How To Create User Stories? A Step-by-Step Guide

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August 17, 2023
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User stories play a crucial role in agile product development. By clearly defining the value of a specific feature, user stories help teams stay focused on user needs and pain points. 

In this blog post, we’ll explain the difference between use cases and user stories, discuss user story requirements, and provide a step-by-step guide to creating successful user stories. 

What Is a User Story?

A user story is a description of a feature or functionality from the perspective of an end user. It's a way of capturing the requirements of a software project in a simple and understandable manner, which is typically used in Agile development methodologies. User stories allow to communicate project needs and objectives in a simple way, making it accessible to various types of stakeholders. 

User stories serve as a great conversation starter that encourages goal-focused discussion and collaboration among team members.  In Agile development, user stories are often organized and prioritized in a product backlog. During sprint planning, the development team selects user stories to work on in the upcoming sprint. 

Normally, a user story is structured as follows:

As a [type of user ], I want [to perform a specific action or achieve a goal] so that [I can achieve a particular benefit or outcome].

For example:

"As a registered user, I want to be able to reset my password so that I can regain access to my account."

Use Case Vs User Story

Use cases and user stories are both tools used in software development to capture requirements and define features, but they serve slightly different purposes. 

As we mentioned before, user stories are informal and concise, while use cases follow a structured format with sections like preconditions, main flow, and postconditions. Since they are more formal and detailed, use cases provide a comprehensive development narrative. User stories lack specific details since their goal is to encourage conversation and collaboration. Finally, use cases are used in traditional development methodologies, while user stories are a concept featured in Agile methodologies

Overall, both user stories and use cases have their place in product development, and the choice between them often depends on the methodology and the level of detail required.

User Stories Requirements

User stories don't go into technical detail. However, they often include requirements that help teams define the scope and functionality of the feature. These requirements, also referred to as "acceptance criteria" outline the conditions that must be met to ensure the user story is complete and functional. They help define the specific functionality of each story and provide guidelines for the development team. 

Here’s an example of user story acceptance criteria:

User story

As a new user, I want to create an account so that I can access the application.

Acceptance criteria

- The user should be able to provide a valid email and password

- After successful registration, the user should receive a confirmation email

- Invalid or duplicate email addresses should be rejected.

- Passwords must meet the minimum complexity requirements (e.g., contain letters, numbers, and special characters).

Creating User Stories Step by Step

Here's a step-by-step guide to creating user stories:

1. Identify user roles 

Determine the types of users who will interact with your software. Each user role may have different needs and goals.

2. Define user goals or needs

For each user role, identify the most important goals or needs they have when using the software. You will base your user stories on these goals. 

3. Write user stories

Follow the common user story template: "As a [type of user], I want [to do something] so that [I achieve a benefit]." Write user stories that cover the users' perspective, needs, and specific actions.

4. Add acceptance criteria

For each user story, define detailed acceptance criteria. These criteria provide clarity on how the feature should function.

5. Prioritize user stories

Organize your user stories in a product backlog and prioritize them based on factors like business value, user impact, and dependencies. This helps the development team know which stories to work on first.

6. Estimate effort and complexity

Assign effort estimates to each user story so that the team understands the complexity of each task and can plan accordingly. 

7. Sprint planning

Select a subset of user stories for the upcoming sprint based on priority, complexity, and team capacity. These stories will be the focus of development during the sprint.

8. Develop and test

The development team works on implementing the user stories, closely following the acceptance criteria. After that, QA engineers test the features to ensure they meet the specified requirements.

9. Review and demo

At the end of the sprint, hold a sprint review or demo where the team showcases the completed user stories to stakeholders. Based on feedback and testing, developers can refine acceptance criteria and iterate on user stories.

How To Write Good User Stories?

Writing good user stories requires attention to detail, a user-centered perspective, and clear communication. Here are some tips to help you write effective user stories:

Focus on the user

Throughout the process, stay focused on the user’s perspective. Regularly interact with users and analyze their feedback to develop a deep understanding of their needs, goals, and pain points.

Make stories independent 

Each story should deliver value on its own, so avoid writing stories that are overly dependent on other stories to make sense or provide value.

Use actionable verbs

Choose strong, actionable verbs in the "I want" part of the story. These verbs should indicate a specific action the user wants to perform.

Avoid technical details

While it's important to capture technical aspects, user stories should primarily focus on the user's perspective. Save technical details for tasks or discussions with the development team.

Include edge cases

Think about scenarios where things might go wrong or where users might take unexpected actions. When you can, include these edge cases in your acceptance criteria.

Iterate & refine

Collect and analyze user feedback so that you can refine your user stories and stay on top of user needs. With Essense, you can link all your feedback sources to your profile and extract valuable insights from user feedback in just a couple of clicks.  

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