User stories

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Requirements analysis in agile projects. The “user story” is a particular format:

As a ROLE, I want GOAL so that REASON.

  • Fill in the three placeholders (all-caps) – they basically cover the WHO, WHAT, and WHY.
  • Some specific examples for a photo management application:
    • As an amateur photographer, I want to organize photos into collections so that I can browse easily.
    • As a professional photographer, I want to adjust color reproduction and white balance so that I can prepare photos for optimal quality.
    • As an amateur photographer, I want to crop pictures to different dimensions so I can frame the content appropriately or prepare for print to a particular size.
      • Condition: Cropping feature should have selectable aspect ratios, including 4×6, 5×7, 8×10, HD (1920×1080), square (1×1).
    • Example: As an instagram user, I want to upload selected photos to instagram so I can become famous.
  • Write them on cards (paper or digital)
  • More detail can be added either by splitting one story into several, or by adding “acceptance conditions” beneath them, carrying details or criteria.
  • Sometimes in documenting requirements/stories, simple words carry very precise meanings:
    • want vs need
    • must vs may vs shall vs will

Organizing user stories

  • Group by user role
  • Prioritize just by ordering the cards.
  • Tracking progress on each story can be done as a “kanban” board.
  • Columns in the kanban can represent various stages of completeness.


Figure 1: from 31 Kanban Board Examples for Different Teams on

The “backlog”

  • Backlog = a pipeline of prioritized stories to be implemented.
  • Undertake a “sprint” - a short iteration (2-4 weeks)
  • Select some number of stories from the backlog to accomplish during current sprint.
  • Two roles provide competing pressure on how much to undertake in a sprint.
    • “Product owner” will prioritize the stories, wants to get as much done as fast as possible.
    • “Project manager” will decide how many for each sprint, and/or max # tasks/stories that can appear in each column of kanban board.
  • Also, the analogy of “pigs vs chickens” for those roles that are “committed” vs merely “involved”.