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The Value of Storytelling: How User Stories Guide Custom Software Development

custom software development, agile development

As humans, we love telling a good story. It is how we pass down traditions and teach history generation after generation. While custom software development might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you envision a great story, it is critical to draw in your audience and help build relationships with your customers.  

When creating custom software, it’s vital to understand how users' motivations affect the way that they will navigate and experience the software. What need are they trying to meet? What are their pain points? What are their priorities? Why are those important to them? User stories allow you to break down the overarching project vision into manageable pieces of work that are focused on the end user.

What is a user story?

If you are new to the concept, a user story is a small piece of work that focuses on the end benefit delivered to the user once the story is complete. It is a way to describe the purpose of a feature in a way the development team can understand. User stories also help a development team to estimate the amount of effort it will take to finish the underlying requirements within the story. Project managers, developers, testers and anyone else working in an agile development environment rely on good user stories.

While there are many variations of the “correct” format for writing a user story, the most common template looks like this:  

As a <User>, I want <Goal> so that <Benefit>.

This starts with a particular user of the website and defines what the user wants and why. For example, if a bank manager needs a new scheduling system to save time, the user story could look like:

As a manager, I want a new way to manage my employees’ schedules so that I can spend less time every week doing it manually. 

You can also shift focus from the user and onto the business outcome. For the same use case, the bank manager user story would look like:

When I am managing my employees’ schedules, I want to spend less time doing it manually so I can spend more time focusing on finding new clients.  

This format is more appropriate when you are trying to communicate the “why” behind building a feature. Remember, the story doesn’t stop at the title. UX and UI design are essential parts of building a user-focused website and are necessary to envision what the end result of the story should look like. This could include something like wireframes or design mockups, but the user story should help with that visualization.  

Even with designs and the appropriate outcome built into a story, it’s can be easy to lose sight of the rationale behind the it. The goal of a user story is not to tell the development team how to build a feature, but rather to define what they’re building. At Provisio, our project managers and developers work with you to help define your story and what our solution will provide to the end users - your customers!