Don’t use the Formal User Story Format for Minor Modifications

Kim Daubney asked what to do when the story isn’t a new requirement but a UI change. Kim wanted to know if the “as a, i want, so that” format is still required? Short answer is “no”.

As I’ve said before the User Story format should not be a straight jacket. There are two important things about User Stories:

  • The focus on users
  • They are a place holder for a conversation

In contrast the formal format – “As a … I want to … so that …” – is not one of the important things about a User Story. This format does encourage a focus on users – which is a good thing – but has the downside of being verbose. Personally I favour short names, which can also focus on users, but, being shorter, make more convenient place holders for conversation.

Even when we are talking about a user facing functionality, I won’t use the formal format when in maintenance mode and only a tweak to existing functionality is proposed. Use whatever works. For example, “80 Character Name Field” as a user story name might be sufficient; you might not need the formal “As a new customer I want to type in a 80 character surname so that I can I use my full non-English name”.

This post is part of my What do I do When … ? series. Please drop me a line or add a comment if you’ve got a question you’d like answered.