User Stories - Yes, You Need Them!

We’re often approached by potential clients asking how much their app idea would cost to build, except they don’t have wireframes or anything for that matter besides the ideas in their heads. Approaching a developer asking how long and how much for the idea in my head to become a reality, without any real due diligence or architecting, is like approaching a contractor and asking how much the dream house I have in my head is going to cost me and how long is it going to take to build. It’s very difficult to take questions like these seriously. At Alkami we totally empathize with the soon-to-be tech entrepreneur. Two of the best ways to mock-up something a developer could understand are wireframing and user stories. We’ve covered wireframing in an earlier post, it’s great and really gets across what you want. Wireframing could be a little time consuming, and potentially costly if you want to pay someone else to do it, depending on the scope of your app. User stories are super fast and easy to create, and they really help you as a founder solidify how your clients are going to be using your app.

A user story is a tool used in Agile software development to capture a description of a software feature from an end-user perspective. The user story describes the type of user, what they want and why. A user story helps to create a simplified description of a requirement. So a user story basically describes how a user/customer would you a particular feature in your app. All of your user stories combined should paint a pretty accurate picture of your application.


Enough explaining! Using the user story template in the image above, let’s write a few user stories for a news app we would like to create:

As a non-registered user, I want to be able to register, so that I can view the entire article I was reading.

As a registered user, I want to change my email preferences, so that I can receive the ‘story of the day’ in my mailbox without visiting the site.

As a premium user, I want to be able to customize my dashboard page, so that I don’t see sports related articles.

Notice how much information this provides to a developer or anyone really about the features you want your app to have! In just 3 short sentences you conveyed so much. In the first, you specified that you want your app to authenticate(register,login, logout) users, and that not authenticated users will not be able to read entire articles. In the second, you specified that your app will be able to send out emails; adding email functionality to the list along with ‘story-of-the-day’ designation(what determines this designation? surely it’s not random). In the third, you specified that your app will have different types/levels of users each one having different permissions; premium user having the ability to customize/manipulate their dashboard view by showing and hiding content.

Check out how much valuable information just 3 short sentences has provided, now imagine if you create 100 user stories which really shouldn’t take you longer than a few hours to put together. Also, the cool thing about user stories is they don’t only help developers understand what you would like to build, it helps you understand what your customers are going to be doing with your product/service. The more user stories you write the more you begin to understand what you’re trying to build, you begin to think like a developer thinks. Very rarely does a developer just build something without considering the end user experience, this is why UX(user experience) is such a hot field to be working in. Usually in house designers create user stories along with wire-frames before any coding actually takes place; architects have to create a blueprint for a house before the contractors even come into the picture. In the beginning, you’re the visionary you’re the designer. You don’t want to take the time learning PhotoShop so you can create a visual wireframe for your app? Totally understandable! But not having at least 50 user stories for your app? Totally NOT understandable in fact difficult to take seriously.