So far, I’ve covered how to decide which type of app you’re looking to create and how to use your market research to decide what features you want your app to have. The next phase in making a great app is the creation of solid User Stories. Part of this will help you continue defining your feature-set, but it will also help you know what sort of brand you need to create and how you’ll eventually market your application to those users. Everything we do is to create a great application that users will actually want to download, play with, and continue coming back to.
We’ll also be touching on creating a Logic Map & AppMap as well, though I will cover these more in-depth in my next article.
If you’re new to software development, you may be asking yourself, “What the heck is a User Story, anyway?” Put simply, a User Story is the analysis of a user’s mindset, their goals with your application and a consideration of how they would use it to accomplish certain tasks. Think of it as a short story about someone picking up your app and walking through it to get something done.
User Stories can be dry or lively. Here at Rocksauce Studios, I’ve had my User Experience (UX) folks give me User Stories that were written in first-person, full of emotional decisions and expectations as well as dry, third-person technical explanations. There isn’t a right answer to when you should use which, it typically comes down to getting across the goals you want to ensure the app can achieve.
No application will have just one User Story. If that were the case, then we’d probably call them User Novels instead. You will want to create scenarios for the different types of users you will have, or User Roles, as well as some of the tasks you will have a user accomplishing. Tapping a singular button will never be its own User Story, but “creating a new account” or “adding a comment to a check-in spot” could be.
Depending on the complexity of your tasks, some tasks can be rolled into the same User Story. Ultimately, your goal is to keep things simple — for yourself, for your testers, for your art team and eventually, your developer.
Here are a few types of User Stories you can create, but you’re not limited to just these:
Note that a User Role has User Stories. A User Role is typically defined as a different type of user, rather than a similar user performing different tasks.
You will want to get relatively detailed with both your User Roles. Knowing the mindset of your potential users will show you what target audiences you’re going after, which is vital to understanding your branding, your marketing and even the look and feel of your app.
I can’t count the number of times that a client has told me they want their product to appeal to every demographic, every age, and every type of user. Unfortunately, you can’t be all things to all people. A good rule of thumb is to create solid, realistic User Roles for each demographic you want to include. Think of how they would utilize your app, in what scenario and why. If you find that certain demographics don’t quite fit, then you’ve now ruled out that demographic. Remember, being in a niche is a great thing. Never run away from it.
User Role Examples:
UR – Sally Jennings: Sally is a 25 year-old account representative working for an Austin, Texas start-up company. Her day to day life is busy and she needs a tool that will quickly allow her to notify her various social networks of the places she’s going, what she’s doing at those places, and what her opinions are. Sally currently uses apps like FourSquare, Facebook, and Instagram.
UR – Donald Quaker: Donald is a 46 year-old night-club owner in New Orleans, Louisiana. Donald’s days are occupied with talking to suppliers, managing the schedules of his workers, and working with media outlets to purchase advertising space for his club. He needs to make sure his night-club is continues to meet the needs of its patrons. Donald has a mobile phone, but doesn’t download many apps.
UR – Olivia Palmer: Olivia is a 72 year-old retiree currently discovering America with her husband of 40 years as they travel the country in their RV. She is looking for interesting spots to enjoy when she arrives in each town along her trip. Olivia’s grandson purchased her an iPhone for Christmas and she loves playing with all of the different apps during her leisure time. Her favorite apps are Angry Birds, FlipBoard and Twitter.
Now that we know our User Roles, what about a typical User Story? If you hadn’t noticed, I’ve been using the concept of a fictional check-in app for explanation purposes. I’ll continue that in our User Story.
US.1.1 – Sally Jennings – Creating An Account
Sally Jennings is looking for a new check-in experience, one that allows her to notify all of her social networks at the same time. She downloads OUR APP and launches it for the first time. Sally sees the login screen, prompting her to fill in her email address & password. There are two other buttons on the launch page: “Forgot Password?” and “Create An Account!” Since Sally is new to the app, she taps on the “Create an Account” button.
Sally is taken to the Create an Account screen. Here she is prompted to fill in her name, age, gender, email address, password, short biography, and favorite restaurant. Sally fills in her name and email address, and password while leaving age, gender and short biography blank. She taps the “Submit” button. A modal dialogue box appears, informing Sally, “Age and Gender are required to create an OUR APP account.” She taps the “OK” button.
The modal dialogue box disappears and her cursor is already placed within the AGE text box. Sally fills in her age, then taps the gender box. Sally is taken to a default iPhone picker screen where she chooses FEMALE, then taps “OK.” Sally is returned to the Create An Account screen. She once again taps the “Submit” button.
Sally is taken to the “Creating an Account” screen where she sees a progress bar fill up. Once it’s completed, Sally is taken to the Home screen of OUR APP.
Think of a Logic Map as a high-level diagram of what our app will do. Logic Maps don’t feature screens or buttons, but instead, use simple boxes, shapes and colors along with text to list out all of the features of our app.
An AppMap, however, is the technical implementation of your Logic Map and User Stories. It contains every conceivable screen you will see in your app, as they should be laid out. A logic map should always come before the AppMap phase, so that you make sure your AppMap accomplishes all the goals and features you decided on during your Logic Mapping.
So where do User Roles & User Stories fit in? Truthfully, there’s no linear progression here. Some UX folks don’t complete their User Roles or User Stories until after the AppMap is created for the sake of expediency. The problem here is obvious – if you haven’t defined your users or how they will interact with your app, then you may find that you haven’t given them the best app for their needs.
Typically at Rocksauce, we intertwine all of these. Start with some User Roles, maybe a few high-level goal accomplishing User Stories, then add that information to the Logic Map. There’s no right way or wrong way, as long as you’re making sure to cover the vital information your users need.
Next time, I’ll be covering the creation of the Logic Map and the AppMap in more detail. Until then!