know what user types will use your app and the epics are also identified. The next step is to get into the nitty-gritty details and break down what each epic means.
Here are the questions you should ask yourself when your create user personas for writing user stories:
This is a template you can use:
As a <user_persona>, I want <goal> so that <benefit, value>
Bill Wake, in his article from 2003, introduced a framework that helps you create a good user story. It’s called INVEST.
In his blog, Roman Pichler suggests that you should add acceptance criteria to every user story describing the conditions that have to be met to consider a story done.
Following the template mentioned above, here is an example:
As a user, I want to add and edit my contact details so I can keep it up to date.
You need to make sure that user stories are visible for every stakeholder of the project. To do so here are some cool tools you can use:
For structuring buyer personas, epics and user stories, here is a product canvas:
User stories are great to describe product functionality, but visual explanation is still missing from the picture. Adding mockups and sketches to user stories makes it even easier to understand the user journey and the core functionality.
Mockup creator tools
If you need more, check out our mockup tools collection.
Acceptance criteria define the boundaries of a user story, and are used to confirm when a story is completed and working as intended.Boost.co.nz
Read more about acceptance criteria here.
A requirements document, an acceptance test for each smaller story, and detailed use cases directly help the daily work of your software developer team to keep them moving in the right direction.
User stories are a backbone of agile software development, but they alone won't get you all the way to creating a great UX. User stories are a must to describe functionality, but you also want to capture every design detail, with the help of story mapping, storyboards, sketches and mockups.
About the author:
Tamas Torok is a marketer, helping tech companies to grow. He currently leads the marketing operations at Coding Sans and focuses on crafting high-quality, research-based content for engineering leaders. He started publishing the State of Software Development report and supports the growth of the Level-up Engineering podcast, dedicated to engineering leaders.