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How User Stories Help Shape Design at Continu

At Continu User Stories are a very important first step to defining any new product design we tackle.

User Stories are informal statements assigned to user types to perform functions and tasks within an application. They can be based on personas you have created or just user types such as an employee or admin as is our case for this article.

User Stories can:

Help Identify Use Cases

In the process of creating User Stories many use cases will reveal themselves to you from just blocking out the time and thinking about what basic tasks your users will do within the app.

Solve Business Problems

Just writing down a few user stories can lead to identifying business problems that you never even knew existed. Breaking the user tasks down to smaller bits allows you to identify more problems to solve for your users.

Present Design Challenges for You to Solve

You obviously have identified a large design problem when you set out to create your application. User Stories help you identify some of the smaller design challenges users will face within your application.

User Stories should be short, succinct and get right to the point, for example:

As an admin I would like to resurface previous candidates that fit my new job posting

Let's dissect this User Story and see what possibilities might come from it:

  • We will build functionality for admins to archive candidates and bring them back at another date for other positions (admin use case)
  • We should be able to help grow company's databases by archiving candidates to resurface at another time giving them more options in the future (business problem)
  • There is going to be an interesting user flow for an admin to recall older candidates from previous jobs within the application (design challenge)

Wow, all that from just writing down one User Story on a sticky note? I've been to 4-5 hour meetings that didn't even come close to an outcome like this.

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Getting Buy-in Early On

Getting your stakeholders & development teams in on these initial stages of product thinking is very valuable. For example, you can identify holes in the current technology, the availability of the team, etc. Identifying most of the use cases, business problems and design challenges up front allows everyone to get on board right away and start to plan for the future.

How to Tackle User Stories

Try to block out a good 3-4 hours with no distractions when tackling User Stories. Get a stack of yellow sticky notes (or paper, a notebook, digital, it doesn't matter) and just start writing down anything that would be valuable to the user around the product. Make sure you cover all your bases. I will usually end up with a stack of 30-50 sticky notes - these can then be culled down to focus on the most important stories to be presented to the team.

Taking a four hour chunk of time in the beginning of your product cycle to tackle some of these User Stories can save you time and money but most importantly, service your users.

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