Let's talk about people instead of 'users'

Typically, User Stories are associated with Agile/SCRUM product development methods - but let's get real. It's all about people1. I would argue that much of the way we think about user stories is actually counter productive.

I'll be the first to admit that the approach of interviewing project stakeholders in order to find their pain points, their needs and their desires is a hugely valuable process. In the simplest terms2, we are discovering problems that need to be solved - the heart of invention. We then boil down these human experiences into atomic units -- user stories. Or rather, we ask users to boil them down for us.

User is a four letter word

One of the first and most important things about user stories - or so you may have been told - is that the stakeholders need to write them.

The above example is totally obvious. Yes, getting this piece of information to the development team is important but as a product designer - I want to know more about this person.

In fact, there are a number of methods for user story collection that are just absolute garbage. Why?

User Stories don't pass the Turing Test

Here is the recommended format for any user story:

As a user, I want something so that I can get something.

Sorry, but anything fitting that format could be accomplished with some solid machine learning and heuristic analysis of the marketplace.

  1. This is the footnote one

  2. This is the second footnote