How we’ve destroyed user stories

  • “As a user”: forget about going into details about what kind of user persona this story is for— you just want to tell engineers that a human is using the software (they often forget!)
  • “I want”: this is where you write exactly what you want built. Keep it as prescriptive as possible and make sure to articulate the solution and not what the user is trying to achieve. You don’t want people to have to think for themselves.
  • “So that”: you can often leave this section out (it’s not that important). But you know… people NEVER get things the first time, so sometimes you may want to repeat the same thing again. If you’re smart about it just change a few words here and there — they won’t notice.

How we got here

User stories done “right”

  • “As” <persona>: who are we building this for? We’re not just after a job title, we’re after the persona of the person. Alana. Our team should have a shared understanding of who Alana is. We’ve hopefully interviewed plenty of Alana’s. We understand how that person works, how they think and what they feel. We have empathy for Alana.
  • “Wants to”: Here we’re describing their intent — not the features they use. What is it they’re actually trying to achieve? This statement should be implementation free — if you’re describing any part of the UI and not what the user goal is you’ve been missing the point.
  • “So that”: how does their immediate desire to do something this fit into their bigger picture? What’s the overall benefit they’re trying to achieve? What is the big problem that needs solving?

We’re thinking about it the wrong way

“Stories get their name from how they should be used, not what should be written.” — Jeff Patton

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