The Complete Guide to User Stories (+Examples)

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Meredith Smith
Meredith Smith



How do you create a product — be it a website, a software application, or even a marketing campaign — that will win the hearts (and minds) of the people whose problems you’re trying to solve?

people review user story examples

Enter: User stories. By looking at user story examples, you can see how they help stakeholders understand the end goals of a project, particularly the features and their importance. A user story keeps the needs of the users visible.

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Before we dive into user stories, let’s talk about agile project management so you have the lay of the land.

Table of Contents

What is a user story?

A user story is the smallest piece of your project management pie. It’s a straightforward, brief description of the feature from the perspective of the person who wants it. Therefore, the user story comes from the software user’s point of view. You can think of this piece as an actual goal you work toward with your teammates. This is something you want a user, visitor, or subscriber to be able to do with your project.

Some things to know about user stories:

  • It might be helpful to think about what a user story is not. A user story is not a feature, i.e., it’s not “blue buttons that match the branding.” A user story keeps the user in mind — i.e., “create accessible navigation so that Jill can find navigate our website.”
  • Your user stories are not always written with external customers in mind, either. Sometimes, they’re written for the sake of internal partners, managers, stakeholders, and key players. For example, if you’re building a
  • Regardless of who the story is for, user stories always push the project forward toward solutions for those customers.

User stories are just one facet of the Agile project management framework. Whether or not you’re using Scrum or Kanban, teams working in Agile can use user stories to plan the steps necessary to make their project a success.

The biggest draw of user stories for project managers is the ease of estimating the time a team needs to create a project. Why is that important? Put on your project manager hat for a second, and imagine you’re working in a pre-funding stage startup brand.

If you don’t know how long your project is going to take, what are you going to tell a potential investor? A story helps you sketch out the time estimated to get the job done, which is compelling for potential investors.

But beyond that, the biggest reason to write user stories is to gain a level of empathy. Here’s what we mean by that.

  • Empathy for the user. Writing a user story with the user in mind allows you to keep their needs top of mind. This ultimately ensures your team maintains focus on what matters most: Your customer, and therefore, business, need.
  • Empathy for the team. Project managers can use these stories to put themselves in the shoes of the people they manage. With time estimations and every step of the goal visible to stakeholders, managers can rest assured the entire team is on the same page.
  • Empathy for the managers. Likewise, user stories allow team members to gain greater empathy for managers. For instance, knowing that the manager worked with you to negotiate how long it will take to complete the user story could create empathy.

User stories written with empathy in mind can facilitate problem-solving, team-building, and creative thinking. You won’t wonder if you’re stepping on a team member’s or manager’s toes when everyone is working toward the same end goal.

What is an agile user story?

Agile is a software development, project management approach that puts the people first. Whether or not you are building a software application, you van use agile for your project. The key component to agile is to keep your users in perspective as you plan and spec out features. User stories are part of a successful agile approach.

If, for instance, you’re building an accountant website, you might start to spec what useful features users visiting your website would need. They might need to know how to contact the office, where to pay their invoice, or how to upload documents. ‘

Once you’ve identified the features you want to include,it’s time to outline the steps you’ll need to take to get there. With a team, you can divide and conquer the features to streamline the production process.

Are agile and scrum the same thing?

In short, no. Agile is the overall philosophy or project management style, while scrum is simply one toolset under the agile umbrella. There are multiple parts to a project even farther below the agile subheading, and it’s there where you’ll find terms like user stories, epics, and initiatives.

Speaking of epics, an epic is a big project under which all user stories that relate to that project. Think of it as a singular body of work that helps create a hierarchy in the development of a project.

When your project is a work in progress, your team has many moving parts to complete at any given time. The epic can help your team divide and conquer those segments of the project.

Some things to know about epics:

  • Epics, unlike user stories, can span multiple sprints. In fact, they probably should if you care at all reducing the likelihood your team will experience burnout.
  • These larger buckets are more generalized. They can be divided into sub-segments or, as we’ve noted above, user stories. Epics can be more difficult to write and summarize in ways that your team can understand and execute.
  • Epics do not always contain the actual steps needed to create the final project. Epics, by and large, are like the categories of a blog, whereas user stories could be seen as the tags.

How to Write a User Story

Now that you know what user stories are, let’s go over how to write one.

When writing your user stories, you can go as in-depth or be as broad as you would like. You can pause at any of these steps below and take time for research, user testing, and collaborating with stakeholders. Here are some musts when writing your user stories.

  1. Get to know your personas. Draw up a list, and check it twice.
  2. Consider actions they might take on your app, website, or project.
  3. Determine the need for this persona and whether or not they add business value.
  4. Spec out what it means for this user story to be completed and tossed into the “done” column.

The User Story Formula

A user story can be created with the formula persona + need + purpose. Here’s what a user story looks like in action:

[A Persona]

Think of the persona as the use case for the goal. They’re the main character of this story, and each persona will have a different reason for using your product. Ask yourself what this persona’s defining characteristics are.

By keeping them in mind, whether it’s Susan or Jerome, we show empathy as we drive the features and goals of the project to meet their needs.

[Wants to]

This is not the feature, but rather the persona’s intention behind why they use the feature the way they do and for what purpose. Don’t talk about the color of the button; talk about what the button offers.

[So That]

Think about what the end goal of the user is. It’s not “click the blue button.” It’s something bigger. Something that fits into their life and achieves a goal or solves a problem that they have daily.

There’s a reason that they will use your app, website, or whatever you’re building. Keep that in mind with your so that clause.

Use the INVEST Acronym

The “persona + wants to + so that” user story formula is just one such way to write a successful user story. In fact, you don’t have to use that formula for your user stories at all. There are several other methods to create successful user stories. One of them is often referred to as the ‘INVEST’ acronym.

If you’ve worked in agile development or taken any courses, you’ve probably already heard about the INVEST acronym. But in case you haven’t, here’s a refresher of what each letter stands for:

  • Independent. Your team can work on user stories simultaneously yet separately enough to not impact each other’s needs or timelines.
  • Negotiable. The team decides when and how to work on or implement the user story. It is not dictated by the end product.
  • Valuable. A user story must offer something worthwhile to the persona and should not simply be a time filler.
  • Estimable. Guessing the time to completion should be easy and quick
  • Small. The team should be able to complete a user story within a sprint.
  • Testable. It should be easy to understand when the user story is done through the QA process.

Defining the Completion Criteria

When you write a user story, you need to know when it’s done. That sounds easy, right? But what does “done” mean?

“Done” is up to the project manager and those planning the user stories. They can apply the criteria within the user story so that it’s visible to the team what the deciding factor should be for completing work. Think of the criteria in terms of the feature being built and the user story the roadmap you need to get there.

For instance:

  • A user can add a product to a shopping cart and complete checkout.
  • A user can add a review with photos of a product.
  • The product listing pages show an image carousel with a lightbox feature.

User Story Templates

Looking for a user story template to help streamline your user story creation process? We got you covered.

Smartsheet: User Story Templates

Try these free user story templates if your team happens to use Smartsheet to manage your projects

Image Source

Smartsheet is a project management tool that has quickly been adopted in the Agile software world. It provides free templates for building user stories that you can use inside the Smartsheet platform. User Story Templates

Find user story templates from the product management software team

Image Source is a product development software that you can use to manage your project’s roadmap and progress. They offer user story templates for creating user stories over on their blog that might prove helpful, whether or not you’re using the software itself.

JustinMind: User Story Examples and Inspiration

Get free user story templates from the Justinmind blog

Image Source

Justinmind, a resource for UX designers and developers with tools and apps, offers examples and templates that you can use to put together your own user stories. Check out their round-up for Excel spreadsheets, word docs, and more, along with examples to get your project management hat on straight.

User Story Examples

Here are some user story examples that might help you write your own. You can use this form/format to craft powerful user stories to help your team stay on track. Plus, here’s a user story template you can use.





Wants To:


So that:


Time to complete:

  • Sherry wants to buy a car so that she can take her kids to school.
  • Armin wants to invite his friends to share a ride to a party with him so that they can carpool.
  • Janet wants to find a skincare solution to support her skin as she ages.

User Story Examples

We hope this brief introduction to user stories helps you understand what they are, how to write them, and how to use them when developing your next website project. Plus, now you have user story examples to help you ideate your own.

Take inspiration from the user stories above to write your own – always think about what the customer needs to do on your website or application, and you’ll be on your way to developing a project with great empathy and success.

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Topics: User Experience

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