Agile workflow

3 min read

Anatomy of an Agile User Story Map

Wed Jan 25 2017
Nick Muldoon
Written by Nick Muldoon, Co-CEO

A user story map is a collaborative practice that guides an agile team in the creation of their product backlog.

The story map captures the journey a customer takes with the product including activities and tasks they undertake.

Creating the story map as a team ensures team members are on the same page from the start of development through to ongoing delivery of new releases.

story map

In this post we’ll explore the aspects of a successful story map.


A backbone provides structure. The backbone of the user story map captures the high level activities a user will accomplish while using the product.

If we take a simple example, buying and watching a movie on an Apple TV, we may have the following activities:

  • select movie
  • purchase movie
  • watch movie
  • review / recommend movie
apple tv example

For a user to watch a movie on the Apple TV they would have to complete three of these activities. And there may be other follow up activities such as writing a review or recommending the movie to a friend which we want to encourage.

Chronological Order

Once we’ve got the activities of the backbone identified we will order them in the chronological order of how a user will interact with the product. Following on with the Apple TV example we will make sure the order is correct:

apple tv example

It is common to rearrange existing activities or add new activities as the discussion unfolds. This is a key benefit of the collaborative approach to building the product backlog as we have the shared wisdom of an entire team involved in the discussion.


Below each activity on the backbone we create user stories which flesh out the customer journey. For example, below the ‘select movie’ activity we may see stories for:

  • free text search
  • browse by genre
  • browse by recent addition
  • browse by most popular
  • browse by most popular by genre
  • browse by recent addition by genre

These stories are ordered by value to the user. Value may be identified through conversations with users, analytics on usage patterns, or another form of insight appropriate for your product.


Once the team has the backbone and stories ordered it is time to sequence the work. What do we want to deliver in our MVP, our 1.0, 2.0, etc.

We split the story map horizontally to show what is in and out of each release.


We can then begin delivery, and as we deliver releases we can track our progress against the story map. Product Managers will often start a sprint planning session by reviewing the story map to ensure that all team members are still on the same page.

User story maps turn a flat backlog into a vivid representation of the customers journey.

A few final tips:

Keep the story map up to date as work progresses so stakeholders can visualise progress in real time;

Use the story map to communicate the roadmap with customers and share the product vision.

User story mapping is an essential practice for every agile team. They are an excellent technique for ensuring the team understands their customers, can clearly articulate the solution and stays focused on delivery.

At Easy Agile we’re converts to the practice of story mapping. In fact we’re so passionate about user story mapping that we created a JIRA add-on that assists teams with conducting sessions. Try Easy Agile TeamRhythm today.

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