A Guide to Creating User Story Maps

What’s a User Story Map

When we start a project we can potentially be faced with 100’s of requirements. It can be difficult to grasp where to start.

To help with this Jeff Patton invented story mapping as a way to visualise user stories. The story maps help you reach a visual and prioritised product backlog.    

Rather than writing a dull requirements document, story mapping is an engaging activity.  It’s an opportunity for the team to come together to tell a story about a type of person doing something to reach a goal.

The story maps work best when you base them on user research.  This way you know your requirements are grounded in reality.

An Example User Story Map

Example Experience Map

A User Story Map is essentially arranging small things under big things in a grid format.  To explore this in more detail let’s look at an example User Story Map for an e-commerce site.

Row one – Users:

The person who is trying to do something.  Base these on personas created from user research.

If we were building an e-commerce website this might be a ‘First-time Customer’.

Row two – Activities:

An activity is a big thing that people do – something that has lots of steps to reach a goal. Use the activity for the ‘So that I’ part of a user story.

Thinking about an e-commerce website, a big thing our first-time customer might want to do is ‘Find a Product’.

Row three – Backbone:

These are the smaller task that breakdown the user’s activity.  Arrange the backbone in a narrative flow. Think of a user’s journey through the system.

When finding a product a smaller task our first-time customer carries out could be ‘Searching for a Product’.

Row four – Users Tasks:

This is a breakdown of the things people do to achieve the backbone task.  Use the user task for the ‘I want to’ part of a user story.  At this level, it’s okay to start including details of what the UI might look like.

In order to achieve the backbone task of ‘Searching for a Product’ our first-time customer could ‘Search by Keyword’.

Creating A User Story Map

Back Bone

  1. The first step to creating a user story map is to create the backbone row.  To do this gather the major user task that people do.  This is best done as a team with each member writing one task per post it.  
  2. When you’ve finished arranging the task in a row group the post it notes.  Place tasks that are similar to each other close together.  If tasks are dissimilar to each other place them further apart.

Activities

  1. To form the activities row name each group you have created using a post it. Place the group name above each group.
  2. Arrange the groups from left to right. Do this in the order you think people would complete the task.

Users

  1. Add the user who will be carrying out each activity. Try using lightweight persona to describe your users.  Place these above each activity.

User Task

  1. Add more detailed user stories below each task.  Again, this works well in a team, with each team member writing one task per post it note.  
  2. Add release lines.
  3. Prioritise your user stories.  Place the most important user stories near the top in the first releases.  Place the least important user stories nearer the bottom in the later release.