What is a user story?
User stories inform you on what your users want from your products and services. For this reason, they can directly influence a digital product’s design and development direction.
A user story is a simplified description of a product’s features from the perspective of a real or potential user. In an agile design and development workflow, user stories are used to define a project’s backlog, giving us a clear idea of a product’s key functional requirements from the perspective of the user.
Learn more about user stories in the following sections:
- What is user story mapping?
- Why are user stories important for your business?
- What is the best user story format?
- What does a user story look like?
- The 6-step user story mapping process
What is user story mapping?
User story mapping involves the arrangement of a wide array of user stories into a comprehensible model that helps design and development teams better understand the most important user pain points.
A series of user stories, also known as epics, can be organised in such a way that highlights the key functional requirements for a digital product from an end-users’ stand-point.
By mapping out user stories, our team at Morphosis are able to put users at the centre of our digital products’ design and development processes.
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Why are user stories important for your business?
User stories are an essential part of designing and developing your business’s digital product.
User story mapping is an effective way to organise relevant information about your users. This, in turn, allows us to prioritise design and development efforts on the most important aspects of your digital product.
Here are three key benefits of user story mapping:
1Creating team-wide alignment
An aligned team is a team that has a strong shared vision and one that understands the goals and objectives of any given project.
User story mapping is meant to be an inclusive process, and can involve teams throughout an entire organisation, including:
- UX and UI designers
- Sales representatives
- Business analysts
- Digital strategists
- Product marketers
- And more
When teams are aligned on a project’s goals and requirements, they are able to expedite the digital product’s design and development process, potentially cutting a significant amount of cost for your business.
2Guaranteeing a user-centric product
People ignore products that don’t solve real problems for them. With user story mapping, you can guarantee that your users’ perspectives and expectations are always being addressed.
As user story mapping directly represents the user’s needs and expectations, we can focus on developing a product that provides high customer satisfaction and value, which will, in turn, drive ROI for your business.
Here are some examples of how a user-centric product could benefit your business:
- Shorter, smoother sale cycle: If a product meets a users’ needs, then they are more likely to convert to a paying customer.
- Boost competitiveness: Find your competitive advantage by addressing hidden user pain points.
Increase brand loyalty: Positive user experiences will inevitably increase customer loyalty for both your business and your brand.
3Reducing project delivery time
User story mapping sessions help facilitate open communication and collaboration within your company’s teams, while also allowing you to identify functional requirements early on in your digital product’s design and development process.
By running discussion sessions and rearranging user story cards, we’re able to prioritise the development of features that are most important for your users.
Ultimately, this can help you avoid making design and development pivots further down the line, saving you both time and money.
What is the best user story format?
With user story formats or templates, we can systematically create user stories, keeping the structure of all user stories uniform. This helps speed up the user story mapping process, as different stories with the same format can easily align with one another.
The best user story formats typically consists of three parts:
- The Persona: The characteristics of the user that the story is being written for or about.
- The Capability: A product’s capability that satisfies the users’ needs or wants, and can be written as an action.
- The Satisfaction: The users’ needs that would be satisfied by the capability.
For example, a template for a user could look like this:
- “As a (user), I want a (capability) so that I can (satisfy a need).”
For a more detailed example, we can use our Bangkok Hospital case study:
- “As a patient, I want to be able to search for my oncologist online, so I can easily book an appointment with her.”
As you can see in the examples above, the persona represents the user, the capability is what that user wants to do, and the satisfaction is why the person needs to have that capability.
Check out more examples of user stories in our UX case studies here.
What does a good user story look like?
It may be difficult to know what a good user story looks like if you haven’t done one before. At Morphosis, we adopt a structure that helps guarantee our user stories are constructive and relevant. This structure is called INVEST, which is an acronym for the following:
- I (Independent): The user story should not rely on any other stories as independent stories will allow flexibility during planning.
- N (Negotiable): The story opens up discussions within the design and development teams, leading to collaborative improvements on the stories by the team members.
- V (Valuable): The user story should represent the end goal for the user that is deemed useful or valuable.
- E (Estimatable): The story includes enough information on how to estimate the importance of the user’s problem.
- S (Sized appropriately): User stories shouldn’t be too long or too short.
- T (Testable): All user stories must be testable in order to ensure that the developments are successful and effective.
When followed, INVEST can provide insight into aspects of a user story that can sometimes be overlooked.
The 6-step user story mapping process
The quality of user stories can make or break projects. This is because they form the backbone of the key tasks and subtasks for designers and developers.
For this reason, it’s crucial that we have a well-crafted user story process. To ensure that we are able to consistently produce high-quality user stories, we’ve created a simple and effective 6-step user story mapping process.
1Choose your user story mapping tools
Traditionally, UX designers have used offline tools to structure and document their user stories. These ‘brick-and-mortar’ tools include:
- Sticky notes or post-its
- Pens and pencils
- A wooden board
Today, however, new innovative tools for user story mapping have replaced the traditional offline tools listed above. The new collaborative user story mapping tools now include:
These online tools allow our teams to map out user stories collaboratively from across the globe. They also enable us to track and store different iterations of user story maps, giving us a clear macro view of how we came to the final version of the user story at the end of this process.
2Identify project goals
Next, we need to identify the digital product’s key project goals, which are the goals that users can accomplish by using the product. By fleshing out the core purpose of the product, we will be able to start framing the user story map.
Questions that could help create a concrete project goal include:
- What is the problem you want to address?
- Who is your target audience?
- Why are you doing this?
Answering these questions will help us stay on track when mapping out different parts of the user story, making sure that each aspect of the story addresses the project goals in a relevant way.
For this reason, an accurate, definite and conclusive understanding of the project goals can act as a guiding compass throughout the entire user mapping process.
3Create a user story backbone
Once we have clear project goals, we can start mapping out the key steps users need to take in order to achieve their goals. These steps will form the backbone of the user story, which can be expanded upon further down the line.
Let’s use our case study on Tablewear as an example. Tablewear is a marketplace that connects tableware and glassware suppliers with F&B business owners and restaurants.
Given that the user goal is to make an online purchase of a product from the platform, the key steps users would take to achieving that goal would be as follows:
- Sign up for an account
- Search for wanted items
- View the item’s page
- Compare and contrast other products
- Enter payment information
- Choose a payment option
- Make a payment
By doing this, we are essentially creating a user story from start to finish, allowing us to start identifying the most important tasks for our design and development teams.
4Expand and organise user ‘activities’
In user story mapping, the backbone steps are also known as ‘activities’, which can be broken down into smaller pieces of action items.
Continuing with the Tablewear example, we see that the first activity is ‘Sign up for an account’.
We can further break this into four different actions that are required to complete the activity. This includes the following:
- Click on the register button
- Fill in personal information
- Click on the data privacy consent button
- Click on the confirmation button
However, it is important to note that some activities may be more complex than others.
For instance, if the activity is to ‘compare different products’ there may be different paths or choices of actions that users can take to complete that particular activity.
This is why user story maps need to be organised both horizontally and vertically. The horizontal view shows the progression of each activity towards the user goal.
Meanwhile, the vertical view highlights the different actions each user can take in order to complete a particular activity.
5Review the user story map
Once the different activities of the user story map have been expanded and organised, it is time to do a final review of the map before using it to create tasks and subtasks for our team.
During the review phase, we invite different members of our team to go through the story and provide feedback on the following issues:
- Gaps within the key backbone steps
- Lack of detail in the activities
- Unrealistic user paths and flows
- Large tasks that could be broken into smaller subtasks
By asking different members of the team to provide feedback, we can begin to evaluate our user story from different perspectives, helping us identify overlooked areas of improvement before finalising the map.
6Delegate tasks and subtasks
Finally, the different actions in the user story map can be used to create tasks and subtasks for different members of our team, from UX and UI design to product development.
These tasks could then be split into different levels of importance such as:
- Could: Tasks that can be fixed but not necessarily causing a significant impact on the product.
- Should: Task that needs to be done to alleviate negative effects that are somewhat affecting the product and therefore impacts user experience.
- Must: Tasks that require your utmost attention as they are directly causing problems and are extremely negative for the users.
With this final step, we’re able to turn our user story map into actionable tasks for the design and development team, allowing us to build a digital product that addresses user pain points in a holistic and meaningful way.
Meet our UX / UI design team
At Morphosis Digital Consultancy, we provide professional services from experts in the UX/UI field, from user research and strategy, UX/UI design, product development and more. Our team is made up of creative professionals rich in innovative skills and experience.
Our lean and agile approach to UX design and strategy gives us the ability to resolve a vast array of UX problems in many different industries.
Visit our about page to find out more about our team at Morphosis.
Learn more about our UX / UI design services
We offer a wide range of personalised UX/UI design services to a variety of industries to help optimise your digital product for better ROI.
Whether you are looking for UX / UI design or digital product development services, we can help you with that challenge.
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