Saturday, June 17, 2023
What is a user story and how to write it?
A user story is a way to describe a feature or functionality from the users' perspective. A user story represents a high-level requirement that is understandable for business people and developers. It helps to capture the essence of what the user wants and why it is needed.
A user story is usually described using the following pattern:
As a (type of user), I want (some goal) so that (some reason).
Type of user or role: Describes the user or persona for whom the feature is being developed. It can be very specific, like “developer” or “marketing”, or more general, like “user”.
Goal: Describes the desired action or objective that the user wants to achieve. The goal is focused on the user's needs or requirements. The goal is written in a way it is clear and measurable.
Reason or benefit: Explains why the feature is needed and what value it brings to the user. The reason usually contains the problem the user is trying to solve or the improvement that needs to be introduced.
It is important to note that user stories are typically part of a larger collection called epic. At the same time, developers often split user stories into tasks that are smaller deliverables within the development team. When developing a product, user stories form a product backlog, while epics are used for the product roadmap.
User stories are often used in Agile development, such as Scrum and Kanban, as a way to capture user requirements. User stories provide a user-centric perspective and promote collaboration between developers and stakeholders. The requirements are clear to all parties which contributes to more efficient product development and faster delivery.
User stories and methodologies
User stories are typically used in Agile software development where teams work together in order to be more flexible and efficient.
Some of the most popular methodologies that use user stories are:
Scrum is one of the most widely used Agile methodologies. It divides the development into short iterations called sprints. User stories are used to define requirements and form backlog items. The product owner (a role on the Scrum team) prioritizes the user stories for implementation within the sprint. The development team is accountable for delivering the user stories. The Scrum Master (another role on the Scrum team) is responsible for assisting the team to remove impediments for the team to focus on user stories.
Extreme Programming (XP)
Extreme Programming is another Agile methodology that emphasizes close collaboration between developers and customers. In Extreme Programming, user stories play a crucial role to capture customer requirements and guide the development process.
Kanban is a methodology that focuses on visualizing and managing the workflow. Kanban is often used in mature products that undergo the maintenance stage of the product lifecycle. User stories are used in Kanban as the input for the work items and provide the details and context.
Lean software development follows the principles of lean manufacturing where you need to eliminate waste to maximize value. User stories align with the lean methodology of delivering value to the customers. User stories help identify and prioritize features that provide the most value while minimizing unneeded work (waste).
It is essential to acknowledge that while user stories are commonly associated with Agile methodologies, they can be applied to other development frameworks. User stories help to focus on understanding and meeting users' needs while keeping the process transparent for all the parties involved in the product development process.
How to write good user stories?
A user story needs to capture the essence of user requirements in a concise and effective manner. A properly written user story is easy to measure and provides enough information for developers and stakeholders about the value it brings to the users.
To write good user stories, there are several key principles to take into consideration:
Focus on the user
Keep the user at the center of the user story. You need to identify the type of user and their role in the user story. Being specific about the persona will ensure that the feature addresses the exact needs of the user.
Use the user story format
The format of “As a (type of user), I want (some goal) so that (some reason)” is a standard structure that is understandable for all parties involved. Being consistent with your user story format ensures that different roles within your company know all about the feature being developed, who is the persona to benefit from it, and what problems they want to solve.
Make it measurable
Your user stories need to be measurable in order to understand if you achieved the desired outcome (goal). Be specific about the terms and criteria, your measurement should be specific and well-defined.
Keep it small and manageable
User stories should be small enough to be completed within one iteration (for example Scrum sprint). If a user story is too large or complex, it could be an epic that needs to be broken down into several user stories within meaningful deliverables. Having user stories that can be delivered within one iteration is important to support incremental development and feedback.
Focus on value and benefits
Make sure that your user stories explain the benefits and value. Any functionality described in the user story should bring value to the persona of the user story.
Avoid prescribing solutions
The user story should not tell you how to develop a feature of functionality. User stories should not contain technical requirements and details since this is part of the grooming process within your development team.
Collaborate with stakeholders
Make sure to involve your stakeholders, including users, developers, and business people in forming user stories. This allows us to review the user story from different perspectives and capture diverse requirements.
Prioritize and estimate
User stories should be prioritized before they make it to the ToDo list. The product owner should communicate with the development team and other stakeholders in order to understand the importance and estimates. It will help you deliver the most important user stories with maximum efficiency.
Iterate and refine
User stories are flexible. You can always adjust the user story when facing new requirements or input. Backlog grooming with the development team is one of the examples when user stories can receive an update.
Maintain and balance
While not directly related to writing a user story, keeping a healthy balance between different parts of your product is essential. You can not focus all your efforts on one side of the product or take into account only one group of your stakeholders.
Communicate with your customers
Whenever you deliver a user story to the end customer, make sure to validate their expectations. Use feedback mechanisms to ensure that your user stories sort the problems of the persona you are addressing.
Following these guidelines can help you become more efficient with user stories and improve the value your product brings to the market.
User stories: pros and cons
Like any other methodology, user stories have their advantages and disadvantages. No solution is perfect and it is important to understand when, why, and how you should use user stories.
Here are some of the advantages that user stories bring into your product development process:
User-centric focus: User stories emphasize the needs and perspectives of users and customers. They provide and clear understanding of the goals your customers want to achieve and the value they receive.
Simplicity: User stories are easy to write and are clear to different groups of stakeholders. This is the way of business people and developers speak the same language and work towards the same goals.
Flexibility: User stories are flexible and adaptable. You can refine, reprioritize, and adjust user stories any time new requirements or input is available. Such flexibility promotes an interactive and incremental approach to product development.
Collaboration: User stories allow people with different backgrounds and expertise to work towards reaching a common goal. They encourage the involvement of developers, business people
Incremental development: User stories promote incremental delivery of your features and functionality. This allows for early feedback and validation to avoid risks and failures.
Here are some of the disadvantages associated with user stories:
Lack of technical requirements: User stories often lack technical specifications. While this promotes flexibility, it can lead to confusion among developers on how to implement certain features or functionality.
Lack of scope: User stories are often focused around one persona and their value while missing the overall picture. This can lead to wrong assumptions and blockers down the road,
Dependency management: User stories may not address dependencies between features or functionality. This can lead to conflicts within the product if not managed properly.
Lack of ambiguity: If not written properly, user stories can lead to misunderstandings and delays in development.
Lack of traceability: User stories alone may not provide sufficient traceability to higher-level goals and business objectives. It is important to have a roadmap in place in order to understand where your product development is heading.
User stories are a widely popular method to describe features and functionalities you want to create while taking into account the persona and their problems. If created and managed correctly, user stories allow different stakeholders to work together and speak the same language.
User stories allow software development to be more efficient and focused on the exact needs of the clients. It allows you to deliver value to your customers in a timely manner and receive feedback to validate the product.
It’s time to start understanding your customers
Stop playing guesstimates. With Omnisome, you are building a lean feedback loop with your customers joining the game.