Agile Delivery

A Beginners guide to User Story Mapping

Reading Time:
4 mins read
Ben Willmott

What is user story mapping?

Story mapping is a great way to you visualise the stories you tell and create about a product or services.

You don’t have to be creating software, it could be anything as it really helps you see the full journey for your customer, then break it down into sub features.

With the full picture in front of you, you can then prioritise, create releases and identify risks, priorities and any missing features. 

Story mapping isn’t just showing the user flow for your product, you must also consider who the users are, what the business and user value is.

The whole process of story mapping is completed by lot’s of talking and explaining the why, the who and the what from multiple perspectives.

All the information gathered is on the walls including but not limited to, the product vision and user information.

So what does a story map look like?

This is a typical story map, some might fit on a white board, others could stretch from wall to wall.

Screenshot 2019-06-02 at 20.07.01.png

How to create a story map

Step 1: Describe the Brief


Before you start creating a story map, you need a product brief or vision. You’ll use this as the guide throughout the story map creation.

The brief should include what you want to achieve, the problem you want to solve and the customers who you’re building the product for. 

Describe the benefits the customer and the organisation will get from building this product. You also need to list out the users with a brief description or persona. 

As a product owner you should be asking questions to the client like: 

  • What is the long term vision Who are the customers? 
  • Who are the users? 
  • Why would they want it? 
  • Why are we building it?

Step 2: Build the big picture

Now you need to create the whole story. So create the user flow from left to right at a high level.

Begin with a typical day of the user and how they would interact with the product and what tasks within the product they would need to do.

Identify user activities that can be grouped together to support a common goal.

Add in additional users if they come up as your work through the story. Place the user types at the top so you can see who’s using what if you have multiple users of the product


Step 3: Explore the detail

Now you need to create the detail within the body of the map by breaking down the larger user tasks into smaller sub tasks. 

During this stage you’ll write new cards, split some cards, rewrite others and reorganise.

Don’t limit your ideas to what’s possible now, you can create a release later. Get all ideas on there as they come up.

Use this time to ask what could go wrong so you can flag risks and issues


Step 4: Explore the detail

When reviewing the detail ask the following questions.

  1. What are you specifically doing here?
  2. What else could you do?
  3. What would make this really great?
  4. What could go wrong?

When reviewing make sure you tell the story of what you’re describing so everyone can understand. Draw a picture if needed.

The team will find holes in the story or risks or a way to improve it, if you all discuss together

Step 5: Create the releases  

Next you can start to create the release or releases. At this stage you have the high level features stages at the top, then below that the details or the start of user stories.

Put a line below the details/start of stories. Then move anything that isn’t critical for the first release below this line. When finished you’ll have a release above the line, and everything else below it.

You can take this further and create a second and third set of releases. Just create more release lines and move the details/start of stories around.

Ask how will we measure the success of this release, so what will the outcomes be?


If you’re struggling to prioritise the features into releases because they all look important, then agree on a set of priorities descriptions like the below. Then everyone can discuss and vote.

  1. Reduces cost to the business (Cost reducer) 
  2. Our competitors don’t have it (Game changer) 
  3. Feature a competitor has (Spoiler) 
  4. Required feature to be able to compete in the market (Needed)


The best way to learn User Story Mapping is to try it out. Worst case scenario, you’ll get a of your team talking and focusing on what’s important for you business and your user, and building out a clearer view of your product features or would be features.

If you want to learn more on the subject, you can go wrong with looking at Jeff Patton site. He’s the original guy who came up with is approach and his book below is a great read.

Ben Willmott
Ben is Delivery Director at the London based creative agency Wunderman Thompson where he creates bespoke ways or working for his clients and teams. Ben is also the founder of The PPM Academy specializing in coaching Project Management, Agile Delivery and how to be more productive at home and work.

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