Team MyOxygen

User stories help us overcome one of the greatest challenges in app development: 

How to create a requirement specification that presents clear goals for what users want an app to actually do.

This isn’t easy. At the start of development, even users might not know what they need an app to do. With the wrong mindset, it’s easy to produce requirements that get bogged down in technical description of how a system should work.

The most useful software requirements don’t muddy those waters. They’re all about what a system needs to accomplish. User stories get us into the perfect headspace to write specifications that guide the development process.

What is a requirement specification in app development?

In software development, a requirement specification is the first step in the process of understanding the high-level goals of a product. What will an app need to do to deliver what users want, so far as we understand that right now?

So, software requirements describe your product’s objectives. Ideally, they do it briefly. Unless your product has some unusual incredibly limiting technical constraints though, requirements:

  • Are not complex technical description of how a system will work
  • Do not limit or prescribe how a system might work
  • Will not be set in stone, and may change as our understanding of a situation grows
What is a user story?

A user story is an explanatory tool we use to help us write requirements that succinctly describe product goals while leaving us mentally free to try out the best ways to achieve them.

This is because the purpose of requirements in software development is to tell us what a system needs to do. Problems arise when they start trying to tell us how a system will do it.

By helping us purposefully exclude any detail of how a system is going to function, user stories leave us free to imagine and implement the most effective solution.

How do user stories work?

User stories are much as they sound. They’re a collection of very short stories that illuminate a user’s goals when using a system and scenarios they might encounter.

Like an actual story, a user story has a title, the user is the main character, and we follow a narrative that reaches a resolution that lets us judge how well the character achieved their goals.

A user story won’t describe any part of how a product might work to solve or deliver this. Instead, they help us achieve an external perspective, asking questions like:

  • As I approach a system as a user, what is my goal?
  • When the system is working, what feedback would be useful?
  • If a system fails, what do I need to know?
Why are user stories useful?

User stories don’t get technical. Good user stories speak the language of their audience, the user. This means they’re equally accessible to:

  • Non-technical people – who gain a clearer view of where the project stands and what needs to be done for users. This understanding makes prioritisation and scope-cutting easier.
  • Technical people – who gain a clearer view of the context, the problem, and what the best solution could be. This understanding makes communicating with non-technical people easier.
Good software developers take ownership of a product

Overcoming the requirement specification challenge is all the easier when developers take ownership of a product as a whole. They’re not just focused on delivering the technical side. They understand the problem, the situation, and what users actually want.

As the product owner, you may already have some understanding of what your users want. However, it’s possible you might change your mind based on data we gather through the development process. A specification focused on goals not technicalities gives you that flexibility.

All told, user stories are the ideal place for us all to begin app development. They deliberately avoid technical details and the “how”. By doing so, they let us helpfully describe requirements of “what” a product needs to be in order to deliver actual value.

Want to explore how user stories help you develop a product that delivers real value for your organisation?

Let’s talk. MyOxygen/ works with some of the most trusted organisations in the UK, including the MoD and the NHS.

Set up a cost and commitment-free chat with the team from MyOxygen today

Prefer to listen click the play on the audio file below.

Sign up for more insights

We will keep you up to date with all the latest in mobile and web app development