An Introduction to User Story Mapping

user story mapping

User story mapping is a key transformative technique in the product discovery process. It essentially allows UX designers to map out a new product, or, alternatively, a new feature of a current product. In a few simple steps, UX designers can embrace an improved, user-centric attitude to product design, and ultimately create an improved user experience

Benefits of user story mapping

A key benefit of user story mapping is visualization; it gives you a holistic and birds-eye view of your product, and therefore makes it easier to work methodically towards your goal. This technique lets you step into your user’s shoes and visualize how they interact with your product, so you can make improvements as needed. It also helps foster a valuable lean mindset as you’re free to ask key questions — such as, is a certain feature truly necessary? Or, is it possible to generate the same result with less output? As such, you’re in a better position to avoid overbuilding and achieve lean goals (like cutting down on the size of your release or the time it takes to bring the product to market, for example).

Clarifying your product’s scope

When you’re new to user story mapping, it may seem complicated to get to grips with, but, fortunately, tools are available to help with the process. Avion’s free user story mapping template, for example, makes it easy to visualize your products and map out user journeys. So, to begin, you need to determine your project’s scope to ensure it maintains a clear focus. For example, you may want to consider the ways a certain product feature adds value, or clarify the problem your product aims to solve. You’ll then be able to succinctly communicate your answer in story format (for instance, “as a user, I want to use filters to narrow my search results, so I find exactly what I’m looking for and fast”).

Next, you’ll build a step-wise, end-to-end-point map of the ways users interact with this feature. So, in keeping with the previous example: “search for products > read product details > make purchase”. And, these steps can then be broken down even further to accurately flesh out the story: “type request in search bar and generate results > scroll for desired information > filter results by price > scroll with updated results > choose product and add to cart > checkout”. 

Defining key actions 

You’re then ready to define the key actions involved in each activity with the aim of highlighting potential existing gaps in your product’s features. So, for example, when a user is actively choosing a product, they’ll also complete a number of smaller steps, such as, reading reviews and comparing similar products. Be sure to include these steps along with larger activity groups. Take time to also weigh up alternate options — for example, what other ways may the user navigate the page? Can anything interrupt their process at this stage? What might they get stuck on? 

Once you’ve completed the story, you’re then ready to create a list of tasks for each activity with the overall goal of creating a viable end-to-end user experience. Each list of tasks can then be segmented into a single “slice” complete with its own overall goal. By also including a method of measuring success with each slice, you can test and track user behavior later down the line. Once you’ve done this, you’ll be left with a smart plan of action to move forward with.

User story mapping is an effective way to develop a truly user-centric product. In just a few simple steps, you’ll be better positioned to create an exceptional product and user experience.

Cover Photo by Burst on Unsplash

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