User Stories

agile team member writing a user story

When it comes to software development, the Agile framework is one of the most effective methods of delivering high-quality work. The Agile process is user-focused, which means teams develop products with the end user in mind. User stories are a popular way for teams to put users at the center of the development conversation. Read on to learn the basics about Agile user stories, including how to write user stories that help your team operate as effectively as possible.

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What are Agile user stories?

Agile user stories are a way of describing how specific software features work, using language that explains how the feature will benefit the customer, whether it is an external client or internal team. Agile teams select user stories from the backlog to work on during each sprint. Many project managers use a work management platform to keep track of user stories and their place within larger epics and initiatives.

To understand user stories, let's review the structure of the Agile methodology. The top of the hierarchy is the product road map, which provides a broad vision of development goals. Within the product road map are various large-scale initiatives designed to support the road map. Each initiative can be broken down into smaller epics, which are high-level software features or business requirements that would take more than one sprint to complete. Finally, each epic is composed of user stories—the smallest unit of work in the Agile framework.

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Why create user stories?

Breaking down initiatives and epics into user stories helps keep developers focused on bite-sized units of work. Each time a team finishes a user story, they can celebrate their accomplishment, which drives momentum and motivation.

User stories are also helpful because they focus explicitly on the customer. With the end user in mind, teams can collaborate in creative ways to solve real-world problems that affect their clients.

Who creates user stories?

While anyone can write a user story, the product owner usually plays a critical role in ensuring user stories support each epic and its larger initiative. Everyone on the team should be encouraged to suggest user stories that might help drive product development forward.

How to write user stories:

While many teams hold a user story writing session at the beginning of Agile development, product owners and other team members often add new user stories over the course of working on a project. Iterating, adapting, and learning from mistakes is part of the Agile process.

When writing user stories, consider the following questions:

Your team can use the following user story format to help guide the drafting process: “As a _____, I want to _____ so that _____.”

User story templates and examples

Now, let’s take a look at some specific user story examples:

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Keep development focused on user stories

User stories are an excellent way to keep the customer in mind during product development. Project managers should encourage team members to suggest user stories throughout the development process to support epics, initiatives, and the overall vision for the product.