User story mapping is a visual exercise that helps product managers and software development teams define the work that will create the most delightful user experience. Software leader Jeff Patton is often credited with having developed and shared extensive knowledge around user story mapping. For agile teams, it provides an alternative to building a flat list of backlog items.
Before we go too far into user story mapping, let us briefly recall what a user story is. User stories communicate requirements from the perspective of user value—to validate and build shared understanding of the steps to create a product. Below is what is understood to be the user story format:
As a [type of user], I want to [action] so that [benefit].
Creating a user story map starts with framing the problem. After that, there are several steps an organization or team may wish to consider before planning sprints or product releases. Below is the suggested path:
Frame the Problem
Understand the Product’s users
Map user activities
Map user stories under activities
Flow and prioritize
Identify gaps, dependencies, technical requirements, and alternatives.
Plan sprints and releases
All steps are recommended. Each step of this user story mapping exercise gets the team one step closer to planning a successful sprint or product release. The flow and prioritize step is when the team arranges user stories into a vertical ranking with the most important user stories on top. When this prioritization is taking place, team members must remember the focus is not to create a minimum viable product but a delightful user experience.