User stories within the scrum framework, a variation of Agile software development, describe the items needed for the product development team's backlog or feature list. The team will refer to the user stories on the top of the backlog during the upcoming work-block of two-to-four weeks (called a sprint). Members of the scrum (a cross-functional development team) meet beforehand to write, submit and select user stories. Here are five tips on how to write user stories for use in Agile development.
- Pick a flexible method for writing user stories.
User stories appear on a spread sheet, consist of a collection of index cards or sticky notes, or are written down in other ways. Regardless of the form they take, user stories are key to producing the backlog features that will be addressed during a sprint. Choose a form that best suits the personality of your group.
- Keep the customer in mind.
One characteristic that describes a user story is that it is customer-focused. The scrum team's goal is to decide how to deliver those designated features at the top of the backlog in a way that best serves the customer's needs.
- Remember that it's a collaborative effort.
When team members come together in a scrum, they have already committed to collaborating, trusting one another's judgement, and holding each other accountable. These factors come into play even before the sprint begins, when the user stories are being selected. Like all aspects of the process, reviewing the user stories involves feedback, inspection and adaptation. For this reason, some scrum teams use index cards or sticky notes instead of a spread sheet. They then place the items on a table, wall or other surface where everyone reviews them.
Determine the order in which the user stories appear in the backlog. Whether you use numbers or the terms "high," "medium" or "low," as a group, you'll decide which items come first, second, etc.
Within the Agile framework, a user story is two-to-three sentences. Longer narratives are called epics, and include descriptions of multiple features that must be broken down into individual stories. Remember that each user story is small enough to consist of an item or function that, when completed, gets the team closer to "done."
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