HubSpot: What is User Story Mapping? Steps, examples + best available tools

Picture this: You are a product owner and your team has a backlog of features to implement.

The problem is, your team is overwhelmed and no one knows where to start or how to prioritize tasks. Well, this is where user story mapping can come in handy.

Read on to find out how mapping user stories helps product teams better understand consumer needs and prioritize tasks with a user-centric approach.

What is user story mapping?

User story mapping is an exercise in which you visualize a user’s journey through a product. It helps product teams better understand customers, identify sticking points in the journey, and prioritize what will improve the user experience.

Before we get into user story mapping, let’s go over the basics. A user story is a short, simple description of a feature told from the user’s perspective. For example, “As a user, I can add items that I am not yet ready to buy to my wishlist.”

This forces product teams to build with a user-centric approach. A user story map goes even further by visualizing the steps a user takes to perform an action.

When product managers, designers, and developers work on a product, sometimes they focus too much on feature specifications. Mapping user stories takes them out of that frame and redirects them to focus on consumer needs and desired outcomes.

Additionally, a user story map will help break down the customer journey into smaller chunks that teams can tackle and ensure nothing is lost in the process.

But to be clear, the mapping process isn’t just for product teams. This can be a valuable cross-functional exercise that helps align Marketing, Engineering, UX / Design teams with other departments.

In addition to putting everyone on the same page, creating a user story map also allows:

  • Determine how to prioritize work if there is a large backlog of feature implementations, separating the must-haves from the must-haves.

  • Break down the requirements and visualize how each element interacts with the other.

  • Expose roadblocks and dependencies that may impact product delivery.

Is agile story mapping different?

The short answer is no because user story mapping is used in an agile framework.

User stories are used in an agile framework to provide context using simple, natural language. They are also the smallest unit of work, just like Sprints and Epics are other metrics.

So, agile story mapping is another way to describe the process of mapping a user story.

How to create a user history card

  1. Adjust the frame.

  2. Trace the stages of the story.

  3. Group and define.

  4. Cut out your tasks and get your minimum viable product.

User story mapping usually happens at the start of a project because it helps provide structure and put everyone on the same page. However, it can be used at any phase of the project to help identify obstacles and re-prioritize.

  1. Adjust the frame.

Before you start mapping the story, you’ll want to narrow it down. Otherwise, you could quickly feel overwhelmed and unable to get started.

Here are some questions you should ask yourself:

  • What problem are we trying to solve?

  • How does this feature add value?

  • Who is the audience subset we’re building for? (If only)

Once you have answered these questions, put it in user story format: “As [user], I want to be able [filter my search] results so I can[quickly find what I’m looking for. ”

Taking this approach will help you approach the problem in a tactical manner.

2. Trace the activities and stages of the story.

In this step, you want to create a general roadmap of how the user would access and use this functionality. These are your main activities.

The goal here is to outline the big steps needed to get from start to finish. From there you trace the steps.

Following the same example from the previous section, here’s what it might look like:


  • Search for products.

  • Review the product details.

  • To verify.


  1. Type in the search bar and head to the results page.

  2. Scroll through the search results for specific information.

  3. Select the filter option to refine the options by cost.

  4. Review the search results page with the updated options.

  5. Select the item and place it in the shopping cart.

  6. Finalize the purchase.

As you will notice, story mapping requires going from macro to micro.

You will likely use feedback from your attendees to define these details. You want your map to paint an accurate and complete picture of what is (and can) happen in this story.

You will therefore want to rely on your team to participate in this step.

3. Group and define the tasks.

Once you’ve figured out the big details, this is where the collaboration takes off.

Under each step, you should highlight the key actions involved in each activity.

For example, when a user is in step 5, who selects an item and places it in their cart, they will go through several substeps, including viewing the image, reading reviews, scanning related items. .

All of these should be mentioned under the major groups of activities, also known as steps. The goal is to identify any gaps in the functionality of your current product.

By adding must, possible, and must-have options to your map, you can prioritize features. Here’s what you want to consider:

  • Is there anything else your user could do during any of these activities?

  • What could be disrupting their process at this point? Where could they get stuck?

  • How else could the user navigate this page?

It will take a collective effort from your different teams to figure out what is realistic and what is doable. For example, an engineer might point out that a particular task is too important to count as an iteration. Your user researcher might highlight an important step in the process that you hadn’t considered.

4. Cut out your tasks and get your minimum viable product.

Once everything is organized, you and your team can start scouring the map to prioritize a list of tasks and slice them.

Each “slice” will include tasks from each activity to create a viable end-to-end experience. It should have a clear outcome as well as a way to measure success. This will be important later when testing and tracking user behavior.

You will continue to separate your slices until you include all the tasks and have a clear plan for moving forward.

Example of mapping user stories

In this example, the user story is: “As a user, I want to easily buy a product from this site.

Once you have all of these details, you can create your map.

Once you’ve added the activities, steps, and tasks, you can now determine your slices.

For example, in this example, the first slice would skip two tasks in the “Find” activity, skip three in the “Get Product Details” section, and three in the “Order” section.

The second installment would include features such as “Search by Category” and “View Product in RA”. Once you have all of your slices, your team is ready to get to work.

User testimonial mapping tools

When it comes to user story mapping, there are many ways to go about it.

The easiest way is to use a conference room, a whiteboard, and lots of sticky notes. That way, you can easily move pieces around while you work and make it a collaborative effort.

From now on, if your team is remote, you will have to rely on online tools to support you in this process. Many agile project management software has story mapping functionality, like Atlassian’s Jira.

Additional online tools for user story mapping include Featmap, Miro, and Avion.

If your product team can’t agree on where to start for an upcoming or current project, consider creating a user story map. It may take a while before construction, but it will definitely pay off down the line.

Originally posted Jan 10, 2022, 7:00:00 AM, updated Jan 10, 2022

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