Clear and effective user stories

You cannot escape the need for clear and effective software requirements.

Many user stories are just too vague and open to interpretation.

Whatโ€™s missing? All the context.

A well-defined user story should be accompanied by sufficient context for the implementer to make the right decisions without prescribing a solution.

Things to consider including alongside a user story, if appropriate, include:

  • Background information
  • Acceptance criteria
  • Alternative scenarios
  • Business rules
  • Error handling
  • Illustrations, UI mockups and designs
  • Research data and user feedback
  • Existing product features related to the story
  • Clear directions stating what technical approaches are acceptable
  • Assumptions, constraints, notes

Performance attributes and non-functional requirements for each story (eg. accessibility, interoperability, redundancy) should also be considered.

However, as performance attributes are usually defined for an overall product or product sub-system, it is best practice to define these centrally and reference them from the user stories.

Including technical details such as API endpoints and message schemas in a user story is a judgment call and should probably be included if they enhance the storyโ€™s readability.

If you are unhappy with your development team, they may need more detailed guidance.

Clear and effective software requirements can help with this.

Frank Ray Consulting. Software requirements for agile development teams, particularly remote, outsourced and offshore development teams working in financial services.

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