How can I create an effective User Story?

If you’ve heard of what a user story is, that’s great. If not, then here’s a general understanding. It’s basically mapping out your ideal user’s end goal when using either your website or mobile app. Creating a user story will convey what your customer wants to accomplish, laid out in a simple way.

Why should I create a User Story?

A user story gets your whole team on the same page about why they are building a feature for potential customers as well as the value it produces for end users. This will really help you when it comes to improving your user experience (UX), guaranteeing that the user can follow through and complete the task they set out to accomplish on your software.

Here are 3 benefits to user stories:

  • User stories focus on a user’s desires and help your team remember that they’re solving problems for real people, not a generalized audience.
  • Developers, project managers, stakeholders, and clients, all understand what’s expected and how best to serve the target audience, supporting better collaboration and understanding across all teams from client to provider.
  • Stories foster more creative solutions. Instead of focusing on the “what” and “how,” your team can dive into the “why” customers do what they do, which helps when developing ideas for functionality.

When should I use a User Story?

Galaxy Weblinks recommends that you start forming a user story during discovery phase of your development project.
It might be a good idea to have a business analyst, who is assigned to the project, develop the user stories in the discovery phase and maintain it throughout the agile project.

Once the discovery phase is finished, the rest of the team should contribute to create a product backlog of user stories. This backlog will fully lay out the functionality that needs to be added during the lifespan of the project. In an agile project, you can always add new stories to the product backlog at any time and by anyone.

Where to start? Here are our 4 steps in forming a great user story:

1. Recognize the needs of the users

Your client will have to clearly define the users who will use the application. This sets the tone for the whole process — you need to know the user, their pain points, needs, and goals. It’s advisable to have a strong understanding of your users, but even if you think you know them well, market research and interviewing potential users before and during the discovery phase will be your greatest ally.

This is a great time to encourage your clients to collaborate with you on the process and will show them that you care enough to do your homework on their target audience. Work with business analysts and UX researchers to deliver focus groups, perform interviews, and compile other findings to create data-driven UX maps and user personas.

2. Form Epics

An Epic is usually a large portion of work that has a single, common objective. These are usually formed before the user stories are written. They’re also continually developed as more user stories are identified. The user stories are then grouped into these epics.

Let’s say a user wants to fill out a contact form to reach you. The user will probably appreciate if your contact form is autofill-friendly. As you can imagine, this step really helps when planning what features developers need to build, in what order, and provides them with a high-level understanding of the features of the application.

3. Creating the actual User Story

Once you have narrowed down the users and started considering the epics, the business analyst on the project will start a draft of the user story. Along the way, the analyst may add and redefine some of the epics, and that will happen. It’s also a good idea to ask your clients if they’d like to contribute during this time — they may greatly appreciate being kept “in the loop.”

Most user stories follow this format – Define type of user and their role, user seeks a goal (to have pain taken away, to add happiness, etc.), and user seeks this goal for a result — will we be able to deliver their desired outcome?

Here are 6 guidelines to make sure your user story hits its mark:

  • Should be autonomous. When the developers implement the user story, it should work with any sequence.
  • Keep it flexible. Don’t fill it out with minute details. It needs to be adaptable for different user situations.
  • Make it human. Remember that the user should get some value from the story.
  • Plan ahead. Use project management to help your team plan project timelines.
  • The shorter, the better. It shouldn’t be void of content or only have a few sentences, but smaller stories are easier to manage than large ones.
  • Measurable. Your team should be able to know when and where the story “ends.” What’s the outcome/result for the user?

4. Define your acceptance criteria

This is used to layout the specifics of your user story in layman’s terms. This will help the developers get a better grasp for the requirements and details of the user story. Testers can also use this as a checklist when testing the application.

The business analyst defines acceptance criteria, and then once the project moves onto development, the entire team contributes in defining it. When the developers contribute along with the team, it guarantees that the details of the user story are doable and can be efficiently implemented.

Some handy tips:

  • Define the acceptance criteria before development starts. It will help you to understand the user intent first before the development begins, rather than forming the user story around the development reality.
  • Remove all ambiguity. It is important to consider edge cases and be prepared for possible scenarios, i.e., “What if they log out during a transaction?” You’ll be on top of UX and will give you superior test coverage.

What Should the User Story Look Like by the End?

At the end of the day, user stories are crucial in helping us form applications that solve real problems for real people. If you can research your users and truly understand their needs, you can create a great set of user stories that clearly lists the users’ goals/desires and how you can solve their needs.

We love working with clients to form user stories based on research and their knowledge. We conduct interviews and collect data that way when we work on your website or mobile app, we’ll have an advanced understanding of your customers’ needs.

Drop us message here and we’d be glad to answer any questions you have about our process and how it can benefit you, your business, and your clients.


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