What is User Story Mapping

by StarAgile

May 20, 2020
Category Agile and Scrum

We all love to hear stories right from childhood. Listening to stories allow us to understand things better. We can relate to any heavy subject through a story. The narratives break boredom and also make us involved in the activity. Assume you have a theory class that will last for one hour full of definitions, lectures, and concepts. At the end of the session, you understand nothing but loaded with information. On the other hand, the same session containing examples, real-time stories, and details will make the entire class live. It will be easy to grasp any difficult concept. 

Newton’s third law states – Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. The story that all of you will recall is the bouncing ball example. How simple will life become when we can relate things to the story. This model is even successful in agile methodology. 

We call it user story mapping in product development and let us see what it is, how to use, and all other details about it. 

What is User story mapping?

Let us understand in layperson’s term. The customer whom we call an end-user in product development will explain their need to the product owner. The PO will document the requirement and with the customer’s approval, they start working with the team to build the product. The product owner will make a list of all the approved features and prioritize the product backlog. Then the team will pick the backlogs to start working based on the sprint length, etc. 

Few questions before we move forward 

  • Is this a foolproof method? 
  • Are we done once and for all? 
  • Will the end product be perfect as expected by the client? 

Well, the answer may be YES or NO. It is because the user expectation might change over a period, the team might suggest modification based on their experience with the product as and when they build it. Likewise, there could be many other factors that influence the end product. 

Hence it is not possible to do a onetime work of prioritizing the backlogs and start working on them in the order. There will be changes at any given point. It is important to keep things flexible. This can happen only when a larger structure is created allowing space for modifications, inclusion, and deletion of backlogs. 

User story mapping plays a role in this. The way the story of the user is mapped is called user story mapping. The requirement of the end-user is called the story here or technically the features are called a user story. A user story is a tool that will detail who the user is? What their requirement is?  Keeping this as a background a mapping is done to allow modifications.

User story mapping – the positive side?

1. The process of breaking down the entire product vision into smaller chunks called actionable items for prioritizing them is called user story mapping. This will certainly help in managing the backlogs with a detailed overview by leveling the structure. 

2. Visualizing the requirement becomes easy and customers will be the center of focus. 

3. An understanding is created in a shared manner by involving all in one place. It is a collective approach and there is nothing forced on anyone. The team will understand the priority of the backlog and will provide its fullest efforts to build the right product. 

4. This map will present the customer journey holistically and hence creating a detailed project delivery is possible. The user story mapping of larger requirements also can be made simple as the map will contain the basic structure describing the larger picture and tasks showing the features broken down into small portions.  

Steps involved in user story mapping 

It is important to follow certain steps to map the user stories correctly to reap all the benefits explained above. 

Problem Definition

The product to be developed is designed to solve a problem for the users. Therefore the key to start the development is to understand what problem the product solves. How will it solve and how effective it is than the others. It is mandatory to think from this perspective as every product is designed keeping a goal in mind. 

Know the User 

In general, you will know the purpose of the product and now you need to narrow down to know who the user will be. Why do they need the product? Yes, the same product will have multiple uses based on the user. For instance, an android phone to a student and a mom differs. They both use it for different purposes. Thus know the user for whom you will make the product. 

Activity mapping 

Map all the work that the user will carry out with the product you developed. We call this application. Take a list of all activities and map them to the respective end-user community. 

User story mapping

Pick the stories and now assign them to the activities. It is like making a list down feature in excel. Map user stories with activities. 

Prioritize the flow

Finally, rank the stories and prioritize them keeping the critical ones in the top and move downward. A checklist will contain the most important task as number one. 


Go back to check if there are any gap and dependencies which you missed to address. Find a corrective action and confirm the mapping, 

Sprint planning and release 

Now call the team and display the user story mapping to plan the sprint and release timelines. 

User story mapping – Challenges 

There will be some challenges in every method and there is no exception as well. There are few and thus we rely on a tool to overcome these issues. 

  • It is not always possible to know the user. Even if we know them it is difficult to understand the needs as it is always dynamic. 
  • When the customer is not known it will lead to confusion in identifying their problem.
  • In an uncertain condition, mapping becomes tough. It may not be perfect as well resulting in a product developed but not meeting customer expectations. 

Benefits of using a user story mapping tool 

  • It can handle the requirement of any size and offer a leveled structure 
  • The systematic approach of dividing task, activities, epics and user stories are quick and accurate 
  • Allows rework with minimal efforts 
  • Changing the priority based on customer need time to time is possible without wasting much time. 

In short, it is cost-effective, time-saving, and provides accurate results for product development. 

We would like to bring to your notice about the best tools available that will transform your life. They are FeatureMap, StoriesOnBoard, JIRA, Trello, MIRO, CardBoard, etc. Tools are many but their functions remain one and that is to ease the mapping process for creating the best product. 

Closure with a beginning 

We understand your need and hence recommend you to attend Scrum Product Owner Certification and know the right way to understand your user, their story (requirement) to map them correctly. User story mapping is not rocket science but you need some practice. Get trained to gain practical exposure in story mapping and using the tools for better results.