KK: Keep Your User Story Simple

Rule 1 in How To Write Effective User Stories that Express Business Needs and Minimize Misunderstandings


Author: Tom and Angela Hathaway
Video Duration: 6:14 minutes

This KnowledgeKnugget™ is part of an eBook and an eCourse

Video Overview

In this KnowledgeKnugget™ you will learn how to apply step 1 to user story writing. A well-structured user story expresses a single action to achieve a specific goal. Trying to express too much in a user story adds confusion and increases the amount of discussion needed for developers to understand what the story really means.

Video Transcript Excerpt

How to Write Effective User Stories

User Stories have rapidly become one of the most popular forms for expressing Stakeholder Requirements on projects whether your project follows an Agile approach or a more traditional methodology. Many feel that the mold: As a {role the author represents}, I/we can {do or have something}{with these qualities} to {achieve my goal or objective} by itself is sufficient to explain how to write user stories. I believe there are still a few dimensions missing.

For instance, examine two implementations of this mold:

As a website visitor (role), I can view all training (do something) which I need(quality requirement) to qualify for the CBAP® exam (goal).

As a human being (role), I can differentiate sounds (do something) in my native tongue (quality requirement) to comprehend what others are saying (goal).

Note that both statements follow the mold and, by that definition, are user stories. Whereas the first gives the developers great guidance, I question the value of the second. As a result, I have developed a set of guidelines (rules) for writing an effective user story that go beyond the mold and might help you.

The first rule in writing an effective user story is simple: keep the user story simple. A simple sentence states only one thing. However, it does a good job at that. If you try to express too much in a single sentence, you add confusion.

For instance, the user story,

“As an applicant, I can navigate to the coverage screen, enter personal and vehicle data, and submit the application online to request automobile insurance coverage”

contains 3 distinct thoughts. It would be clearer if you expressed each thought as a single user story, i.e.,

“As an applicant, I can navigate to the coverage screen to select insurance coverage I need”

“As an applicant, I can enter personal and vehicle data to compare premiums”

“As an applicant, I can submit an application online to request automobile insurance coverage”

Compound sentences are, by definition, never simple. That means, you should not have ‘if, ands or buts’ in the user story.

… [end of excerpt]


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