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Writing User Stories

Communicating product requirements to your development team

Ryan Harper

The art of user story writing is a foundational element of the product manager’s skill set. In this three-hour course, you’ll get hands-on experience writing clear and concise user stories that effectively communicate product requirements in the form of acceptance criteria to a development team. You’ll also learn strategies for prioritizing user stories and discover how to measure the success of launched features.

What you'll learn-and how you can apply it

By the end of this live, online course, you’ll understand:

  • How to present prioritized features to stakeholders
  • How to release new product features and gather feedback on their performance

And you’ll be able to:

  • Write clear and concise user stories and communicate requirements to developers

This training course is for you because...

  • You’re a product manager looking to improve your facility with crafting and shipping features in an Agile environment.
  • You’re a designer or project manager interested in learning more about how to communicate requirements to developers, manage stakeholder expectations, or measure the success of new features.

Prerequisites

  • A basic understanding of Agile development processes (useful but not required)

Recommended preparation:

The Agile Manifesto (online statement)

Learning Agile (book)

Product Management in Practice (book)

Scrum Fundamentals (video)

Recommended follow-up materials:

Storytelling Is Product Management” (podcast episode)

The Build Trap Is Product Management” (podcast episode)

About your instructor

  • Ryan Harper is a Senior Product Manager at Condé Nast Entertainment, a division of Condé Nast that supports the video initiatives of brands such as The New Yorker, Vogue, Pitchfork, and Wired in addition to a standalone video site and iOS app, The Scene. Previously, Ryan was a product manager at iHeartMedia where he led releases of the iHeartRadio Android app as well as cross-platform initiatives involving recommendations, search, and social media. Earlier in his career, he co-founded the music distribution startup newquill, Inc. and developed iOS and Android apps for DirecTV, LACMA, and WebMD.

Schedule

The timeframes are only estimates and may vary according to how the class is progressing

Introduction to writing user stories (5 minutes)

  • Lecture: A brief introduction to the course; a summary of the role user stories play in product development

Why and how to write user stories (55 minutes)

  • Lecture: How user stories allow product managers to clearly communicate feature requirements to software engineers; how to write a user story and acceptance criteria; the importance of empathy in product development; an exploration of example user stories to illustrate existing products and features
  • Hands-on exercise: Write a user story and acceptance criteria for how search results should be returned in Google Image search and submit your user story for review; using feedback from the first round, write a new user story and acceptance criteria for how search results should be filtered in Google Image search and submit for review

Break (10 minutes)

Scheduling user stories (50 minutes)

  • Lecture: How to prioritize features for development; setting key performance indicators (KPIs) and conducting SWOT analyses to gain stakeholder buy-in
  • Hands-on exercise: Conduct a SWOT analysis of a chosen product and share your results for review; in an in-class discussion, explain how you defined your market, what strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats you identified, and what results could affect what features you choose to prioritize

Break (10 minutes)

Testing and releasing user stories (40 minutes)

  • Lecture: How to work with a development team to thoroughly test features before they are released to users; how to evaluate the success of a feature after release to determine if it can be kept as-is or needs to be updated; the fundamentals of A/B testing, gathering metrics, and eliciting qualitative feedback from users
  • Hands-on exercise: Returning to the Google Image search example, identify three to five ways to evaluate the ability of the product to return relevant search results and ways to gather both quantitative and qualitative feedback and share for review

Wrap-up and Q&A (20 minutes)