What Is a User Story?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

A user story is a short and simple description of who the user (of a product or service) is, what they want, and why.

[Featured image] A UX designer maps out a user story with sticky notes on a window.

A user story is a concise, informal sentence written from the perspective of an end user or customer, used to inform design decisions. Used often in user experience (UX) design and product development, user stories (also called scenarios or user cases) highlight a user problem or need so that software developers can determine which features to prioritize and build into a product. 

User stories are informal, natural language descriptions of tasks, features, and other aesthetic elements. They are used in Agile software development to inform the team exactly what users want from the product. They tend to be written in the first person, in the format of “persona” (who), “need” (what), and “purpose” (why). 

These are two examples of user stories, one that is more general and one that details their specific pain points while using a service platform.

  • “As a student, I want to be able to access foreign language courses online so that I can be prepared for studying or working abroad in the future.”

  • “As a manager, I want to be able to provide and receive anonymous feedback for all colleagues in addition to quarterly check-ins with my team through the HR system so that I can understand my strengths and weaknesses.”

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