User stories fail, now what?

In order to design a better experience for users, we need to understand them better. User stories have been used in agile methodology to encapsulate user needs and help the team stay user focused. However, Alan Klement, former Product Designer at Interactive Pioneers, believes user stories have two problems: the ambiguity of definition of persona often leads to different interpretation among team members; and all too often people would put down the solution instead of expected outcome. Instead, he advocates for using job stories, which is adapted from the job-to-be-done theory for ux design context.

Below, I’ve highlighted the job story practice for you to have an overview of the methodology.

What is job story

Similar to user story, job story follows a basic format:

[ A moment of frustration ] + [ how progress is visualized ] + [ how life is better ]
The job story encourages the product’s design process to focus on context, causality and motivations instead of assumptions, subjectiveness, personas and implementations.

An example of this would be:

When I’m presenting my visual design and I’m worried that people will reject its merits, I want something objective to back it up, so that people will see and discuss the design with less subjective bias.

Extracted from Replacing the user story with the job story

Job story focus on adding contextual information

Instead of starting with “As…” like the format of user story, job story starts with “When…”. In fact, the more details we have about users’ situation, the more likely we can provide the right solution at the right time:

Let’s compare:
When I want something to eat….
When I’m in a rush and want a something to eat….
When I’m in a rush, I’m starving and want something to eat….
When I’m in a rush, starving, need something I can eat with one hand while ‘on the go’, am not sure when the next time I’ll be able to eat, …
The more context we have for the situation, the better I can design a solution. In version #1, a sit down restaurant will work. In version #4, perhaps a slice of pizza or snickers bar will work best.

Extracted from 5 tips for writing a job story

Job story focus on motivations

Asking a few more “whys” behind the direct outcome:

Here are examples of tasks. They are not Jobs: Mow the lawn. Cut a straight line. Listen to music. Increase profits by 15%. Store and retrieve music. Transport surfboards. Clean teeth. Drill a quarter inch hole. Prepare a healthy meal. Plan a birthday party. Search for information. Use small snippets of time productively. Clean clothes at home. Get from Point A to Point B…
Tasks tell you what customers do with a solution. They don’t tell you why they do it. Jobs, on the other hand, are the emotional struggles customers face to better their lives. It’s what’s motivating them to seek a solution. Innovation starts by answering “why”. Not “how” or “what”.
It’s not measure my weight, track my weight, measure my blood pressure, share my vitals with my doctor
It’s help motivate me, make me feel accountable, help me stop lying to myself and others, put me in control of my health, help me harness the love from my friends and family…These are Jobs.

Extracted from Penn Jillette gets jtbd

Job story focus on forces

To examine specific feelings of the user when he/she encounter the situation:

When I’m using my tablet and encounter a problem, I want to get help right away so I can finish what I started.
Let’s stick with the motivational part: I want to get help right away and add some forces:
When I’m using my tablet and encounter a problem….
I want to get help right away…
Force: I’m irritated because I was in the middle of something…
Force: I’m nervous I won’t finish what I was just doing…
Force: I get nervous asking for help…
Force: Asking for help might make me look stupid
Force: I’m shy about showing what I’m working on to someone else…
Expected Outcome:
So I can finish what I started.

Extracted from 5 tips for writing a job story

If you are interested to know more, here is a list of related articles to digest:

On the product level, you can use jobOutline

Replace persona with character

All credit goes to the original author

Who am I?

I am a UX designer at I came across Alan Klement’s articles about replacing user stories with job stories and found it very enlightening. I would try to apply the theory into my daily job and keep experimenting with it. If you want to know how I will apply the theory into practice,|EXCITING EXPERIMENTS!| please follow me on medium.