What is a user story?

Considering the people who are using your website

We reference user stories all of the time – in our blog posts, our case studies, and probably in about 75% of our conversations in the office. But what exactly is a user story?

User story: A user story is an informal perspective of an end-user that includes a type of user, what they want and why. User stories help to inform simplified requirements.

We stand strongly behind the belief that everything you do on your website should always tie back to a user story. When we’re determining information architecture, creating content, designing, or developing, we’re always thinking about the people who will actually be using a website. Every decision we make should have purpose and research to back it up.

User stories workshop

We gather our user stories during a workshop with the whole project team, because everyone has something to bring to the table. It’s important to get as much detail in the beginning of the project so we can make sure we’ve considered everyone as we move through to implementation. That being said, you will find that user stories continue to arise throughout a website project and well after launch. As we learn more about your customers, we learn more about what they need, which is how and why a website continues to grow and change.

An example

Here is what a user story for an online customer might look like:

I want to sign-up for a subscription so I can automatically receive products every month

This simple approach is powerful when applied to every action and outcome for all users of your system. You might consider users like: retail customers, wholesale customers, support staff, accountants, marketing staff, fulfillment staff, partners, and more. Every business has a different set of users so it’s important to think about all of them in your context. Then, write one clear statement for every action and outcome they need the system to handle.

Mapping user stories

Once we’ve determined the user stories, we map out all of the ways we will fulfill their needs, from core Shopify features and configuration to custom development. For the above example, we would likely include a Shopify recurring orders app like Bold’s Recurring Orders & Subscription Box App so customers can sign-up for subscription packages on specific products. We may even include some workflow if several different employees would be involved in managing subscriptions.

Once the mapping is complete, we have a good understanding of the content that needs to be created, apps to consider, necessary integrations, and features we will need to include in the Shopify theme. In other words, we have the strong beginnings of a plan for implementation, and a document that we can reference for all of our decisions moving forward.

Be cautious of trends

People often have a wishlist of things they’ve seen on a competitor’s or role model’s website that they want to include on their own. If we can tie them back to a user story, these can be something to consider. However, we are very careful to make sure we don’t implement features solely based on trends. If there is no real user story to tie it back to, or research from analytics to support it, we risk implementing components that could negatively impact our customers’ experiences. Try to keep in mind that trends will fade but if you make sure you’re always considering all of your users, your website will outlast them.