Understanding User Stories vs Use Cases: What Is the Difference?

User stories vs use cases: these are techniques for understanding users and their needs. They provide a clear picture of who the user is and what they want from the software or service being built. Use cases, however, are often confused with user stories. Which should you choose?

Each technique is useful in different circumstances. This article explains what makes use cases different from user stories. Also, how you should use user stories vs use cases together based on your project’s objectives.

What is a use case?

A use case is a simple description of how someone who uses a particular process will reach a goal. In technical terms, it is the description of how the system and the actors work together. This process ends with a document that lists all the steps a user needs to take to reach a goal.

What Is a user story?

A user story is a short, simple description of a feature the end user would like to see. It describes the benefit to the end user and what they want from your product. User stories are written in plain language that’s easy for everyone on the team to understand. That includes any potential members of your target audience.

Instead of focusing on what the system should do, the user story captures what the user wants. 

How to write excellent user stories?

Ask yourself these when writing user stories: 

  • Who am I writing this for? 
  • What do they want or need? 
  • What problem does this solve for them? 
  • Why do they want or need this solution? 
  • What is their goal with this solution? 
  • How would they use this solution, and how often? 

After you have answered these questions, you can write an excellent user story. Keep each description short and as concise as possible. The best stories are those that tell one specific idea.

User stories to story cards

User stories are more detailed than use cases. They include information about the user, the system, and a list of required features. These user stories are then translated into cards that you can organize into columns on a digital card wall. 

Use cases provide an overview of the system from the point of view of a system operator. They also provide an understanding of how the system is used to perform its function. They describe what goes on in the system and how it works to achieve its primary goals.

Story cards to story maps

When you’re creating a use case, it is best to start by jotting down ideas on story cards. These will be your use cases and each card is an individual idea for that use case. You can then organize these cards into a story map to get an overview of the entire system. 

The 3C’s Concept

The 3C’s are the three most important characteristics of an effective user story. Ron Jeffries, the co-inventor of user stories, came up with the idea. When we talk about User Stories these days, we’re frequently talking about stories that include these three elements.

Card

User stories are drafted as cards. Each user story card has one statement that serves as a concise reminder of the story’s central theme.

Conversation

Customers and developers continually discuss requirements during a software project. During the stakeholder meetings, significant choices and suggestions would be found and recorded.

Confirmation

The approval criterion of the User Story is also known as confirmation. The customer tells the analyst not only what he/she wants, but also the parameters and criteria under which the functional program will be accepted or refused. 

User stories vs use cases – the similarity

Both user stories and use cases help you understand the needs of users and customers. The goal is to build a product that meets those needs. User stories and use cases also have similar objectives. They both emphasize the perspective of end users. They also share a common set of techniques, such as interviews, observations, task analysis, and contextual inquiry. 

User stories vs use cases – the differences

Focus on users vs focus on technology

A user story is written to describe the needs of a user. It shows a problem that a user has to deal with every day. This draft has very simple language. It is made to make sure that everyone is on the same page. 

Use cases, on the other hand, are only made for the product team. It tells the team what the software should be able to do. It also shows the developers all the steps they need to take to make the software.

General vs in-depth

A user story is a simplified way to show how many people use a piece of software. Use cases explain what a user can do with a system.

Short vs detailed

User stories leave out a lot of important information. This is a purposeful part of user stories. The stakeholders can then talk about how to improve the product. 

On the other hand, use cases are clear. They explain in detail each step a developer will take. Most of the time, there is no room for debate.

When to use user stories vs use cases?

There are several applications for user stories in product development. User stories guarantee that no unnecessary information enters the workflow. This also makes sure that goals are set right from the start. 

Use cases are useful in a variety of contexts. They can help record a system’s current workflow. Updates to current systems can result in a lot of technical issues. Use cases help you see the bigger picture of how the system works. So, before any changes are made, problems can be avoided.

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User stories vs use cases – Conclusion

User stories are the basic building blocks of a product backlog. They are one of the most commonly used and most important concepts in agile product management.