What is user story mapping
User story mapping is a technique applied by product managers and development teams to plan product features that will enable the most delightful user experience. First introduced by software leader Jeff Patton, this visual exercise allows envisioning a product or service as a series of activities or tasks that the users perform.
User story mapping suggests building a detailed grid of user stories arranged under the headings that reflect an outline of the users’ interactions with the product. This enables assessing which steps are perceived as the most valuable by the users, and prioritize what features to build next.
When to do user story mapping
User Story Mapping is a useful exercise for product teams that helps them improve understanding of the product’s representative users, define what features will result in the optimal user experience, and prioritize work based on this knowledge.
User Story mapping allows keeping the end users and what they do with your product front and center in the development efforts, to deliver the product they will love. Giving a holistic view of user experience, it allows to prioritize work into sprints or releases, and highlight any potential roadblocks in the product delivery early enough. It also allows for constant product improvement, as user feedback can be collected earlier throughout the development process.
How to do user story mapping
Ideally, start in a group and decide how to arrange your mapping efforts, e.g. you can use a large whiteboard and post-it notes or – as we suggest – fill in a ready on-line template. Feel free to apply the template we offer and take the simple steps below that will guide you through the mapping exercise.
1. Define your users
Have the data and insights related to your primary audience (audiences) at hand, as well as any past results of similar activities and findings of the industry research. Identify the key user segments you want to have covered. You can use the results gained from focus groups or A/B tests, to learn what users do while interacting with your product.
2. Nail down the problem
Keeping a user-first mindset, brainstorm and capture the problem that your product helps to solve, delivering the most value to users. Try to think using this framework: “As a user, I want to [the action], so that [the benefit] happens.”
3. Map user activities
Start by capturing an outline of subsequent activities that make up the users’ journey while moving through your product. They should be relatively broad, e.g. “Manage email”, “Manage calendar”, “Manage contacts” in our example; as more specific user stories will make up steps behind each activity.
4. Map user stories under activities
Then, arrange a series of user stories under each activity, to create a larger customer journey, e.g. in the example below, under the user activity “Manage email” a user story might include a task “Search email”, which in its turn includes a number of other actions, e.g. filtering or editing the search results to clarify, etc. Try to keep the description of user activities and related user stories short enough for convenience.
5. Prioritize user stories
Rank the stories vertically based on their relevance for the positive customer journey experience, from the most important to the least important ones. This is also a good time to define any missing data or bottlenecks that may slow down production – to identify timely solutions and workarounds.
6. Plan the sprint
Once the mapping work has been done, move to project planning. After the user activities and stories have been prioritized, they can be batched into sprints, with the explanation of how the story should be completed, and a specific team member assigned to be in charge of each piece of the user story map.