User stories – seemingly vague terms and often looked at as something related to customer feedback & testimonials. What if we told you that it means something else? It is very different from other content formats that we broadly consume. Simply put, it is a narrative tool focusing on users to build products that solve their problems.
In product development, user stories refer to short and casual pieces of descriptions made to develop the product’s features. They are usually narratives created from the end-user’s perspective, which is the beginning of empathic product creation. However, it is to be noted that these end-users don’t necessarily have to be customers. The user can be anyone; they can also be an internal team member or stakeholder who uses and interacts with the product.
User stories play a vital role in developing products with much-needed functionalities & inspiring usability. In agile product development, user stories help arrive at a better understanding of user pain points, effectively construct the features & gauge the overall value the product can bring to the users. Product management and development teams collaborate & populate their user observations to the drawing board, eventually creating a functional product with a befitting user experience.
User stories typically follow a simple template:
As a <user type>, I want <a goal> so that <a reason>.
Example: A Designer Handbag Company
As a woman founder, I want a functional yet stylish handbag so that I can feel confident and fashionable at work.
Depending on how your office is set up, you can put these user stories on sticky notes, planners, or notebooks and arrange them on walls or tables during a team discussion. You will soon realize that what follows is a discussion regarding the feature rather than what’s written on the stationery. Everything magically moves towards the pace of figuring out the functionalities.
The Process of writing User Stories:
While writing one can feel easy, achieving impactful users can get tricky. Here are some best practices to consider while creating user stories.
- Understand the users
Discovering and studying the actual users of the product helps you generate insights that can prove to be monumental for your agile product development journey. Thinking from a user’s point of view and understanding the underlying needs helps you deliver the expected value of your product. Ensure to capture their personas, perspectives, and challenges, which lets you build a better product version for your users in no time.
- User stories are not tasks
Tasks focus on implementation, while user stories are all about definition. While compiling user stories, focus on clarifying a product’s features by addressing the ‘What’, not the ‘How’.
- Do not deep dive
User stories are best consumed when they are short and accurate. One needs to stay afloat on a high level instead of diving deep into the topic. So do not go into the details and keep your language simple to communicate yet precise.
- Embrace prioritization
User stories are not about picking up every narrative that comes your way. It is picking the right ones through thoughtful evaluation. Give a prioritization process and enrich your list of user stories. This will help you differentiate between those that are impactful, those that aren’t, and those that can be contextually used in the future.
Important Principles for writing User Stories:
The 3C’s of user stories lifecycle
Be it a novice or an expert, every product developer should be aware of the 3C framework for constructing compelling user stories as they help to keep the user stories richer in perspective and purpose.
- Card – Stating the problem statement with essential details in a card.
- Conversation – At this stage, continuous collaboration & problem-understanding happens, which leads to conceptualizing potential solutions.
- Confirmation – The essential requirements are captured as test criteria confirming a user story delivery.
The 5 Ws Framework
The 5Ws is a universal framework used across teams and verticals to derive precise feedback from users and stakeholders. This stays valid for user stories as well.
According to this framework, every user needs to answer five questions, each beginning with a W:
Using the above flow, product developers can craft user stories with a clear introduction, a midpoint, and an end.
We have now received good user stories using a set framework. Can we validate this against a set of guidelines to help perfect it further? The answer is YES
INVEST for good user stories
Transcending user stories to become effective involves product teams following a standard guideline. This is referred to as the INVEST criteria, where INVEST is an acronym for user stories being:
- I (Independent) – The team should be able to develop the user stories without any dependencies.
- N (Negotiable) – In the future, story sub-elements can be negotiated to keep them relevant to the context.
- V (Valuable) – Ensuring the value being brought to the user.
- E (Estimate) – Estimating a user story with sufficient details.
- S (Small) – The size of the story should be appropriate. They should be a manageable size.
- T (Testable) – The story’s outcome should be tested and validated against perceived value expectations.
User stories crafted under such guidelines generate the right conversations, leading to a product with great features & usability. While agile methods will continue to enrich product development, user stories are bound to grow as an effective narrative content format that can make room for continuous improvement.
At SRM Tech, we make agile product development journeys more effective with rich outcomes for our clients. Starting with design & prototyping to VLSI, software, hardware, quality, value, and manufacturing engineering, we house a team of experts who can assist you in every step of your agile product development journey.
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