User story templates + user story mapping templates

Writing user stories and creating a story map is a familiar exercise for most product teams. It gives you a way to visualize and organize your work based on the tasks your users are trying to complete. Grouping user stories or the new functionality that you are going to build into a user story map can help clarify which features will provide the most value to your customers — so you can prioritize accordingly.

In this guide, you will learn a simple formula for writing user stories. We have pulled together a set of templates that you can use right away to write and map user stories — either in Aha! software or within downloadable Word and Excel formats.

Folks who use Aha! software can create user story maps in both Aha! Notebooks and Aha! Roadmaps. Aha! Notebooks is free to use up to 5 documents and comes with the user story map template shown below. User story mapping is also built into the features section of Aha! Roadmaps.

Create a user story map in Aha! Notebooks. Sign up for a free trial.

What is a user story?

A user story is a brief description of a product feature from the perspective of the end user. It is a concise way to convey what the user wants or needs from new functionality — often in one or two sentences. A product owner or product manager will typically write user stories and then share them with the development team.

User stories provide structure and meaning to agile software development work along with themes, epics, and tasks. Because they explain the desired outcome from the user's point of view, user stories help agile teams clearly understand the value a new feature will provide — versus focusing only on functionality.

A user story template is a simple formula for writing user stories. It captures the "who,” “what,” and “why” behind an item of agile development work — providing essential context for your agile development team. (Detailed technical requirements come later.)

User story templates help you get right to the heart of why a new feature matters to your customers. Here is the basic template for an agile user story:

As a [type of user], I want to [perform some task] so that I can [achieve some goal].

Let’s write an example for a fictitious company called Fredwin Cycling. The product is a social fitness application that connects athletes and promotes friendly competition. The company is considering a new GPS feature that allows cyclists to see their friends' routes. Here is how to write this as a user story:

As a cyclist, I want to follow my friends' cycling routes so that I can join them on rides.

The counterpart to any user story is acceptance criteria, which describes what the functionality must do in order to satisfy the user's goal. This helps developers know what to build and when the new feature is ready. Acceptance criteria must be met to consider a user story complete.

As with user stories, acceptance criteria is often written in a set structure. Here is a simple acceptance criteria template to accompany your user story template:

Given that [some context], when [some action is carried out], then [a set of observable outcomes should occur].

Let’s use our Fredwin Cycling user story to write an example of acceptance criteria:

Given that the cyclist wants to ride with friends, when they check the map view, then the routes of other cyclists in their social network should be visible.

These basic formulas are a great way to get familiar with writing user stories and acceptance criteria.

User story mapping is a visual exercise that helps product teams define the work that will create the most delightful user experience. It is used to improve your understanding of customers and to prioritize work.

A user story map represents a user's interactions with your product — each card on the map is a user story. By visually mapping out multiple user stories, you can display the customer journey and break it into parts. Ultimately this helps you design and build functionality that is focused on desired customer outcomes, instead of solely on development output or feature specifications.

If you are ready to start building out user stories and mapping the customer journey, take a look at the templates below.

Related: How to create a user story map


User story templates

Below are five downloadable user story templates you can use to capture new product functionality from the user's perspective and define your acceptance criteria. Each template offers a slightly different layout based on the level of detail you want to include. To get started quickly, try the user story note template in Aha! Notebooks. It is really four templates in one — with sections for simple, epic, thematic, and SAFe® user stories.

Or, you can access similar templates in downloadable Word and Excel formats below.

Simple user story template

This starter template will help you write user stories and acceptance criteria and organize them in one easy-to-read view. You can also add details like priority and estimated effort.

Epic user story template

Some agile teams use epics to group related user stories into a larger category. This user story template will help you capture epics and user stories in one place.

Thematic user story template

Themes are at the top of the agile work hierarchy — above epics and user stories. They represent major investments in strategic initiatives and convey how you intend to make progress toward your overall business goals.

With this template, you can keep your strategy top-of-mind during the development process by associating your user stories with different themes. You can also add a column to include your epics if you use them.

SAFe® user story template

Teams practicing certain agile methodologies may prefer to include additional details when writing user stories. For example, organizations that implement SAFe often add in the benefit hypothesis, nonfunctional requirements, and cost of delay.

Here is a more detailed user story template that aligns with SAFe methodology:


User story mapping templates

Aha! software includes built-in user story mapping. As mentioned above, the user story map template in Aha! Notebooks is free to use — this template allows you to build a user story map on a collaborative whiteboard and share it with your team. Colorful frames and sticky notes help you organize, mark up, and show the thinking behind your work.

All product and marketing workspaces in Aha! Roadmaps also include user story maps. You can quickly add epics, features, and user stories to the map to see how everything fits in the context of the user journey.

PowerPoint user story mapping template

If you would rather build your user story map in PowerPoint, download the free template below.

Writing and mapping user stories is an important piece of the agile software development process that continues throughout the product development lifecycle. Well-defined user stories ensure clarity across the development team and result in new functionality that customers love.