Writing a good user story: some tips with examples and templates

6 min read

Any product we create starts with a need. Each of us has different needs: to eat, to drink, to dress beautifully, to receive social recognition, etc. Under each of these needs, products (goods, services) that solve the so-called “internal pain” are created.

To understand how to solve better this or that “pain” you have to imagine a scenario or situation in which a person with a specific need finds himself. This is where the user story appears.

What is a user story

A user story is a method of describing a product or functionality through a situation in the life of a real user. In simple words, a situation in which a future product or functionality solves the problem of a specific target audience.

Initially, this term appeared in agile development methodologies. The method focuses on the specific benefits that a new product or functionality will bring. Prioritization of tasks is based on the principle of going from the most to the least useful improvements. Thus, the process of “increasing utility” is going on.

If earlier you had a service where you could just upload a photo that others would see, now you will be able to leave comments. This functionality has additional benefits for your main product and most importantly for the user. After all, you see, it's nice to see photos of your friends, and leave a comment, right?

What tasks solves user story

  • describes the needs of a user or user type
  • helps to transform needs into specific tasks for development
  • assesses the resources that will be required for development
  • allows making better prioritization of tasks in the overall product development plan (or roadmap)
  • lets to other team members to better understand the context of the task
  • is the basis for testing with real users
  • and much more

The list goes on and on, the method is very useful and allows you to close a huge number of tasks. The user story is rather a way of thinking, that is an opportunity to present oneself in the context of a specific situation and experience the real need of a particular person.

How to write user story

There is a simple formula (just to substitute the necessary in brackets):

I, like a <user type>, want to <action>, because <reason>

Essentially, to complete the form, you need to:

  • determine the type of users that interest you (as a rule, this is your target audience)
  • understand the actions that users need
  • find out why exactly these actions are needed.

Since the main task of the method is to solve the most painful problems, then first you need to identify them, and then create a user story. Here is a small outline of how a user story should be created.

User story creation scheme

Making recearchОпределяются потребностиПишутся истории пользователей
QuantitativeQualitativePainUser story
What?Why?What is bothering?I as a “student”, want to “comment the photos of my friends ” in Instagram, because ”I need to attract their attention”
How many?What is behind the decision?How the problem is being solved now?
How often?From what it depended?How critical is it?

It all starts with research; you study your target audience and try to pull out its needs. As a rule, it can be interviews, surveys, focus groups and so on. It is very important in the process of collecting information to prioritize the needs received.

If you will have some notes, it will be even better. You can describe in more detail the user story. When the user story is ready, it’s time to prioritize. Most likely, you will accumulate several user stories and they will all lay into the overall work plan according to priorities. If we talk about part of the development, it can be a version or an iteration.

Example of user story: emoji

Imagine that we have a kind of social network where users exchange photos, leave comments and interact with each other in every way.

And that's all, yes, you see, that the time spent by the user on your platform begins to decrease. If earlier on average per day a person spent an hour with you, now it is already 52 minutes. “What is the matter?” - you will think. You will conduct a survey, talk to users, in the end ask your friends for advice and then it will become clear that users have become bored, want something new.

You get the idea that it would be nice to surprise them with something. You form the user story:

As a user of social networks, I want something new, because I am bored.

You made a brainstorm with your team and invented Emoji (emoticons or emotional reactions). Modified a little user story:

As a user of social networks, I want Emoji, because I am bored.

Now you have a ready basis for modifying your social network. You assess the resources that will be needed to start such a thing, estimate the time and take it to work.

If there are many stories

If you have not only one user story (and this is most likely the case), then you place priorities between them and take into your work the “most painful” among users, and then proceed to the next one. Thus, in the foreground, you always have the interest of the user, and every next functionality that released will be in demand.

Do not forget to measure

You have started writing a user story that should solve someone’s “pain”. But how to understand that “pain” was solved? Surely, you need to somehow assess the effect of what you do.

Let's go back to the example of emoji: if you think that creating emoji will help to entice users of a social network more strongly, then you need to somehow measure the effect. We can measure the average time on the site per day and see if it increases and by how much, after we launch these long-awaited smiles.

Two main questions for acceptance criteria:

  • What indicators will we use to measure the effect of the new feature?
  • Which indicators are considered successful and which are not?

User story is one of the most powerful tools for creating the right product. Use it in your projects, communicate with users and be open to changes. And remember, there cannot be too much of user stories, especially the good ones.

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