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Soooo. User stories. You know stories. You’ve grown up with them. Like we all have. Stories and storytelling have a looong track record in human history.
But user stories? What’s that all about?
Well, let’s have a closer look at them. What they are, and why and how you use them in Agile development.
As the smallest unit of work in an Agile setting, user stories are a key tool in incremental development.
With user stories you put users at the center of the conversation around what to add to or change in a software product. They are the embodiment of the first principle behind the Agile Manifesto (emphasis mine):
There’s no need to add details such as requirements until you decide now’s the time to implement them. Apart perhaps from what Mike Cohn calls conditions of satisfaction with which a user can expand and explain concepts. You add other details as you get closer to implementing the story. For example, during the exploration phase in Behavior Driven Development (BDD).
Back in 2003 Bill Wake introduced the INVEST to help you remember the characteristics of a good user story:
With the user and the end goal clearly in mind, you work out the steps a user would need to take to achieve their goal.
Trying to figure out the first step forward to reach a goal is difficult. You simply have too many options to pick from and no way to choose one over the other.
The way out is to work backward from the goal.
Let’s say your goal is to enjoy a strawberry smoothie. So you start there: a finished strawberry smoothie, ready for you to enjoy.
What do you need for that? Well obviously a glass, a straw, a smoothie, and putting the things together.
User stories are high-level narratives lacking the details needed by developers and testers.
So, when a user story is coming up for implementation soon, you need to add the details that’ll keep everyone on track and prevent unnecessary (re)work.
Ron Jeffries came up with the 3Cs, 3 critical aspects, of working with and developing software starting with user stories
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