A Guide to Creating Agile User Stories (With Template)

Updated September 30, 2022

Agile user stories tell the narrative of a customer's journey in short, informal, and simplified ways. Companies that want to optimize their products and service development processes might implement agile user story exercises into their product development and design teams. Learning more about agile use stories can help you successfully incorporate this technique into an organization and your team. In this article, we explore what an agile user story is, review why you might use one, discover how to create one, and examine a template to help you create your own.

Related: What Is an Agile Project Manager? (With Crucial Skills)

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What are agile user stories?

In most organizations, agile user stories provide detailed and simple information about a product under development. For example, it may include details about how an end user interacts with the product and what they can gain from the product. One of the key features of user stories is that they're written from the perspective of the designated end user. Product development and software development teams use information from user stories to improve the design and functionality of the products they're creating to help ensure they align with customer values and expectations.

Creating user stories serves many purposes within an organization. In an increasingly competitive business and global landscape, businesses work hard to ensure their products and services are competitive and marketable in their target market. With user stories, product and software development teams focus on the people that matter most. This ensures that organizations create, sell, and allocate resources to products and services that customers want to pay for and provide value to the target audience. By focusing on the end users throughout the process, companies can better focus on the needs and wants of their customers.

Related: Understanding Project Management Methodology (With Examples)

Why create agile user stories?

Product development and software development teams can experience many benefits from creating user stories during their product and service development processes. Here are some major benefits to using user stories:

Puts users first

One of the main benefits of developing user stories is the ability to put end users first. This creates productive conversations about the products and services a company wants to develop while focusing on users in those conversations. User stories provide information about the type of end user the company's developing for, what the end users want to do with its product or service, and how they can gain value from the organization.

By putting customers and customer interactions above processes and tools, companies can develop products and services that are better aligned to their end users' expectations. As a result, there's a better chance that a product or service becomes more competitive and marketable compared to competitors.

Encourages better collaboration and problem-solving

User stories encourage product development or software development teams to work together and understand how they can overcome challenges in innovative and resource-efficient ways. As a team typically encompasses a variety of skills and expertise, the process of creating and re-visiting these user stories throughout the product or service development stages helps ensure that solutions and project tasks align with the common goal to provide value to end users and generate a profit for the organization.

Creates and prioritizes project tasks and goals

During the process of creating these user stories, product and software development teams can also consider the project tasks and goals associated with each user story. Because each agile user story targets a unique challenge or user need that's related to the product's development and end users, organizations typically gain a clear understanding of what actions to take to address those challenges and needs.

Once a company has a list of project tasks and goals that relate to the product or service's development, management can delegate and prioritize tasks. For example, a team can prioritize product or service improvements that resolve primary or urgent end user challenges, implementing smaller changes later in the production process.

Drives momentum in the production process

The product or service development process is often complex and involves many steps and stakeholders. With the help of an agile user story, product or software development teams have a clear roadmap of the challenges and tasks they are to accomplish. As each agile user story presents a unique challenge related to the product development process and end user goals, focusing on one user story at a time helps teams better manage tasks and make noticeable progress towards their overall goal. Not only does this help motivate teams to work diligently, but it also helps ensure they follow project deadlines.

Provides simplicity

User stories are designed to be nontechnical and easy to understand. They use direct language to present complex user problems and goals in simplified ways. The purpose is to help ensure all teams can understand them.

How to create user stories

Creating these user stories can be easy if you follow these steps:

1. Establish user personas

User personas are fictional characters based on the current or ideal customer segment. Many product development and software development teams create user personas to understand the demographics, challenges, characteristics, and behaviours of their customers. This helps ensure that they create a product or service that aligns with the needs of their end users.

If there are multiple target customer segments, user personas also help to organize these users into different categories. A company can then create separate user stories for each target user persona. As a result, it can be sure its team meets the unique needs of all its potential end users.

Related: How to Create a Customer Journey Map (With Benefits)

2. Gather end user feedback

It's beneficial to discuss the product or service that's currently in development with target end users. A business can gather feedback about the features it wants to incorporate, the purpose of the product or service, and how users interact with it. Including target users throughout the development process can help ensure that the team puts the end users first and aligns with their needs. Businesses can collect feedback through surveys, interviews, or focus groups.

3. Start with the end goal and work backwards

With these user stories, it's beneficial to develop the end goal first and work backwards. Now that the company has a clear understanding of the user personas and the end goal of its product or service, it's easier for it to identify the steps a product or service needs to achieve the goal. The agile process focuses on the value that users experience from the product or service. Working backwards helps to emphasize this focus.

4. Write the steps

Once a company is clear on the steps and the value that its product or service brings to end users, it's time to write them down. Businesses can focus on dividing bigger steps into sub-steps and include as much detail as they want. If you're working on this, consider writing steps and user stories on individual pieces of paper so you can easily rearrange user stories if needed and collaborate more efficiently.

5. Match steps with user stories

With all the steps written, a company can match the steps to their corresponding agile user story. Each step has one unique user story. A business can assign team members a user story to focus on to help ensure they understand the goals of the user within that step and the project tasks required to address those goals.

Related: Scrum Board vs. Kanban Board: What Are the Pros and Cons?

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Template for user stories

Effective user stories typically have a specific template to help ensure they have all the information needed. This template follows a role-feature-benefit pattern that describes, in order, the type of user, action of the user, and benefit or value to the user.

For example, a company can examine the agile user story and clearly state "As a [type of user], I [want to do this] so that I can [benefit or value]." Here's what each section means:

  • Type of user: The type of user describes the specific end user segment that benefits from a product or service, such as the characteristics, demographics, daily routines, concerns, and expectations of the target consumer. If there are multiple target users, a company can create many user personas and use this template to create user stories for the steps that each type of user experiences.

  • Want to do this: This section of the template describes the goal and expectation of the end user from the product or service and relates to the challenges or concerns they have. Businesses can help ensure that this section focuses on what the end users want to do and not on what their product development team or organization wants.

  • Benefit or value: The benefit or value describes what end users can gain from using the product or service. It addresses how the product or service solves their unique challenges or concerns.

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