The difference between job stories and user stories

User needs are essential to content design. But it's the story that matters, and it's all in the way you write it.

User stories

A user story is an idea borrowed from agile software development. It’s a way of pinning down what the team need to do, without telling them how to do it. User stories help you narrow your focus. Each one describes a need, and they cover a wide range of audiences.

A user story looks like this:

"As a [person in a particular role],

I want to [perform an action or find something out],

So that [I can achieve my goal of…]."

An example user story

"As a householder living near a proposed fracking site,

I want to know what effect fracking has on nearby households,

So that I can make a decision about moving home."

It doesn’t matter if you have a long list of very fine-grained user stories – the more you can break down your work into small chunks, the better. Writing user stories gives your team clarity about the work they need to do, and a useful To Do list of tasks.

Job stories

User stories are great if you have a number of different audiences who might all want to consume your content. But there’s an alternative to user stories that might be better if you only have one audience, and that’s job stories.

Job stories always start with:

"When [there’s a particular situation],

I want to [perform an action or find something out],

So I can [achieve my goal of…]."

An example job story:

"When I am writing a report about fracking,

I want to get as much data as possible,

So I can write a comprehensive report."

User stories or job stories?

Different organisations use different story methods.

Job stories are a better choice if you only have one audience to deal with. You know you need to switch from user stories to job stories, if every single user story you write begins with the same thing. If you’re writing ‘As a shopper, I…’ in every user story, switch to job stories.

If you have multiple audiences, each of which has different needs for different kinds of content and different levels of detail, you may find user stories better.

This is a shortened example taken from my book: Content Design.

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