What is a User Story? Examples and Templates

Updated Oct 14, 2022.
user-story

When managing a project to achieve the desired outcome, you must be conscious of the lesser parts that make up the greater parts. 

User stories are a vital part of a project and significantly influence the successful execution and completion of projects. With user stories, you acquire relevant information to successfully gather a basic requirement description

This article will guide you on how to write an effective user story using the agile approach. 

Let’s get started. 

What is a User Story? 

User stories are obtained from the end user perspective to design a simplified description of a requirement. It is a tool used in agile development that describes a user’s point of view and opinion about a feature or functionality.

In his book “User Stories Applied,” Mike Cohn of Mountain Goat Software wrote extensively about user stories' principles. 

A user story is an informal, detailed, and natural language description of a software system feature derived from an end user’s perspective. 

Agile teams use a user story as an effective tool in agile software development for capturing a portrayal of a software feature from a user’s point of view. 

Customer-focused organizations tend to make a lot of impact in the community, build brand awareness and make more profit. A user story helps you focus on your customers’ needs. 

User Story Workflow in Agile Scrum Methodology
Source: NetSolution

A user story describes the type of user you are engaged with, what they require and why they require the product or services you offer. It is a written sentence and can be described as the smallest unit of work in the agile framework.

Certain benefits associated with users are: 

  • User stories are people-focused and help the product team focus on actual people, not abstract features. 
  • Help in building momentum and helping the technical team to stay motivated by giving them a sense of progress and productivity.
  • Represent smaller deliverables in sprints, whereas not all full features can fit.
  • User stories are easy to read and understand.

A product manager can use project management software such as Monday.com, ClickUp, and Wrike to write an effective user story.

Why Create User Stories?

User stories have proven to be of great benefit and an added step to development teams that are newly acquainted with agile. 

Breaking down the project into a series of basic steps makes the project look less cumbersome and achievable to the development team members. 

With user stories, software development teams acquire important context and tasks associated with this context to help them focus on vital aspects of the project concerning customers' requirements.

Here are some key benefits that user stories offer to development teams and the project at large:

1. User Stories Help to Maintain Focus on the User

Unlike a to-do list comprising team-focused tasks that have to be checked off when each task is completed, user stories help center the development teams' attention on issues that concern real users and seek to solve various problems. 

2. User Stories Promote Collaboration

With a clear picture of the user’s perspective and a clearly defined end goal, the team can come together to deliberate on the most effective strategy required to achieve the set goal and how best to serve the user.

3. User Stories Birth Creative Solutions

The information acquired from the user story encourages the team to carefully evaluate the goal and think critically about them to develop useful solutions.

4. User Stories Create Momentum

With each passing user story, the software development team encounters small challenges and prevails over them. The team’s momentum is being built with each win and notable progress. 

How to Write User Stories?

Here are some crucial factors to consider before writing user stories. 

1. Definition of Done

Defining done makes it easy for the development team to recognize the progress and achievements against the outlined task. 

The user story is done when the user has completed the task, but it is important to define what has been done.

2. Outline Subtasks or Tasks

Carefully outline tasks to be completed and decide which specific steps must be carried out. After this, select each team member responsible for the steps to be completed in the user story. 

3. User Personas

At this point, you create an avatar that matches the customer profile based on the user’s perception. With the user personas, you can easily answer the question of who is served in this story and what type of customer you engage.

In a scenario with multiple end users, you can create multiple stories.

4. Ordered Steps

The simple concepts of user story mapping consider your entire project as a series of tasks and jobs that the product helps your users to complete. 

While considering this, if you plan to organize your work on a larger process or as a more comprehensive product functionality, it is advisable to write each step as a map. 

A story map helps you arrange your user stories in a narrative flow that reveals the product’s big picture.

User Story Map Template
Source: Smartsheet

5. Seek User Feedback

There is no need to guess at stories when all you require is to get the information you need from your customers.

A customer’s feedback is very important because it allows you to share their views on your product or service, which you can use to make the necessary adjustments. 

Your chances of allocating relevant resources to development work that will resonate with the market are improved via feedback. 

By talking to your users, you can easily capture the issues or needs in their own words for you to create solutions specific to their problems and needs. 

6. Time

Time is a subject that is considered touchy. Most development teams try as much as possible to avoid time discussion, which results in them depending more on their estimation frameworks.

Stories are meant to be compiled in a single sprint; some stories might take a couple of weeks or several months to be completed and should be broken down into smaller stories or considered epic. 

Your team gets a feeling of completion in each sprint and encourages you to launch new functionality to the market more frequently. 

After the user stories have been clearly defined, the next step is for you to make them visible to the whole development team.  

User Story Templates and Examples

In most cases, product teams use a similar user story template. The user story template has a sentence or two written according to this formula: 

As a (brief description of the user), I want (desired functionality) so that (benefit).

The three components of the user story template are: 

Who, What, and Why

  • Who is a description of a job role, type of user, or customer; it is also known as a user persona. 
  • What describes the user’s goal concerning the product and what the user wants the product to accomplish or implement? 
  • What is the reason the user requires the feature or functionality? 

You can include further detail in a user story by breaking it into smaller user stories and also grouping the stories into themes. 

An agile user story briefly describes a product feature derived from the end user's perspective. Project management software helps you create an agile user story and provides users with a rich library of ready-made user story templates.

Examples of User Stories

User stories typically follow this formula: As a (description of the user), I want (functionality) so that (benefit).

  1. As a database administrator, I want to easily compile datasets from various sources to create detailed reports for my internal customers.
  2. As a drummer, I want to buy wooden drum sticks, so I don’t get blisters on my hand when I play the drumset.
  3. As an uber driver, I want to get leather seat covers so my clients may feel more comfortable and give me five stars after each ride.

This helps to define what done is. 

The moment the persona can capture their desired value. Each team must develop its structure and stick to it without wavering.

User Story Structure
Source: Justinmind

Who Writes User Stories?

In reality, anyone can write a user story. While the product owner ensures that the product backlog of agile user stories is available, it doesn’t imply that the product owner writes the stories.

While executing a good agile project, each team member is supposed to write user story examples. Those involved in discussing the user story are more important than who writes the stories. 

When Are User Stories Written?

User stories are written all through Extreme Programming and agile projects. Normally a story writing workshop occurs at the start of the agile software project.

Every team member has to actively participate in the workshop to create a product backlog that gives a full description of the functionality they should add to the project. It could be a three to six months release cycle. 

A reasonable number of these agile user stories will likely be epics, larger work items broken down into user stories. The developers will eventually break down multiple epics into smaller stories that can fit into a single interaction.

User stories can be written anytime and by anybody and added to the product backlog. 

Detailing User Stories with 3Cs (Card, Conversation, and Confirmation)

Cards

User stories are written on cards, specifically on index cards. The purpose of writing user stories on index cards is to keep the stories concise.

Based on the card size, it cannot contain too much information on the requirement. Instead, the card will be designed so that everyone who reads the story will clearly understand its content and contain information that helps to identify the requirement.

The card is an effective planning tool and represents the requirement. You can write additional information like the story's priority and cost with the card. 

After the product owner has selected the user story for a particular sprint, the next step is to hand over the story card to the developers. 

Here is the standard user story format used for writing stories on cards:

As a (customer), I want (goal) so that I can accomplish (justification/business value).

Conversation

The card is an important step while creating a new user story, but beyond this, there is a need to carefully discuss and refine the requirements and communicate with the developers. 

Conversations between the developers, product owners, product managers, Scrum masters, Scrum teams, and different stakeholders are crucial. 

It fosters collaboration and unity between them, making it possible for them to clearly understand the requirements that will result in the successful development of the product. 

Confirmation

In most cases, doubt may arise concerning the requirements created via the user stories. Proceeding with the user story and ensuring we implement what the requirement states are a point of dilemma.

The confirmation comes in the form of acceptance tests. It is the acceptance criteria that capture the important requirements and makes it possible for us to test the created product to be sure it meets the defined criteria. 

Generally, the product owner creates the acceptance criteria and extends the backlog refinement. Implementing the acceptance criteria tests is the developer’s responsibility.

The increment created based on the user story is expected to meet the demands of the acceptance criteria or tests, which confirms that the new feature has been correctly implemented.

In the end, the developers get the chance to demonstrate the completion of the stories by passing the acceptance criteria.

With a user story, it is easier for the development team to create a product that matches the user’s description to satisfy their needs and requirements. 

Furthermore, breaking down large projects into small bits (smaller stories) for easy implementation makes it possible for the team to create the right product for the user.

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Anastasia Belyh

Editor at FounderJar

Anastasia has been a professional blogger and researcher since 2014. She loves to perform in-depth software reviews to help software buyers make informed decisions when choosing project management software, CRM tools, website builders, and everything around growing a startup business.

Anastasia worked in management consulting and tech startups, so she has lots of experience in helping professionals choosing the right business software.