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5 Tips for Writing Effective User Stories

4 July 2017

Here are some tips I’ve found useful for writing an effective user story.

1. It’s all about the user

User stories are brief descriptions of the product features that the user requires. As the name suggests, a user story is written from the user’s perspective. But how does one write user stories? Schedule a meeting with the users or process owners. Observe them. Learn how they do what they do. Otherwise, you leave the door wide open for speculation when developing your stories.

2. Keep it short and simple

Ensure that you keep your user stories crisp and simple. Remove all ambiguity. Write in the active voice.

As we know, this is the syntax of a typical user story:
As a user type, I want objective so that benefit.

As a manager, I want to generate a report to determine the productivity levels of different units.

As an administrator, I want to be able to create permissions so that I can grant users access to the system.

3. Clearly define the acceptance criteria

How do you decide when the story is successful, or "Done" in Agile terminology? Acceptance criteria are the key: They are the conditions that must be satisfied to consider the user story completed. The number of acceptance criteria per user story may vary depending on its complexity.

4. Break down epics into detailed user stories

Start with high-level epics that capture the rough scope of the product features. An epic is a coarse-grained story that can be subsequently broken down into detailed user stories. This is helpful in the case of new products, when you don’t have all the information at the outset of the project. Continue to polish and refine your stories until they are clear, precise, and testable. The development team should have a clear understanding of what the user story means and intends to achieve.

5. Make your stories visible

A preferred method of keeping stories visible is to use Post-its on walls. This facilitates greater collaboration with the users, ensures transparency, and results in improved traction over the number of stories written for a sprint.

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

Article Rating

Current rating: 3.6 (10 ratings)


Karthikeyan Santhanakrishnan, CSM, 7/4/2017 11:35:53 AM
The author has explained it in a very simple and in an effective Agile terms that anything demonstrable and can add business value are termed as user stories. The author
Tim Baffa, CSM, 7/5/2017 2:57:15 PM
I find that the best PBI's are customer-facing. This helps to curb stories that don't deliver business value on their own, and should actually be defined as a task under another story which does.
Rajesh Sampath Kumar, CSM, 7/9/2017 12:29:34 AM
@ Tim Baffa, Very true. Customer buy-in is the key!

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