User Story Mapping For Beginners

User Story Mapping for beginners
Last Updated: October 15, 2018

User Story Mapping allows for product managers, developers and designers to put a strategy behind the continuous complexity of product design and creating an awesome User Experience (UX). The technique was originally introduced by Jeff Patton (Product Design Coach) as a shift from thinking about features to users and their needs. The power of telling stories is a great way to make sure your team has a shared understanding of what to build and why. In addition, User Story Mapping provides a much better visual than a flat product backlog.

So, why do we do User Story Maps? The truth is we tend to over-build too many features for our products. What’s worse is that we may not understand why we are building it and who we are building it for.  When we build a user story map, we do it as a team, defining user goals and tell stories to make sure the entire team is on the same page. Without this process, teams just pull the next ticket from the backlog not understanding the bigger picture.

How do I build a User Story Map? The first couple of times may be a bit of a challenge, but it does get easier as you understand and you start to see results.  Seeing team understanding what they are building and who they are building it for is a good first measure for success.  Below, we’ll take you through the steps of building a user story map.

Step 1 – Understand your users and their goals

To begin, you draw in on users and the actions they do in order to achieve a their goals. You really need to put yourself in their shoes.  You can do this several ways. Include the voice of the customer (e.g. Product Manager), do interviews and/or build personas.  Create a summary for the goals the user achieves by using your product. For each goal identified, write it on a card, and arrange the cards in logical timeline for which they occur first.
For an example, if a user wanted to purchase a pair of shoes their goals would be:
“find a retailer, find shoes, choose shoes, purchase shoes.”

This can be broken down even further for a specific user and their goal can be to “find basketball shoes”, “choose the best shoes”, “purchase least expensive shoes.”

Story Mapping Goals

Step 2 – Detail the user’s steps to achieve their goal

Once the goals are defined, then focus in on detailing the user’s journey by adding activities. Each step the user takes to accomplish the goals are posted under the goals. This provides a visual to understand the pieces that attribute to completing a goal and moving on to the next. For example, to find a retailer, a user will first open their search engine, select a retailer among the results, then begin the process of shoe hunting on the selected site.

Step 3 – Add in some design and define the user stories

You have understood and defined goals, you detailed the user’s journey. What’s next? Creating solutions. Once the discovery phase has concluded you now move into the design phase. As a user you have a specific goal. To achieve it, there are steps you must take.

To break it down, a user seeking new shoes wants to find a reliable retailer to purchase a pair of basketball shoes. They could be looking for discounts, a specific brand, and a certain size.
With different user types (personas), you must be prepared to handle the needs of the various personas. The team works together to identify the detailed user stories underneath the activities. Check it out:

Introduction to user story mapping

Step 4 -Prioritize to get the most value

The User Story Map can fill up quickly with ideas, which means more work for a team. It is important to note that different tasks, or user stories, have a different level of priority. Certain tasks (user stories) are more crucial to the success of the product, others add support, but may not be the most important pieces required to releasing a product.

Example User Story Map

Step 5 – Release often and in slices

In the world of fast pace, ever changing demand, it is important to identify what is the smallest working product that can be released as quick as possible. Meaning, of the features listed, how many can be added, and more importantly removed and still have a marketable product. In the startup community, we call it the Minimum Viable Product (MVP). With time and financial constraints it becomes extremely difficult to choose which pieces must be left out in each release. However, focusing on the most common and easiest to develop tasks it allows developers and designers to prioritize and key in on what matters most initially in a user’s journey.

The rest of the tasks (user stories) pushed into backlog and may be developed as time passes. Tasks (user stories) are separated by horizontal lines between cards that show a different release over a period of time. Schedules and time estimates can be added to better understand the timeline of the product and its life cycle. Providing a better estimate of potential costs and time.

User Story Map MVP

Step 6 – Continuously Improve

As your product and business grows the opportunity to utilize USM will also increase. Each time you navigate through the process there will be hiccups within the creation of the product and lessons learned. Improve upon what you learned and repeat the USM process.

By using USM it will pay huge dividends and lead to growth in your product and business. Each time you navigate through the process you will learn and feed that learning back into the next iteration.

When you do USM, you can expect the following outcomes:
• Better Product by better understanding your users
• Quicker to market by not overbuilding unnecessary features
• Reduction in costs by not wasting time on non-value add activities

Hope you found this introduction to user story mapping helpful.

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