What is a user story? | Den Creative

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17/11/2021

What is a user story?

You might have heard the term ‘user story’ and wondered what it means. If you don’t work in an agile development workflow, you would be forgiven for not knowing what a user story is. Read on to find out.

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What are user stories?

If you don’t work in an agile development workflow, you would be forgiven for not knowing what a user story is. In this instance, it’s not a tale about a meanie using someone for their own gain, it’s actually about making sure that what is delivered by developers actually provides the value that a feature was designed to deliver. 

A user story is usually made up of a few sentences, written in informal, non-technical language and explains, from the perspective of the end-user, what value a particular software feature will provide to the end-user. The end-user isn’t necessarily a customer, or external user, they can also be an internal user.

User stories often follow this simple structure:

“As a [persona], I [want to], [so that].”

[persona] – Who are we building this feature for? The team writing the user story should have a good idea who this persona is – not just their name and job title. In an ideal world, we’d understand enough about this persona’s wants, needs and frustrations so that we can empathise with them and fully understand the value they will get from the development of this feature.

[want to] – What does our persona need to do that this feature should help them with? It should only cover the end goal.

[so that] – Think bigger picture for this one – what does this small thing our persona wants to get done contribute to? What big problem is this part of the solution for?

What’s good about user stories?

User stories help to keep the whole team focused on solving problems for the end-user of the product they are building. They encourage a more creative, problem-solving, collaborative mindset – it’s more meaningful to solve the problems posed by a series of stories than to churn through a to-do list.

What’s tricky about user stories?

Often, once a client has seen the finalised designs for their new product, they can’t wait to see it start coming to life. Writing user stories can be time-consuming and requires careful attention. It’s a vital step to ensuring that the build goes well, but it can be tricky to convince people who aren’t in the know that this is time well spent. It’s also very easy for people who aren’t used to writing user stories to stray into describing parts of the user interface, rather than sticking to the end goal that we are trying to facilitate. When this happens, the user story becomes much less effective as a tool to drive creative solutions. Sometimes, user stories can get too big; if the timeframe for development for your user story is getting too big, it will need to be broken down into smaller stories.

Why do we use user stories?

At Den, we’ve always been very focused on designing and building with the end-user at the very front of our minds. We include user testing in every design process, and writing user stories means we keep this focus on the end-user running from design, all the way through the build, to launch. This means that we are always creating experiences that are wanted, needed and useful, rather than just what someone, or a small group of stakeholders, conjured up in a meeting room somewhere.

If you’d like to talk to us about how we design and build digital products just get in touch.

Emma Lanman

Creative Principal

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