How to Write Compelling User Stories?

user stories

Learning how to write compelling user stories is crucial when it comes to comprehending user requirements and implementing them into software solutions.

Each intended interaction users have with an application can be described through a user story. In order to implement a specific feature and add value to it, a software development team relies on the story.

Product owners, CTOs, and other people responsible for delivering high-quality software solutions to end users should pay attention to this segment. If you are one of the people working on these positions, you have landed on the right page! In this article, you are going to learn how to write effective user stories.

 

What are User Stories?

A user story is a short-written explanation of a software feature from the perspective of the end user. User stories help software developers (and designers) to understand all the important information needed to implement that feature.  

However, it is important to realize that user stories are more than just technical requirements. They define what needs to be done, but they leave room for software developers to choose how to implement it. Therefore, it must provide more substantial details allowing developers to make the best possible choices:

  • WHAT are we building? 
  • WHY are we developing the feature? 
  • WHAT value will it bring to the end user?

Taking into account all the above, it becomes clear how important user stories are for creating great software products. It forces the entire team to think from the user perspective and to challenge assumptions that have not been validated through user research.

 

Who Writes User Stories?

A user story gives a clear picture of what needs to be developed to add value to the end user. It is written by someone who is accountable for the product vision.

Typically, Product Owners (PO) write user stories. They are responsible for understanding the user requirements, ideally by talking to the users themselves as much as possible. Also, in a later step, they are in charge of accepting or rejecting what has been delivered by the development team. This role is essential when it comes to driving value to customers.

Some companies combine the role of the product owner and scrum master into one role – “Delivery Manager”. In such cases, delivery managers also write user stories.

If you are lacking one of these software project roles, you will not be able to orchestrate the process of writing them in the right direction. So, before writing them consider becoming familiar with the agile software development principles.

 

How to Write User Stories Using Templates?

Writing compelling user stories is particularly easy if you are sticking to predefined templates. The example below is the most common pattern you can follow to write an effective story. 

                   As a <user role>, I want <user requirements> so that <desired benefit>

Check out the table below to see the examples of user stories created using the template above.

User Story

User Role

User Requirement

Desired Benefit

As a website user, I want to create a profile so that I can store my personal information rather than typing them each time again. 

Website User

Creating a profile

Storing personal information on the website

As an e-commerce customer, I want to add a product to my shopping cart so that I can purchase it.

E-commerce Customer

Adding a product to the shopping cart

Purchasing a product

Considering the examples above, every user story should provide:

  • A feature needed to be developed based on the requirement
  • A better understanding of the user requirement
  • The expected benefit from the feature

 

Tips for Writing Effective User Stories

Have you ever heard of INVEST and 3Cs? These are the most common guides that help you stay focused on writing effective user stories.

Both of these are beneficial for taking your user stories to the next level. Therefore, if you want to become skillful at writing great user stories, consider adopting the following principles.

 

INVEST

The acronym INVEST contains all the concepts to follow in order to write a fantastic user story. Let’s briefly explain what each of these words means.

Independent – A user story should be independent of any other user story in order to avoid delays. For example, if you have two user stories depending on each other, you cannot have customer-ready software until both of these are completed.

Negotiable – A user story defines the user requirements, but not how they shall be implemented. So, it is up to the product owner and development team to decide how they are going to reach the requirement. From this point of view, this is a process that leaves enough room for discussion and negotiations.

Valuable – Sounds obvious? Yes, but many user story creators fail to meet this principle. We already mentioned that the main goal of writing user stories is delivering value to the end users. Thus, try to put yourself in the user’s shoes and find out if they deliver value.

Estimate – A user story needs to provide enough details to the PO and development team so they can organize their work. The PO prioritizes the stories. At the same time, the development team plans how to turn each individual story into a great feature.

Small – User stories should be sufficiently small so that they can be completed in a reasonable time. Otherwise, it may become too complex, and the risk of dependencies increases.

Testable – If a user story is not testable, the development team will not know when the story is done. This is why every user story should be tested and reach predefined acceptance criteria.   

 

3 Cs

The 3Cs model is another way to unlock the full potential of a user story. It stands for card-conversation-confirmation. Let’s find out more about these. 

Cards – We write user stories on cards. These can be physical or electronic cards like we have in the Jira software. The type of card you choose does not matter. What really matters is that you have the ability to add, remove, and prioritize these cards in order to make progress in adding value to the final product.

Conversation – Every card with a user story on it leaves enough room for conversation. When a team starts discussing, new ideas are born. Therefore, the cards are just placeholders that encourage conversation between the team members about something that can be delivered. 

Confirmation – Before delivering the final software solution, it should be tested to make sure it meets the requirements stated in a user story. Once the solution is tested by the development team and approved by the PO, that user story is ready to be marked as „done“. 

 

Conclusion

User stories are one of the most essential tools of the agile software development approach. So, if you have decided not to outsource your software development process, get the most out of this article and make your organization more agile. 

We write user stories to collect user requirements and build software solutions according to their needs. They help both POs and development teams understand what and why they are building. Most importantly, each user story points out what value the implemented feature brings to the end user.

Technically, writing user stories is not difficult. We have provided the basic templates which help you write compelling user stories. But adding value to the user stories could be more challenging since you need to follow the INVEST and 3Cs standards. 

Having trouble writing user stories and driving value to your customers? Do not hesitate to contact us to elevate your software development process to a higher level!

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