How to Write User Stories: An Explanation and Guide

User stories are increasingly common in the UX/UI design process. This article offers a clear explanation of what a user story is, and what its function is, along with tips and examples on how to write your own.

What’s a user story?

A user story is a short description of a user’s context and their needs. Often no more than a few sentences at a time . They are effective because they construct an image in a potential user’s head about the product use case. These were first derived from agile workflows.

User personas are used to profile a target audience with similar preferences and attitudes. These personas often segment a customer base, with certain marketing strategies focusing on individual personas.

A typical user story follows the following format: 

As a <user>,

I want  <feature>,

So that <reason>.

Where user flow stands in a process.

It may seem rudimentary but to ensure you have a clear user story you should start mapping out your user flow. Start with your initiative, which is then divided into several epics, each epic is further divided into its own stories which have its own subtasks.

User stories contain justification for the demand of your app or product from a user’s point of view. 

This tone touches upon criteria standards for this function to be designed, indeed on what grounds will it be judged by users when published. Admittedly, detailed attributes aren’t made all that clear at this stage just yet, but to accommodate these points of view from a level earlier on does make a fundamental difference which will resonate for the entire duration of a project. 

What is a good user story like?

Why do we need a user story?

User story isn’t a must. But it is a useful tool, you can choose to keep at hand or replace with something else that works better for you. The significance of a user story is it keeps the user at the core that makes the tool attractive. 

To put words into practice,, here’s how a user story is often created:

Starting with an initiative: the overarching goal for the software being designed. These things can sometimes be rather high-level(or even vague) to be called a goal directly. So often, it ends up offering directional guidance but not much more than that — that’s fine, that’s the intention. 

Once the initiative is mapped out, the next level – epics, are introduced. Epics are scenarios that need to be in place to realize an initiative. An initiative can have multiple epics to tell different stories for different personas. For example, if the initiative is to create the next best social networking app for college students, an epic inside that initiative can be “students are meeting quality local people on the app”, or “the app results in students spending more time talking in person and less time texting”.

Now we are ready for a user story. “as a student, I want to meet like-minded people on an app nearby so we can meet in person rather than just texting.”

One by one, the construction is broken down into individual levels. A good user story captures the app or website’s core values with a profiled narrative and intended tone of voice. There is no right or wrong, it’s always about finding the flow which works for you or your product.

User stories’ positive effects: 

It aligns your team 

Granted, a user story isn’t something you can hand off to your developers and have them actualize the scene as painted, but your developers can be invited to sessions where the stories are generated together with the designer or product Manager. I

t’s a great little exercise that very often results in an alignment of team vision alignment. or even generates brilliant new ideas.. 

It creates a clearer product hierarchy

As shown earlier, a user story is one of a sequence that makes up a whole. Derived from a more substantial goal becoming clearer, achievable goals.

These snippets of stories will end up guiding part of the product strategy. When brainstorming, patterns and categorization will become visible for you to catch and keep.

More than that, because of the story-telling nature of writing, you will be able to draw out multiple aspects of the influencing factors. The task to assign importance to each type of user is made a lot easier when the serving goal is clear. You can see the structure from the image below.

It creates momentum 

Momentum is one of those things that’s high in demand but not easily obtained. When it does occur it’s almost like a gift. Good collaboration helps to form momentum. A good brainstorm exercise can really lift the spirits of all stakeholders. Everyone is quickly aligned and you can create a proactive, transparent, and creative vibe for your team. 

How to write a user story?

Keep it simple and concise.

The age-old approach of keeping it simple and concise. I won’t bore you with another dragged-out explanation. One thing, when starting to write, keeping it very simple helps you(or others) freely experiment with interpretations, especially in a group setting. Stay unattached to your creations, and create more.

Use personas to guide you

We are all creatives. We can write short stories all day long. So let’s add some structure by adding a persona, the richer the persona the easier you will find it to be productively creative. 

Start with epics

Start big, not small. Use the epics you constructed earlier as a starting point to tease out angles. What will come in handy too, is those epics will also keep your overall narratives in line — offering a much higher chance of hitting the right spots with your target audience.

Add criteria 

Do this at the beginning, but not during, never during. I’d go so far as to say completely forget the criteria during the creating process. This is an age-old argument: when thinking don’t  write, when writing  don’t think. 

Refine stories until they are ready 

So now you’ve had an exciting session with your team. You’ve created a bunch of user stories, measured them against the criteria, and narrowed them down to a few that everyone agrees on — well done.Now what?

Refine them, refine your stories further, until you know they solve the right problem for the right person from the right angle. That’s quite a few boxes to check, but a good refining process will get you there. 

That last step is incredibly important, because what follows after these stories become concrete, buildable product features, is to actually build them — the real deal is on the horizon. So refine refine refine, before you start investing time and effort into the building process.  

Finally, I’d like to leave you with a few more examples of user stories from various projects and angles to hopefully serve as your inspiration: 

  • Like Max, I want to invite my friends, so we can enjoy this service together.
  • As a daily commuter, I want to know exactly when the bus is arriving, so I don’t have to be waiting in the cold 
  • As a music lover, I want to be able to listen to the same music as my friends at the same time worldwide 
  • As a mother, I want to know when my kids are 10 minutes away from home, so I can start preparing dinner. 
  • Like Jane, I want to make sure my online shopping records aren’t getting stolen by a third party website or software, so I can feel safe shopping online