All posts

When to Leave User Stories Behind

The best way to kick off and grow a startup is to guide the product's roadmap towards the user's problems and challenges. However, as we talked about a few days ago, once you're in a mature market full of competitors that offer a similar solution, things change. You need to go beyond the obvious answers, and that happens only when you change how your product is built, and that starts with user stories.

A user story is a concept that was born with the best of intentions. Its purpose was to help the team feel the pain the user feels. Unfortunately, more common than not, a user story is just a disguised feature request. It hardly reveals what's the problem to be solved, why it is important, and how the team will know if that feature added any value at all.

You can't structure your product's backlog around thin air like this. It would be best if you had something more. That's where job stories are useful.

A job story brings to the equation three aspects:

a) Functional: user goal, where, when, why a feature should exist and what is success

b) Emotional: the feelings the user wants to avoid, eliminate or reinforce

c) Social: how does mitigation or reinforcement of the feelings above impact the user status and their relationship with friends, family, or coworkers

A framing like this changes everything. Just compare:

User story:

"As a user, I want my projects to be auto-saved."

Job story:

"[functional] After a long day, I don't want to waste hours of work, miss deadlines, or lose clients because something unexpected happened. So, I want the system to auto-save my projects. [emotional] When working on a project, I need to feel confident that I'll deliver on time, so I don't let my clients down. [social] When reviewing a project with a client, this will help me present my self as a reliable partner and increase my chances of keeping and expanding that contract."

Thinking this way removes several barriers. It makes you think about the ecosystem surrounding the problem. It allows your team to visualize the use cases in a rich context. That's the key to go beyond functional requests.

The caveat is that you can't formulate something like this without talking to your customers. In the next blog post, we'll show you how to conduct user interviews that enable job story creation.