What Is User Story Mapping?

know what is user story mapping; A user story is a concise yet informal description of a software or product's capability

By Larissa Lopes
Updated on July 25, 2022
What Is User Story Mapping?

Know what is user story mapping; A user story is a concise yet informal description of a software or product’s capability, written from the perspective of the customer or end-user.

What Is User Story Mapping

It’s the background story of how a product feature will provide value to users, capturing the ‘what,’ ‘who,’ and ‘why’ of a product requirement.

In other words, there’s no better way to organize user stories than a user story map.

So during this quick round-up, we will talk about user story mapping, why it is essential when it should be built, and how we can use a user story mapping template.

After reading this, you will get a 360-degree view of user story mapping, including its core concepts and ‘how-tos’ so you can bring user stories to life in your projects.

What Is User Story Mapping?

User story mapping is a visual and planning exercise wherein product managers and their development teams put the entire framework of a feature development backlog into action. It’s like adding some order into their sequence of development with the help of user stories.

It also draws on user stories. This Kanban board-styled map outlines steps and sequences, representing a user persona’s journey towards providing a seamless experience.

To put it simply, product managers map out/visualize user stories. With this, they showcase the natural progression of tasks and steps in the product development cycle so they can accomplish them in sprints.

How does user story mapping work?

User story mapping starts with selecting the medium. For instance, you could go the traditional way, using a whiteboard, notes, and a marker.

Alternatively, you could go virtual using any available software tools. The latter may be helpful, especially for bigger/widely-distributed teams.

For a better idea, let’s examine how you can create one, regardless of the medium:

Step 1 – Define the problem

To start, frame the problem your product will solve for customers; or what job it helps them accomplish with your provided solution.

An example of a user story format is: (As a [type of user], I want to [act] so that [applied benefits]). This directly translates product interactions from a user’s perspective.

Step 2 – Define the target audience

Who is the target audience for the product/solution you’re providing?

There could be more than one. Hence, make sure you know the consumer/user mix, their goals, and methods of interacting with your product.

Step 3 – Map users’ activities to create a user story mapping

Users who interact with your product will likely go through a series of activities, also known as themes or functions.

Each activity represents a process. So, let’s look at the example of an e-commerce business; Here, the activities can be:

  • Signup
  • Product purchase
  • Product rating

Each of these activities (we call the backbone) has a story, which will then break down into smaller ones.

Step 4 – Make stories from activities

With the backbone in place, the team builds a skeleton of the map by breaking down these activities into smaller yet epic stories.

For example, add to the shopping cart interface under the product purchase, “As a shopper, I want to delete items in my cart.”

Then, show how a user might engage with the website to achieve that goal.

Step 5 – Prioritize the epic stories

Once solid themes and epic user stories are in place, it’s time to prioritize them. Then, rank them accordingly, starting from the one that can deliver the most value in the shortest time.

Then, teams start mapping how users flow through your product. The map should have stories for all possible scenarios for a product with various users.

Step 6 – Group stories into sprints & releases

Now, it’s time to turn the exercise into an executable working model, grouping prioritized stories into development sprints and product releases.

How helpful is user story mapping?

User story mapping is equally helpful for both product managers and their teams. Its benefits are:
It values users the most: Building stories from the user’s perspective makes the development process more user-friendly. The team knows how users interact with the product and accordingly facilitates those interactions.

  • It prioritizes your work: Since it offers a holistic view of the user experience, team members can easily decide on essential tasks and organize their work into sprints.
  • It highlights roadblocks: User story mapping reduces the chances of errors, risks, or problems, especially those that can’t be reversed easily.
  • Allows for on-spot improvement: A well-defined user story map helps the team dissect the process in iterations, getting the feedback earlier and making improvements before moving to the final phase.

Wrapping up

User story mapping is all about making user stories that will help you with the product development process, dissecting the mechanism into sprints and releases. Consequently, you can develop a minimum viable product (MVP).

The concept is simple and easy to grasp for someone with a basic understanding of user stories and natural progression.

The task gets more manageable if you know your users closely, understand their instincts and have the right tools at hand for prioritizing the created stories.

We hope this quick walk-through will help you define and organize your user stories into a map so you can understand your user personas’ journey.