Getting to grips with user stories

2 minute read

A ‘user story’ is a term used in agile software development. User stories are a way of pinning down what the team needs to do with a feature without telling them how to do it. That way, the boss knows she will get what she wants, but the team (with the expertise) will do it in the best way possible.It works really well for content because often you know the subject you need to write about but you don’t know the detail until you start writing. Using content user stories also means:

  • Your content plan is really focussed.
  • You can use it to collaborate with others, like people with sign-off or experts.
  • Your work is much more likely to be truly user-centred.

In short, using content user stories will keep you on track for exceptional content.

Writing user stories

A user story looks like this

As a…I want to…So that…

Then you fill in the details according to your audience and your product.

A couple of examples might be:

As a concerned environmental citizen... I want to know if Electricity Company A use fracking... So that I can contact them and tell them to stop

Or:

As a householder living near a proposed fracking site... I want to know what effect fracking has on nearby households... So that I can make a decision about moving home

You can see that keeping to these stories will give you very targeted pages - you will be answering a specific user need. This will help your audience find your information quickly and easily.It will also help your organisation because:

  • Each user need is specific, so if an update comes along, you should have to trawl through many pages updating the same thing - less cash will be spent on maintenance.
  • It’s faster for your organisation to get through approval/sign off. If you are only talking about what the user wants (based on evidence), you will take some of the emotion and opinion away from the argument. That makes for better working relationships.
  • You are all seeing the same task, it makes it easier and faster to work through - no more conversations about ethereal content that hasn’t been written yet.

Try it out on any new content - you can do this for one new piece or a whole new section. If you don’t have anything new lined up,  see if you can write these stories to your existing content. If you can’t, or the content doesn’t answer a story cleanly, get on with improving it!

Worksheet

User Journey Map

A tool to help you plan better content for your audience and map what users are thinking, feeling, and doing.

About the author

Sarah Richards

Founder of the content design movement, Sarah pioneered the standards during her 10-year career with the UK government.

As head of content design for the Government Digital Service (GDS), Sarah created and implemented the content strategy for the GOV.UK website.

After leaving GDS, Sarah took her knowledge and wrote the respected and highly popular Content Design – a book for anyone creating user-centred content.

She also launched Content Design London to provide training and consultation in content strategy and content design for governments, charities and organisations in the UK and worldwide.

Sarah is also a respected and in-demand speaker and shares her expertise to audiences at conferences, meet-ups and events globally.

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