For many developers, QA automation engineers, and site reliability engineers participating in agile development teams, the delivery work starts by defining user stories and committing to complete them in sprints. Sometimes, the user story calls for a “back-end” implementation, such as configuring a data integration, coding a microservice API, addressing technical debt, or improving application performance. These are still user stories because their implementations provide business value, but the product owner can specify the target user experience with technical criteria. 

When the feature or user story calls for a “front-end” implementation that impacts the usability and requires a design, agile teams must decide when and how to incorporate design thinking, wireframing, user experience, and design specifications into the requirements.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer on when and how agile teams should define user experiences and design specifications. These considerations are the most critical to an application, workflow, or mobile app’s success because, ultimately, ensuring customer satisfaction and ease of use can significantly impact the target business outcomes.

Agile user stories define the problem statement

To see how design thinking and agile methodologies intersect, let’s review how product owners capture requirements on an agile team’s backlog.

A product owner usually breaks down goals into a hierarchy of epics, features, and user stories. The user stories help define the problem statement and answer questions like:

  • Who is the customer or end-user?
  • What problem or opportunity needs to be addressed?
  • What benefits should the implementation seek to achieve?
  • Why is this important to the customer?
  • What acceptance criteria define “done” for this user story?

You can see here that user stories define the problem statement and opportunity from a customer perspective. It’s a best practice to empower the development team to recommend and implement a solution that addresses the goal and acceptance criteria defined in the user story. 

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