User Stories and Agile Development

By Aaron Sherman

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A core tenet of modern development processes is agile development. This development methodology stresses using small, bite-sized user stories to define what a system does from a user perspective, not a technical one. A user cares if a product is fast, easy to use, and solves their problem. They do not care if it follows a 3-tier architecture, has Mongo DB, or if it is using Rails or

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User stories:

Storyboard That provides an ideal platform to create agile user stories and spark conversation in a format that is much less taxing than a wall of text.


In the context of user stories, an “epic” is simply a very broad story that will later be broken down into many specific user stories. Starting with an epic aligns everyone with a single, high-level vision. The epic story anchors a project from the top down, and if it doesn’t make sense to construct an epic, supporting work is also going to be a waste of effort.

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In this story, it is very clear what the long term vision is and what success should look like. A good epic story should include:

Defining Users

Especially when designing software, it is important to have a good vision of what the users will be like. Not every user will match this vision precisely, and there may be multiple categories of user, but these discrete visions need articulation. Thinking about users first guards against over-engineering and over-complication, preventing a new product from having something for everyone and being useful to no one.

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Creating a Story

Once an epic has been established and users have been defined, smaller, more specific stories can be constructed about particular user experiences. The stories below break down the outlined above into two narratives: looking up an order and re-ordering a product.

These narratives do not contain technical information; the users do not care how the results are achieved, so long as it performs the desired tasks. Similarly, the UX is depicted generically, to avoid stifling innovation or forcing a path. In general, stories should be:

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Looking Up an Order

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Performing a Reorder

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Conversation & Planning for Testing

These stories should invite conversation and questions, such as:

It is perfectly reasonable to create many stories; in fact, it should be encouraged. Some of these stories will never be used, but it is important to see the path they set down. This collection of stories will flush out additional requirements and influence testing.

The stories should provoke and inform discussion about how the software will be tested and what business rules need to be explicitly defined. For example:

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Further Reading

Storyboard That provides a powerful tool for creating great user stories, but it is not meant to stand alone as a framework for project management. Here are some of our favorite books on the subject.

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•   (English) Agile User Stories   •   (Español) Historias de Usuarios Ágiles   •   (Français) Histoires D'utilisateurs Agiles   •   (Deutsch) Agile Benutzer Stories   •   (Italiana) Storie Utente Agile   •   (Nederlands) Agile Gebruikersverhalen   •   (Português) Histórias de Usuário Ágil   •   (עברית) סיפורי משתמש Agile   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) قصص العضو رشيقة   •   (हिन्दी) चंचल उपयोगकर्ता कहानियां   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Проворные Истории Пользователей   •   (Dansk) Agile User Stories   •   (Svenska) Agile Användar Stories   •   (Suomi) Ketterä Käyttäjäkertomuksia   •   (Norsk) Agile Brukerhistorier   •   (Türkçe) Çevik Kullanıcı Hikayeleri   •   (Polski) Agresywne Historie Użytkowników   •   (Româna) Povestiri Utilizator Agile   •   (Ceština) Agilní Uživatelské Příběhy   •   (Slovenský) Príbehy Agilných Používateľov   •   (Magyar) Agilis Felhasználói Történetek   •   (Hrvatski) Agilne Korisničke Priče   •   (български) Потребителски Истории   •   (Lietuvos) Agile User Istorijos   •   (Slovenščina) Agile Uporabniške Zgodbe   •   (Latvijas) Agile Lietotāju Stāsti   •   (eesti) Agile Kasutaja Stories