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User Stories

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User Stories

Posted by: Steve Weiss

Tuesday, Jun 17th, 2014

It’s been said that when programming, when an error occurs, it’s not the computer’s fault, it’s your fault.  The computer is a super obedient child who only does what you tell them to do.  You probably told it to do the wrong thing. Congrats, you’re a bad parent.

A similar statement could be made about user stories.  If there is a question about technical requirements, schedule, or the very emotional core of a task, it should be in the user stories.  The user stories are the chapters in the enthralling yet readable novel that is your project.

The main goal of a user story is to follow the experience from the perspective of a user.  But this is also where the team turns for answers on a day to day basis.  If the most basic information about guidelines, requirements, and expectations is well documented, time can be saved and confusion can be avoided. The fewer questions, the better. In that spirit, let’s discuss 3 guidelines to keep in mind when writing user stories.

Consistency
Even if a few different people are contributing to each task and requirement, it’s a lot easier if things remain consistent.  Is the terminology the same throughout? Are things broken out into bulleted lists or written as paragraphs? Agree on a few terms to describe menus, navigation, pages, etc before starting to keep things readable.

Directionality
Where did we come from and where are we going?  That’s basically what it comes down to.  In addition to wireframes, it’s helpful to reinforce this via each user story.  Do we know how we reached the current page we’re on?  Where does this link go to?  Redirection happens constantly, let’s all be comfortable with change.  Planning for it can save lots of time.

...And Then?
Follow the trail until there are no more questions.  If a form is required, what goes in its fields?  If those fields are left blank, what happens? If there’s an error, what does it say? Upon submitting, where are we redirected to? Breaking tasks down to a granular level helps both to clarify and get a better picture of the time required to complete a task.  Don’t be afraid to get too specific, until the absolute most basic laws of common sense apply.

Every user story is written in the interest of minimizing confusion and maximizing time spent.  There’s no time for you or your team to re-do things, and your deadline is approaching with the speed and agility of a cheetah.  Keep a few concepts in mind while writing, and brighten everyone’s day.

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