User stories are a simple but effective tool to help you articulate the user’s perspective and they can make significant difference for the design output.
They are short, specific, easy to understand statements used to ensure that design and development are aligned around a common purpose - addressing user needs.
They are typically written in the following format:
“As a ––––––, I want to –––––– so that ––––––.”
The focus of a user story is on the goal that the user wants to accomplish by using the digital product.
“As a manager, I want to generate a team performance report to understand individual team member’s workload and productivity level.”
And because these sentences are so short, it takes more than one to cover every use case and guide product design and development. If you do it the right way, you’ll most probably end up with a long list of user stories.
But whose responsibility is it? In agile teams, everyone involved in a project should take part in defining user stories because it helps accomplish the following:
- Keep digital products focused on the user
- Improve collaboration between designers and developers
- Help prevent the infamous feature creep
Writing user stories
When it comes to writing user stories, this job is typically led by a UX researcher. We’re going to assume that during the research phase the UX team defined user personas and created user scenarios.
In this case, a researcher will have all the tools she needs to write user stories. They’ll be able to successfully define who the user is, what they want to achieve using the product, and why.
In some cases, user stories can be provided by a customer or a business user to try to define what they would like to see in the final product.
User stories are mainly capturing requirements regarding product functionality, but they can also describe other capabilities of digital products, like data privacy.
The role of user stories in design process
The main value of user stories is that they help keep users always in the center of the design process, helping designers focus only on the features that help users achieve their goal.
User stories are therefore great for preventing the infamous ‘feature creep.’ This is something that happens frequently to UX/UI designers - adding more features and expanding the project requirements beyond the initial scope.
So, how do user stories help?
User stories concisely summarize a user goal in a way that is easy to understand and organize. One goal equals one user story. UX designers can gather all the user stories together and prioritize them, giving their team a clear idea of which features to design and in which order.
The designer can then iterate solutions for how to fit those features together into a seamless user experience. And, more importantly, user stories help designers to understand and be more empathic with their target users.
User stories give designers everything they need to create a realistic, concrete and shared view of the user which helps them focus their design. Plus, they’re a great tool to give the development team a better understanding of why they are developing certain features. User stories get up closer to users which is always a step in the right direction.