How to Write Effective Agile User Stories

User stories are wrongly interpreted as system requirements. A requirement is an official description of need; a user story, part of an agile approach is an informal explanation of a feature.

A user story is an easy way to explain the features of a software system during the programming and product development life cycle. User stories are prepared to satisfy the need of the customer. They are usually registered in sticky notes, or project management tools. Based on the need of the project, user stories can be written by the users, clients, product owners or even the developers.

User stories are short objects with defined boundaries. They keep the project alive by constantly communicating with the stakeholders and helps them to understand the schematic and its framework.

User story examples 

The benefit of writing an agile user story can enable the team to describe the project at different levels with numerous details. A user story can be written to cover large amounts of functionality. Large user stories are known as epics.

Similar to Product backlog components, all User stories must imply, indicate acceptance criteria and DOD (definition of “done”). Behind the index card these details must be mentioned alternatively it can also be written in the “Description” area of the project management tool.

Bill Wake gave us the INVEST mnemonic enabling us to which helps us recollect the features of a well-structured- user story:


How to write agile user stories ?

This resembles what during preparation?

A customer in the bank can alter the PIN.

Acceptance Criteria: ….

A student can find grades online and need not worry till he gets the result.

Acceptance Criteria: ….

A book shopper decides regarding buying the book based on the reviews. Acceptance Criteria: ….

As a writer, I need the spell checker to leave the phrases containing numbers to identify only the wrongly spelled words. Acceptance Criteria: ….

Refutation by example

How to realize the fact that the mark is vanishing? Primarily user stories are the base for the discussion. When the entire team understands the purpose of a user story, it is a good start. Common mistakes to be avoided are mentioned below.

“Designing a brochure layout.”

Downsides: dependent, lacks professional Value. This task denotes a flat architectural segment. The architecture is completed in a void, conjoined with the scrutiny crisis.

Improved: Owning a dog, I can find a meal plan on the brochure to know whether this doggy care center is proper for my hungry dog.”

This will lead to the necessary amount of design supporting this Sprint’s features. The layout might modify the next Sprint, but rework is cheaper.

“Writing game rules.”

Downsides: not Independent, not small, lack of professional Value.

Improved: “I am new to the game and I want to understand the game rules.”

Improved: “As an opponent, I need a manner to jump my opponents.”

“I want a lively catalog.”

Downsides: dependent, big, not Worthy (as other features of the catalog are not known).

Improved: Use “lively” and other go-slicing necessities as acceptance criteria on all the precise functions in the backlog they practice. “As Product Owner, I am looking for exceptionally-rated eating places at the catalog.”

Downsides: It’s not just about you

Improved: Customers and all participants must be considered. “As an epicurean tourist, I am looking for exceptionally-rated eating places at the catalog.”

Improved: “As I am from the health department I give importance to restaurants that provide organic food preventing them from getting sick.”

A PBI, not a user story, will commence the discussion about minimizing the technical debt preserving the delivery of the new equivalent.

Who can write user stories?

The straight answer to the question is, anybody who understands the basics of user story can write a user story. The product owner is responsible for ensuring the product backlog is available for the agile user stories, yet that doesn’t imply that it is the product owner’s responsibility alone. Through the span of a decent agile venture, any team member will be versatile to write a user story illustration.

Additionally, understand that it is trivial to know who composes the user story but very much required to stress on who will be part of the discussions.

User stories are written during the agile project. Generally, a story-writing workshop is held at the start of the agile project. Everybody on the group takes part with the objective of making a product backlog that completely depicts the functionality to be included in the span of the project or a 3 to 6-month release cycle inside it. Some of the agile user stories will certainly be epics. Epics will later be disintegrated into smaller stories that fit into a single iteration. Moreover, new stories can be written and added to the product backlog at a later point in time and by anyone.

Are requirement documents replaced by user stories?

Scrum related agile projects use a product backlog, a prioritized list of the functionality to be developed. Though PBI can be as per the team desires, user stories have appeared as the best and most popular form of PBI. While a product backlog can be considered as a swap for the requirements report of a conventional project, it is important to recollect that the written part of an agile user story (“As a user, I need … “) is inadequate until the talks about that story happen. It’s frequently best to think about the written part as a pointer to the genuine requirements. User stories could indicate an outline delineating a work process, a spreadsheet demonstrating to play out a count, or some other antiquity the product owner or team wishes.

Benefits of User stories for requirements 

  • User stories act as a link between the user and the technical team letting them communicate without any clash. User stories capture the ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘why’ of a requirement in a simple, concise way in an agile software development.
  • User stories are designed in such a way that the development teams focus on customer needs
  • User stories serve as the driving force behind quickly bringing valuable and high-quality
  • Creating user stories is a great way of initiating discussion and bridging the communication gap between the client and the development team.

From client and business standpoint, the benefits that user stories provide

  • Creating user stories is easy at any level, even for clients with no software development experience at all can write them easily to convey their goals.
  • User stories are written by the “user”, this allows the development team to spend time with the user and understand the functionality that they want.
  • User stories are easy even for the remote development teams, they are simple enough that a freelance can easily be able to understand the end goals.
  • User story allows the development team to be creative in designing the product.
  • Faster and cheaper – Developing quality user stories through the project improves the project’s overall ROI by accelerating the delivery process.

User Stories Vs Use Cases

Independent from anyone else, user stories don’t give the subtle elements the group needs to do their work. The Scrum procedure empowers this detail to rise naturally (generally), expelling the need to compose utilize cases.

My standard answer to the question (are user story and user cases one and same?) is that user stories are balanced on the outcome and the advantage of the thing being described, on the other hand, use cases are grittier and describe how the system will act.

A user story is a short description written from the point of view of a person using your website or application and is written in the language that your customers would use. A user story is written using the format canonized by Mike Cohn: As an [actor] I want [to perform an action] so that [I can succeed].

A use case describes a set of interactions between a system and actors (where ‘actor’ refers to people, or other systems: for example, Online shoppers and PayPal both can be actors). Usually, they are created as documents and include information as mentioned

  • title
  • goal
  • user
  • preconditions
  • standard path (main success scenario)
  • alternate paths (extensions)
  • post conditions

Great detailed references on User stories and Use case

  1. Alistair Cockburn
  2. ExtremeProgramming.
  3. Andrew Stellman

User Stories Vs Requirements Statements

According to me User stories and requirement statements are completely different part of software development processes based on completely different sets of operating principles. As Jeff Patton says, in his book User Story Mapping, “Stories are not a way to write better requirements, but a way to establish and have better discussions.”

User stories are utilized as grapples in a procedure sorted by aggregate revelation, arrangement creation, and learning. This approach, grounded in continuous exchange, enormously enhances the chances of getting the need and ideal, achievable arrangement right. Subsequent shared comprehension is more key and finish than can ever completely – or gainfully – refined into documentation.

Requirements statements are a piece of a procedure described by an endeavor to do only that, catch the entire circumstance and desire in advance keeping in mind the end goal to by one means or another KNOW completely ahead of time, and maintain a strategic distance from all hazard. The composed word is the sacrosanct channel of correspondence, and conveyance of precisely and just what has been composed down is the gospel.

The table below attempts to review some of these ultimate differences:

User stories and Non-functional Requirements

Non-functional Requirements types

What is meant by non-functional requirement? Principally, non-functional requirements are connected to the abilities of the system across customer facing structures, similar to safety, consistency, and presentation. The term Non-functional is not appropriate as it echoes as if these requirements are insubstantial. Still, these requirements have an impact on the system function.

Whereas in functional requirement the qualities must be consistently present. The remaining terminology for non-functional requirements are “limitations”, “excellence features”, “excellence areas” and “excellence of service requirements” still it is named non-functional for our discussion.

NFR is grouped as:

  1. Execution qualities, like safety and usage, are observed during the project run.
  2. Abilities to test, maintain extension and stabilize are called the evolution qualities and these are personified in the inert assembly of the software system.

Both classes of NFR must be considered by the Agile teams and the same be ensured by:

Taking Accountability

The stakeholders must take the ownership to press the need for the NFR while asking for user stories and must not assume that it will be there by default. Such clear direction is required for the development team to efficiently build software that works fine in all phases of development and after delivery.

Famous quote by Dave Nicolette, “Most of the time development teams fail to accept the reality it is their responsibility to get all the requirements.”

An agile team should be more active while capturing the requirements. User stories are just not the fragmented requirement specifications. The development team must actively own the accountability for leveling NFR. The first step towards tip for catching NFR is to search for them!

Non-functional Requirements are considered from the Scratch

Agile teams look at architecture and design in a progressive manner. To identify the non-captured NFR in the user stories involve the technical team members including the technical architects, UED, and the ops team.

It takes a long time to build Software systems, but it is in use for a much more longer time. Invest time in understanding the user requirement by analyzing various real time scenarios. Get a hold on the working environment and user requirement clearly. Discuss the quality and durability during the initial stage of the planning.

Have a brainstorming to the discussion to assess the risk? As risks, can be eliminated by understanding and categorizing the NFR. This avoids any failures. Also, connecting NFR with the threats can help to assess the cost and hence work can be prioritized against the front ending features.

Non-Functional Requirements – Agile Using Stories

For an incremental release, the Agile team must work on NFR during their planning phase Some merits and demerits are mentioned below.

Many teams use a user story template like this: “As a <user role> I want <goal> so that <business value>”.

This approach is simple and self-explanatory making it easier to be understood by the layman. But the drawback in this type of short user stories is, the development team needs a detailed description about the requirement.

The benefit of handling NFR this way is, they are evident to stakeholders. At the same time, this is equally a disadvantage, if the business team looks at these requirements as optional.

Testing Matters

Identifying NFR involves a strenuous testing process and more time needs to be dedicated. Agile teams cannot rely upon manually testing that user stories are meeting the accepted acceptance criteria. Work towards automating the system to enable the test run to be conducted quite often.


Uncovering NFR cannot happen overnight and it can be started by taking accountability as the first step forward. NFR can be characterized as User Stories. This may help the team to notice the NFR and work accordingly.


  1. How to write effective use cases
  2. Art of writing Agile requirements
  3. Best book on User Stories

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