User Stories Must Die

I knew the traditional Agile user story was lifeless and disconnected from the real world long before I could articulate why. Then I came across Alan Klement’s post on replacing user stories with Job Stories, which builds on top of the Jobs-to-be-Done framework.

Instead of the usual “As a / I want / so that” structure, a Job Story looks like this:

  • When [I’m in a certain situation]
  • I want to [take some action]
  • so I can [achieve some outcome].

I’m in the middle of synthesizing a pile of customer research right now, and I’m kind of amazed how well the Job Story lets me encapsulate what I’ve learned in literally one sentence. Traditional design methodologies offer other ways to capture and share these insights, but boiling it down that much is very compelling.

Another benefit I’m seeing is knowing how much more research is needed. That is, if you can’t write the Job Story to explain a behavior, you’re not done interviewing.

The Study of Causation: Etiology

I was listening to the TED Radio Hour today and ran across a great word: etiology.

It’s the study of causation, as in:

What causes someone to contract polio?

For those of us doing product work, it’s critical to know what causes someone to use a particular feature. What caused this user to run a certain report? What’s causing these other users to create a given workaround?

Your product will improve when you understand the etiology of each user behavior.