What are User Stories and Why are They Important

• Agile

Imagine you are a web-developer responsible to create a website for an up and coming e-Commerce business. What would the project deliverables be? For the business, it could be an automated system that registers the customers and sends them an email with updates and promotions. The customers, on the other hand, might want the option of comparing prices and checking other alternatives.

Seems simple enough, doesn’t it? However, in the case above and other complicated tasks, the requirements of the product from different kinds of users can easily be neglected.

Here’s where the need for user stories comes. As a central part of the Agile methodology, they are the smallest descriptive deliverable pieces of work. Addressing the expected user value of the product, user stories allow developers to gain a keen sense of the specific requirements to be followed by the team. The main purpose of user stories is to simplify the essential core of the project and the fundamentals requirements needed to make it usable.

Why do you need user stories?

In the Agile framework, user stories serve as the foundation on which teams build their work. It reminds them of the project essentials and allows the team to measure the progress and the development of the project. Not only that, planning sprints and organizing tasks in regards to their priority is also made easier by user stories.

Not only do user stories keep your team focused, but it also gives them the flexibility to build a product that’s useful to the customers. User stories make the project more manageable and motivate the team by dividing complex tasks into small parts.

The 3 ‘w’s

Making good user stories is easy. All you have to keep in mind is the who, what, and why of any particular feature. Dubbed as the three Ws, these simple questions create a direct association between the role, functions, and the benefit required by the user.

1. The who

In user stories, this question is generally applicable to anyone that might interact with the product. The list includes customers, both existing and potential, business owners, employees, etc. Determining the user is the first and the most important step in making a user story.

2. The what

Once you have completed the first step, you now have to determine what the expectation of each user is going to be. What features will the user expect? How will they interact with the product? While creating a user story, you must remember to not focus on the goal but rather on what actions the user will need to achieve that goal.

It is also important to create short user stories. Disregard detailed descriptions and ensure only one action is included in one user story.

3. The why

This addresses the final value of the product that the user will receive. This is the final question that you have to answer. Think of the website, why would the customers want an option to find cheaper alternatives?

Creating clear user stories

User stories have a widely used general format. “As a (Who), I want (What) so that (Why)”. This is an easy-to-use and concise format that fulfills all requirements.

If you want to develop your user story style, then you must ensure that it fits certain criteria to be good. A good user story will follow the criteria termed as INVEST by Bill Wake.

I: Independent

User stories should not be interdependent. You have to ensure that any changes to a User Story do not affect another. This is to avoid increasing the work burden and an effort to keep user stories simple.

N: Negotiable

One of the main purposes of creating user stories is to give your team flexibility in their working process. Hence, the team must be given free rein in the implementation of user stories

V: Valuable

A user story that fails to clearly state the value of the product to the user is essentially worthless. While creating user stories, you must make it understandable and also clearly state the value of the product.

E: Estimable

The development of the goals highlighted by the user story should be measurable. This will allow your team to determine their priorities as well as their working schedule.

S: Small

User stories need to be short. Stories that require multiple sprints to be completed or need a workforce of more than 10 people per day defeat the purpose of what a User Story needs to achieve.

T: Testable

Finally, the user story needs to have an achievable goal that can be tested to see if it delivers on user expectations.

Conclusion

User stories are a fundamental part of Agile methodology and are invaluable to your working process. While user stories seem simple, they require a lot of thought and skills to achieve their purpose. However, if you follow the criteria set by I.N.V.E.S.T and focus on the three essential components, you can make great user stories easily. They let your teams understand the perspective and the expectations of different users and can drastically improve the value and functionality of your product.