Customers are essential to an Agile project. After all, the goal is to create a valuable solution for them. The end-users needs are taken into contemplation from the early steps of an Agile project. That is why when creating a Product Backlog, we have to take into account that user stories are one of the core components of an Agile Project.

What are User Stories?

A User Story is a written general explanation of the end user's requirements for developing the software's features. It is a starting point for developers to understand fundamental information from the stakeholder's perspective, about what is expected to produce a valuable product for the user.

The Product Owner is accountable for the Product backlog, but it's best to consider involving the whole team in the writing process. The project would benefit if each member understands how to write user stories and allows them to think from the stakeholders' point of view.

Ideally, customers should help write user stories. Whether they do help or not, constant communication should be maintained between the Agile team and the user to make sure their needs are comprehended and met.

So, how do you write a User Story?

There is a common format used for writing user stories. We will go into detail about its elements and suggested characteristics to consider when creating one.

" As a [user role], I want to [Activity], so that [business value/ benefit] "

This template enables guidance to the team for understanding:

  • Who are they building the system for;
  • What is the intention of building it;
  • And, why are they doing it? What is the created value for the customer?

Applying this "user's voice" structure increases the team's domain competence, it reinforces their interpretation of the real business needs.

User stories and Epics

It's common for Agile teams to work on stories that relate to a similar area or feature in the software. For efficiency, it is reasonable to cluster these related stories. These groups are known as Epics. Using epics let us establish a hierarchy for the backlog items and also gives us a better vision of how much time it will take to deliver the product.

When teams divide large tasks into smaller ones, it becomes easier and faster to complete, making it faster for customers to receive value often and incrementally - As it is the core of Agile.

Characteristics of user stories to consider

To make your user stories the utmost advantageous, consider the INVEST qualities. This acronym stands for six vital traits of helpful user stories.

  • Independent: user stories should be self-contained to avoid prioritization and planning issues that may arise from having too many dependencies on each other.
  • Negotiable: It should encourage collaboration between developers and customers and adjust as necessary.
  • Valuable: The heart of a user story is to help develop a valuable feature for the user.
  • Estimable: Developers need to know precisely what is involved in building a feature. User stories should be divided into individual tasks and planned effectively into sprints.
  • Small: Should remain concise to allow completion in a short period.
  • Testable: User stories should be testable to confirm the acceptance criteria.

Testability: Acceptance Criteria

How do teams verify whether the product execution meets the needs of the end user? Testing the product using Acceptance Criteria is a crucial step.

This concept refers to the conditions and requirements a software product must meet to be accepted by the customer. The acceptance criteria has to be examined by the agile team and the user to define the success or failure of functionality. If a user story meets the Acceptance Criteria defined, it can be considered as done.

If you approached user stories as a bland part of the process, consider revising your perspective, as user stories are a great way to look at future features from the user's point of view. Keep in mind that the needs influence the features, not the other way around. Oftentimes, being aware of well-described needs in user stories might provoke unexpected and better results.