The Most Significant Postulates We Should Learn About Writing User Stories
How to write user stories correctly? This topic is a constant interest for many product owners, managers, and stakeholders. You can find many interesting opinions and guides on how to cope with simple and complex user stories, but how to apply them to your product?
In this article, we’d like to remind the most significant theses and ideas that beginners need to know for successful work with user stories.
What is a user story?
A user story in Agile project management means a unit of work that should be completed in one Sprint.
According to Agile, user stories should be broken down into smaller ones. Ideally, a user story shouldn’t last more than one week.
The stories are used as the basis for defining the features a business system must provide. All user stories capture the “who”, “what” and “why” of a requirement in a simple way.
Writing user stories for clients means changing functionality or adding new features to the system developing.
Product owners prioritize them to indicate the most important and developers break them down into tasks and estimate them.
How to write a user story?
User stories can be of different formats in Scrum. There is no specific requirement.
However, usually, a person responsible for writing user stories should formulate three specific answers to the questions regarding:
- a type of user
- goals or objectives
- values and benefits
What about the size of a user story?
A user story should be small enough. It will help to code and test it easily within an iteration. If your stories are too large, it will be an epic.
The items in the backlog tend to start as epics if they have lower priority. Epics should be broken down into smaller parts.
Who uses the stories?
At the stage of creation, the user stories will be used by the customer, the product owner, and anyone else who feels the need for the product.
During the ownership and maintenance, the product owner is responsible for writing, gathering and prioritizing user stories.
At usage stage, developers, technical writers, and testers work with user stories to be able to know what to implement and when they are done. Product owners can track overall progress.
Why is it important to write user stories?
Receiving a new user story product owners or product managers are usually engaged in the following key questions:
- Why are we doing this?
- Who will be our users?
- What value and benefits does it drive?
- What are the time estimations to implement it?
- What support is required? and some more.
User stories describe a specific feature but not how to implement it. It means leaving out the technical aspect. Users stories should describe the behavior or flow from user’s perspective.
Typical mistakes that people make
- Product owners often try to write extremely detailed user stories. Too many details and too formal stories is not a great solution for team members.
- The unclear audience is also quite a frequent mistake. It’s about the stories that talk about a mysterious user (as in “As the user, I want to…”). Why should the story be developed if it’s not clear who the user is?
- When technical tasks are introduced as stories. If user stories are really just technical tasks, managers often lose flexibility in prioritization.
- If managers allow skipping the acceptance criteria conversation, they risk moving in the wrong direction or overlooking customer needs.
- When everybody forgets the business value. The product owner must always be aware of the business value in order to be able to correctly prioritize a user story.
User story template
A well-prepared template for user stories helps to avoid common problems and pitfalls. The template will assist to see what user role the story is for.
It combines common principles that help product owners and engineers understand what should be written to be understood well by both parties.
The well-organized user story template describes the requirement and the value to the stakeholders.
The main idea here is to begin a conversation around the story and the mutual understanding that should be built, the values desired and how users will utilize it.
Here’s a 8-minute video with quite a simple explanation and a useful template everyone can use:
Remember, that writing a user story should not be just a formal useless event.
Using the right approach to writing user stories you will help focus your team energies towards the most important requirements and deliver customer delight and satisfaction.