Learn User Story Mapping with these games

Are you tired of feeling overwhelmed by your backlog and deadlines? Do you want to improve communication and alignment among your team? Look no further! A User Story Mapping Workshop is the perfect solution. Not only will it help identify problem areas, but it’s also easy to teach and can be introduced with a simple game.

In just 30 minutes, your team will learn how to use this powerful technique to make the most of their time and effort. Don’t let fear of the unknown hold you back – give User Story Mapping a try and watch your team thrive!

Teaching User Story Mapping to your team can seem a little daunting to newbies when you first pull up a full FeatureMap. Luckily, User Story Mapping is easy to teach, and I have a great simple exercise to walk your team through as an introduction.

The technique is innately simple and can be taught with one simple game (because if we say game instead of exercise, it sounds better, right?).

I have some exciting and engaging 30-minute games that you can use in your teaching workshop or as a starting point for a User Story Session. These games will not only help your team develop a better understanding of User Story Mapping, but they’ll also have fun and build team cohesion along the way. So why wait? Add some fun and learning to your next workshop and watch your team thrive!

How to conduct a User Story Mapping session and teach!

How to teach User Story Mapping with a game

Running a user story mapping session is fairly straight-forward and you can get sorted quickly.

Here is an easy set of instructions broken into 8 steps:

  1. Begin by explaining the concept of User Story Mapping and its importance in the product development process.
  2. Provide an overview of the steps involved in conducting a User Story Mapping session, including how to identify user needs and create a shared understanding of the product vision among team members.
  3. Divide the participants into small teams and give each team a scenario, such as developing a new mobile app or a website for a small business.
  4. Ask each team to brainstorm and identify the different user needs and goals that the product should address.
  5. Have the teams create a rough draft of their User Story Map, using sticky notes or a whiteboard to organize the user stories into columns representing the different phases of the product development process (e.g. planning, development, testing, etc.).
  6. Ask each team to present their User Story Map to the group, explaining their reasoning behind the organization and placement of the user stories on the map.
  7. Facilitate a group discussion to identify common themes and areas for improvement in the different teams’ User Story Maps.
  8. Conclude the exercise by summarizing the key takeaways and reinforcing the importance of conducting User Story Mapping sessions as part of the product development process.

By participating in this exercise, team members will gain hands-on experience in conducting a User Story Mapping session and will learn how to use this tool to create a shared understanding of the product vision among their team.

Get to Work!

One of the easiest and well known games is the “Get to work” or “Wake up in the morning” tasks.

You write out on your map what you do each morning. This can be broken down to the most mundane steps.

I once had a team member write out everything they did which included an impressive rising time of 4am and 3 hours of morning preperation. I have since added to the challenge that they only have 20 minutes to get up and to get out the door to get to work.

What you can do is expand the task to reduce the time available, and to extend the time available to experience with what they add and cut aka minimal viable product! 😉

We have a map here of an example of our “Get to work”

The Jigsaw Piece Game

The Jigsaw Piece Game to help learn story Mapping

Another game that can be used to introduce the concept of User Story Mapping without the need for cards is called “User Story Jigsaw.” This game involves dividing the participants into small teams and giving each team a set of user stories that are related to a specific product or project. The teams must then work together to organize the user stories into a logical sequence that represents the product development process.

To play the game, first, create a set of user stories that are related to a specific product or project. These user stories should be based on the real-life challenges and needs of the team or organization.

Next, divide the participants into small teams and give each team a set of user stories. The teams should then work together to organize the user stories into a User Story Map, using sticky notes or a whiteboard to create columns representing the different phases of the product development process.

The teams should then place the user stories onto the map, trying to create a logical sequence that represents the flow of the product development process. The team with the most effective User Story Map wins the game.

After playing the game, the teams can discuss their User Story Maps and compare them to see how they differ and what they can learn from each other. This discussion can help the participants gain a better understanding of the concept of User Story Mapping and how it can be applied in their own work.

Tic Tac Toe Game

the tic tac toe game to learn story mapping

another game that can be used to introduce the concept of User Story Mapping is called “User Story Tic-Tac-Toe.” This game involves creating a grid with different user stories written in each square, and then having the participants take turns placing their “X” or “O” on the grid to organize the user stories into a logical sequence that represents the product development process. The objective is to create a User Story Map that covers as many squares on the grid as possible, with the winner being the team that creates the most effective User Story Map.

To play the game, first, create a grid with different user stories written in each square. These user stories should be based on a specific product or project that the team is working on.

Next, divide the participants into two teams and give each team a set of “X” and “O” markers. To begin the game, one team should place their “X” on the grid, choosing a user story from one of the squares. The other team should then place their “O” on the grid, choosing a user story that is related to the first user story.

The teams should continue taking turns placing their markers on the grid, trying to create a User Story Map that covers as many squares as possible. The team with the most effective User Story Map wins the game.

After playing the game, the teams can discuss their User Story Maps and compare them to see how they differ and what they can learn from each other. This discussion can help the participants gain a better understanding of the concept of User Story Mapping and how it can be applied in their own work.

Final Tips for your Workshop Games

Using games and exercises to teach any product or methodology will be met with variation. Be aware of your audience, what will work and tailor your tutorials to fit them.

Some important tips for running these games.

  • Clearly explain the objective and rules of the game at the beginning to ensure that all participants understand what is expected of them.
  • Encourage collaboration and teamwork among the participants, allowing everyone to contribute their ideas and perspectives to the User Story Map. Try to discourage any“leader” roles who make all the decisions, let the entire team contribute.
  • Provide guidance and support to the teams as needed, helping them to understand the concept of User Story Mapping and how to apply it to their own work.
  • Focus on keeping time for each exercise to be utilised well, we often recommend under 60 minutes.
  • Use a variety of tools and materials, such as sticky notes, whiteboards, and digital tools, to allow the teams to create and organize their User Story Maps in the way that works best for them.
  • Debrief after the game to discuss the teams’ experiences and what they learned from the exercise. This can help reinforce the key takeaways and provide additional insights and guidance for applying User Story Mapping in the future.
  • Consider providing additional resources and support for teams that want to continue learning and practicing User Story Mapping after the game or exercise is over. This could include access to online tutorials, workshops, and other learning materials.

User Story Mapping is innately simple, with a huge range of depth that can be demonstrated in deep and powerful maps. If you need more assistance or ideas, check out how some of our templates to inspire.

Have fun, you got this

Good Luck!

User Story vs User Journey

What are the main differences between a user story and a user journey?

A user story is a brief, concise description of a task from the perspective of the user.

For example: “As a ‘type of user‘, I want ‘some goal’ so that ‘some reason’.”

A user journey is a described series of steps that show how a typical user would interact with the web app that is being designed.

The main difference between the two, is that a user story is based on a specific user and caters to a particular type of user to answer a specific problem. A user journey can follow a “random user” that may using the tool. This also includes dynamic user journey scenarios.

How can User Story Mapping help integrate both a user story and a user journey?

User Story Mapping has been described as a tool that can be used for many purposes, including product development, feature definition, version improvement, and project management.

In short, you are able to create a map, highlighting the user story, as a persona, whilst building the map for a user journey. Placing cards and tasks and building out the entire epic.

You can get started straight away, and intuitively you’ll be building maps that remove the debate between user story and user journey. Just head over to FeatureMap.co to get started.

Otherwise, read on to get the steps to get started.

We are looking at the steps to create answers that fulfil both requirements for a user story, whilst also catering to the user journey.

Here, we explore how best to utilise the User Story Mapping methodology to help define your path. We also have the added bonus that the first two steps instantly reward in their own right.

The first two steps can be very rewarding. Firstly, planning the map will give you a pathway to the point where you can start writing user stories or journeys.

Secondly, the end result is a visual chart showing the structure of your stories. This will give you the steps you need to take for development.

Here is another way to approach User Story Mapping in three steps.

This is a relatively quick way of getting to a point where you can start development work.

The start of a user story map on FeatureMap

Hosting your Story Mapping Session

Because User Story Mapping can be complex, it is important to have a framework for the session. It is also important to explain what User Story Mapping is and describe the process.

Start with tasks where the team thinks about the product, users, development, and personas.

Step One

We start by brainstorming every task that users will want to address when using the product.

Silent Brainstorming.

Task each participant to write down steps in your cards, every step will need to cover from the users first engagement to the conclusion of the users interaction. Encourage the team to think of these as actions not features.

It’s okay for each individual on the team to focus on other user journeys. For example if we take an app, someone may do a customer, and another may write about a copywriter, whilst the developers may think from the perspective of the administrators.

Top Tip: Writing them so they start with a verb is a good technique.

Encourage people to be creative and try to cover tasks and steps wide, but not deep. This part of User Story Mapping is about breadth not depth.

Start posting all cards and tasks in one large map.

That’s fine if you have duplicates. Just group them together, and these should sit beside each other on the line (not above or below).

As you expand and get into the swing of it you can easily drag and drop and delete if needed.

The beauty of using digital software for large collaboration tasks such as this allows you and you and your team to easily edit, expand and develop your map all at the same time.

This first line is the user tasks, and they form the backbone of your story map.

Step Two

Then we organise these tasks into wider goals, and arrange them in order of completion.

These groups are known as “epics” or “activities”.

As facilitator, you can walk along the line of tasks and ask where the team think the splits are between each group of tasks, and what each group should be called.

For example, if you were building an app for an app to arrange your movies, you might group user tasks into epics like this:

  • Browse DVDs in collection – epic
  • View flat list of all DVDs – user task
  • View DVD cover thumbnails in results – user task
  • DVD Spec Call – user task

Step Three

We can then move into the Prioritisation exercise, further developing the user story map.

This is the stage where you start writing in the details, building up the tasks and redefining tasks.

This may include adding tasks, merging tasks or separating tasks.

It is important to detail the tasks enough to remember in the future. After writing all the tasks, you should have a comprehensive map by this stage. Task your team to go over each line (now defined as Epics/activities) and ensure you have everything charted. This is where the User Story Map will become easier, as you will now have a visual chart of a defined product. Here you can move to the next steps.

Next Steps

Now you are ready to start prioritising the user stories on your map. You can start adapting and moving your tasks to sprints, also known as versions for your product.

You can check out the Movie Buddy Public Board here at FeatureMap.

You could do an entire User Story session with Post-It notes with your in-house team, but better yet digitally, remotely or supporting your in person meeting using FeatureMap.co.

Check out FeatureMap.co and sign up to try for free.

Saving projects with User Story Mapping

An existing project can slow to a crawl when slowed down by bloat of additional features, the expanding set of criteria or a huge mass of

The ever-growing sprint list can spiral out of control and stall a project with a seemingly huge backlog of tasks.

Product development, and projects can stall when the process flows from between the client, the design thinking process and the development team.

Backlog is too large so save it with FeatureMap

So, how can you improve your backlog?

A User Story map is a perfect tool to visualise product roadmaps for non-technical stakeholders. Feature Map allows you to create your entire product and give an incredibly rich overview.

This allows you to visualise the whole user journey and how it maps its features into the product.

Turn your huge sprint list into a controlled backlog
How to save a project with User Story Mapping.

A completed user story map is the perfect centrepiece of any product discussion with stakeholders.

How it works is simple.

First, identify your personas.

They capture your goals, your behaviours and the needs for the end user.

They help you build your story map and give it life.

The personas should always be kept in mind when you add features to your board. Personas can naturally be real people or groups and made up.

The next step is simple.

Understand the user journey.

Take those personas and map out your product with each feature identified as a goal.

Break down each goal into a set of consecutive activities. It can help if you line up these personas to each of these goals.

Then capture each requirement to help achieve that user goal with the help of the stakeholders.

You should be able to formulate all the user stories and the acceptance criteria of what you want to build. Add as many details as you wish to each feature for your team to fully understand the goal.

Aggregate, add status, control your map
Control your map, add details, add status, aggregate and take control of your backlog.

You can add with future map annotations and estimate your features, time, budget or any other custom status.

Your team can collaborate on each feature by adding comments and tagging one another.

You can also add a set of different colours to help organise your map.

Once you have completed mapping your user stories journey, you will then be able to prioritise your backlog.

Each feature needs to be mapped to release, and the Golden Rule is that each release needs to be a valuable product slice across the user journey.

Understand the larger picture together as a team

Finally, do your last steps.

The most important features are placed at the top.

You’ll wish to start out simple and expand on the functionality of your product by adding new product slices.

These product slices can be converted into MVP’s or Sprint’s. With Feature Map, your product can evolve constantly and cards can be moved around by simply dragging and dropping.

You can also aggregate the values of each task on your map and be able to see how long in time or how much in budget each slice and goal may cost.

You can finally eradicate your long list of features, your overwhelming sprint lists, and your misleading Gantt charts.

Say Goodbye to sprint lists

A story map is the perfect tool to communicate your product vision with the members of your team and non-technical stakeholders. It beautifully pulls together the big picture and allows you to prioritise your product and progress while not forgetting the details.

Once you are happy, you can share your feature map board to anyone. Or you can invite your own team to collaborate further. Additionally, you can integrate with JIRA.

You can get started now, check out our templates, and sign up to FeatureMap and start your free trial.

FeatureMap Example Templates

FeatureMap offers you the tool for User Story Mapping Methodology, but at the same time, a canvas of possibilities in how you approach your maps’ organisation.

Sometimes you just need to see a bit of inspiration or examples to understand the scope of the tool.

We have a set of examples of how to best build your map.

Application for Lending Electronics

This is Product Owners roadmap for a development team, it was specced out and covered a tool that was designed to share and lend electronics in the local community.

The team using FeatureMap came together from all departments and built the customer journey.

A Product Owner’s Roadmap

Audio Finder Project

This is a project manager’s backlog for work to be completed on the application to find and purchase audio files, and mp3s. This is a snapshot of the tool under development with it’s MVP defined and work midway through it’s first sprint.

The tool was picked up by the new team as it had stalled, the new team used FeatureMap to define the MVP and continue forward.

A project manager overview

Christmas Gift Organisation

This is a fun tool that one of our developers created to help them go shopping for Christmas. They literally created a list of people, ideal gifts and a process to keep on top of making their holidays stress-free.

It’s a fun map, and shows that you can bend FeatureMap to really cater to all sorts.

A self project management list

Goals Listing for App

This is a map designed to be the users UX flow through the first opening and learning of their application. It is designed as a goals orientated application, a to-do list app.

The solo dev, wanted to clearly see a path of what the persona of a user wanted to experience. They then were able to outline and define the steps and convert the journey into a sprint.

User journey flow for UX planning

Marketing and Email strategy Ideas Board

This is a map that a project manager and marketer created to help them identify a workflow and the requirements. Instead of a MVP and sprint, they operated with a very human “Must Have, Need and Nice to have” flow, allowing a bit of freedom while helping one another adhere to a set of rules.

It’s a step away from the usual design of what FeatureMap was made for, but as we said at the start. FeatureMap can be a canvas and only limited by your design.

A project manager implementing a system using a map.

MovieBuddy App Roadmap

Moviebuddy has been our go-to example for years. It’s from a product owner’s perspective, but also caters to the entire team.

MovieBuddy is an application to build a list of your movies for record keeping. The map expands, both through sprints horizontally, but also vertically it explores new features, sections and upgrades.

In the map you can see how it grows from being a simple record keeping piece of software, to a software for sharing, compiling automatically, finding new recommendations, complex listings and integrated wish lists.

Take a look and it may just inspire you.

Moviebuddy is our original example, it shows a fleshed out map of sprints and features.

So now its your turn…

You have some examples, some inspiration and hopefully some ideas.

If you’ve made a map, or a new design, reach out to us and share with us the map and template.

One beautiful benefit of FeatureMap is having maps shared with us and seeing the new and wonderful ways that imagination has been captured and put down into a map.

Happy Mapping all!

Plan out your Product Feature Map in 1 hour or less

Creating a product map can feel intimidating, but with the right tools, it can be completed in no time. A systematic planning process and the right tool can get your project plan mapped out and finished in less than an hour.

A product map answers three basic questions:

  • What activities do you need to do?
  • Who will do these activities?
  • How long will these activities take?

It’s super easy, and it’s even better when you bring a team along with you to get started.

So how to start?

Step 1: Define your product

A story user map can be used as a method for visually outlining your roadmap for your product.

You will need to think of your product in stages, from high level to detailed level. Break your product down to varied groupings, then into steps, and then into further detail. Turn these steps into cards.

Product owner, testers, technical lead, customer support, architect, developers, UX/UI designer, sales and marketing, etc. All have their own techniques and requirements which will help you create your map.

With the questions above, what, who, why.

Step 2: Build that Map out.

If you are brand new to user story mapping, we have a short and sweet exercise. Let’s take a simple real-life example of “getting ready for work”.

The Story Map of Alex’s Morning
  1. Start with the goal.
    What is the story map about?
    What are you trying to accomplish?
    The main overall purpose.
  2. Second, list your main stories, your main tasks or activities. From left to right, insert the main steps of the story map that need to happen.
  3. Move on and detail each main list – column by column, left to right.

In the case of product features, the layers can be then developed and then bingo bango. Done.

In a simple step you have your Product Map of high level tasks.

Product Map complete.

And it’s only step 2… granted the product map would have been done as soon as you applied your main stories and really its more like step 3 if we need drag out tasks, but really… User Story Mapping as a tool for Product Maps offers a value you can only understand once it is underway.

If you want a more in-depth guide, broken down into detailed 7 steps, check out our guide here.

Step 3: Now you have your Product Map – Let it breath!

Story User Maps are ideal for allowing a team to design out a product feature and reduce the need to go back halfway through development because XYZ requirement. Let the project develop, evolve and change into larger, bigger projects or features.

You can develop and maintain any feature creep by creating new cards and assigning them into new sections.

You can add new requirements and manage the product map by assigning times, values, budgets and aggregating those values to the higher level cards.

The product map can become the defacto aid and tool in all your roles as Producer or CTO!

When building your story map approach it from all roles, if alone think about each responsibility in an order and feel free to create duplicates to then merge later. It’s about going with the flow and giving creative freedom to fleshing out a detailed product map. You can always edit, merge, delete in a later step. Due to their different foundations and interests, all roles have valuable points of view. As well as when working collaboratively with a team, everybody has an unmistakable and common comprehension of what they are about to build together.

As an aside, for further reading, we covered a series intro to story mapping with a basic run down and a simple exercise taking you through the morning tasks and making a map that may help, also don’t forget to check out some good practises in going from Idea to MVP.

Examples

We have a two examples below.

One is the Audio Finder Project, a board finished, with MVP defined, sprints defined and using some aggregation on the cards. A good example to see a finished map.

Audio Finder, a product map example with a finished MVP and aggregation.

One is the App for Lending Electronics, a board and map which is in the stage of “undergoing fine-tuning” and shows an example of half the map with tags and status applied, while the other half is still in flux. A good example to see a map undergoing evolution.

Lending Electronics, a product map example in progress.

If you want to give making your product map a go, quickly, check out FeatureMap and start for free.

High-Level Understanding – Utilising Aggregation in FeatureMap

User Story Mapping and FeatureMap

User story mapping can allow your team to see and understand the product from a user-centric design. You can see the bigger picture of the product, help the team identify gaps and dependencies, and give the first framework of a shared understanding between your entire team.

A finished FeatureMap Board should have your entire product outlined. The team will have sections separated, and you’ll be scheduling and planning the outline of prioritized stories into sprints and releases. 

In this article, we will share how to gain a better shared understanding of a map by utilising the feature of aggregation.

In short, it is the option of aggregating values. On each card you can assign a status, estimation and a budget. When you assign the aggregation option to a header card, the card will gather the values of all sub cards and calculate, dynamically, the overall status or number.

e you can see the FeatureMap Board of the Audio Finder Product, fully incorporated with aggregation of both status and time.
Here you can see the FeatureMap Board of the Audio Finder Product, fully incorporated with aggregation of both status and time.

A beautiful map, full of information, which can be daunting, but with ease you can see if the product development has any issues just by looking at the aggregated dynamic values on each of the layer headers.

Let’s break it down.

Status Aggregation

With Status, you are able to assign to a card, displaying a coloured icon on the main map. Great for that easy acquisition when viewing the larger map.

The statuses you can apply are: Todo, Ongoing, Done, Cancelled, Blocked.

With FeatureMap you can set statues to all cards to help with task management.
The Card – Register Online: Applying a status for the state of its task.

With aggregation, you can apply the option “automatic (aggregated)” on your header cards, and the header card will a value by priority to display allowing the team to see each header, and associated higher task status.

A quick glance at a busy map can be even quicker with good application of status icons, and aggregation allowing you to identify issues and solve them quickly. This is one huge advantage for those busy product owners or leads 😇

The priority for aggregation display is by importance: Blocked -> Ongoing -> Done.

When a card is set to “To-Do” and “Ongoing” are is aggregated as “Ongoing”.

  • When a column or layer has a “Blocked” card, this takes priority and is aggregated as “Blocked” as to draw attention to issues.
  • When all cards within a column/layer are done, the aggregated value draws “Done”.
  • The status “Cancelled” is ignored.

You can see Sign Up has been set to Status - automatic (aggregated)
Automatic (aggregated) has been applied to this Sign Up Card (Header).

The header card (groups) Sign Up has been set to an automatic (aggregated) value.

The sub headers (lists), Sign Up and Registration are also set to automatic (aggregated).

The cards in those columns have all be seen set with “Done” status.

The value will dynamically be displayed based on the values of the cards within the sub-cards.

In this case, FeatureMap draws the values from Register Online and Email Confirmation.

Both are “Done”, so the value aggregated is “Done.”

Budget and Estimation Aggregation

The task status is not the only aggregation option. You can also track your assigned values of budget and estimation.

When you assign numbers to a card, and then aggregation to the header. It will draw vertically to each header group and list or, if applied to a layer header, it will draw horizontally to each layer. This allows you to see the overall bigger picture, but also a specific collection of times, costs or the main status of the project.

In this FeatureMap we are utilising Aggregation.

On the User Management Section, we are not aggregating status instead we are estimating the time it will take for our developers to code the described section.

You can see the Dashboard Options Card is estimated to take 15 hours, and the Dynamic Windows Card is estimated to take 20 hours.

The header above – Dashboard draws those numbers and calculates both, giving us 35 hours. At a quick glance, the team now know the Dashboard feature should be done after 35 hours.

This aggregates higher to the USER MANAGEMENT header as well, showing us the value of 76 as it draws all estimations in it’s sub lists of Dashboard, Interact with Review and Social Media Elementals.

Customising the Aggregation Options.

On both Estimation and Budget, you can rename the labels of these fields and assign units.

If you decide to do this after the fact, worry not, you can assign the field settings to a single card, or all cards on the map when editing the options.

The list of options available when customising your fields.

To edit, open up a card and click the grey cog wheel next to the Estimation or Budget field.

Here you can rename the fields, and assign units.

Units available are:

  • none (default)
  • points (pts)
  • EUR (€)
  • USD ($)
  • weeks (w)
  • days (d)
  • hours (h)
I settled on Estimation and used the units as “hours”.

Apply to all cards please, and let my map be beautifully informative.

Vertical or Horizontal

Aggregation can be applied horizontally or vertically.

When you apply it to the Group and List Headers (Vertically) the aggregation will be drawn from the entire column, spanning every sprint or value.

As such, it is much more common to see the aggregation applied horizontally to see the Sprint status.

Aggregate up or across. Dynamically see your sprints and tasks.

Aggregation Helps

A user story map need not be static. Teams can update it with findings from research spikes, revised estimations, and user feedback from sprints and releases. The story map can also be used as a visual roadmap to communicate both the planned work and the work that remains.

So if you find yourself as a product owner or project manager wondering the status of your developers, and you want to avoid it interrupting them distracting them or holding unnecessary meetings, the aggregation tool is invaluable for your management.

It allows your developers to keep you updated while allowing an optimal level of communication. Maybe they’ll get more done? 😀

Give aggregation a go, you’ll be surprised how much control it gives to your map. You can access aggregation options with a Premium Subscription, or with the free sign-up trial.

Happy Mapping!

FeatureMap 4.0 Update – New Version

Last week we released the new version of FeatureMap.

We’ve said our goodbyes to FeatureMap 3.4 – which had been valiantly running for over two years with just a few minor updates – and welcomed FeatureMap 4.0.

I’d like to give you some news about what our team has been working on over the past year and our plans for the future of FeatureMap. This update will probably sound unusually technical – I thought for once it would be nice to give you a deeper overview of what we have been doing behind the scenes.

While the changes might not be immediately apparent, as it is still the same FeatureMap you are familiar with, almost all parts of the application have been upgraded under the hood. Our goal with this release was to lay out the necessary foundation to support our plans for the next major features and design of FeatureMap.

One of the main benefits of this background work is that FeatureMap is now faster than ever: we’ve measured load times and request times reduced by over 40%. It is also a lot more stable and more resilient when something goes wrong in the network.

We’ve been constantly working away at improving FeatureMap and throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen the growth of working from home and a wider adoption of user story mapping as one of the best tools for collaborative product management. This has kept us motivated to bring the best out of FeatureMap and strengthened our resolve to make it better.

So, what has changed in FeatureMap 4.0?

Faster everything

FeatureMap boots faster, loads pages more quickly, and can save your changes instantly. Not only does it offer a more responsive user experience, it also improves the overall stability of the application. Plus, it means we can now deploy hotfixes whenever necessary without noticeable downtime.

New application domain name

We have decided to separate FeatureMap’s public website, which presents the application features, pricing and legal terms, from the application in which you can access your maps. Your maps now live under the domain name https://app.featuremap.co, which means the URLs of your maps and cards have changed.

But don’t worry: we’ve made sure all the old links keep working and simply redirect you to the new locations.

Calls to our API will still work with www.featuremap.co as the base domain name for several months. API users are encouraged to use the new app subdomain from now.

Usernames are gone + improved mentions in comments

Another decision we made was to remove all visible usernames from the application. We still use them internally, but we no longer want them to be the default way of referring to a FeatureMap user. Which means it won’t be possible to sign in to FeatureMap using a username anymore: we’ll ask for your email address instead.

This also means we had an opportunity to improve the way users could @mention people in card comments and make it a lot nicer and easier to use. Give it a try: just type @ in a comment, add a few letters to filter users by name or email, and choose the person you’d like to refer to.

Map Layers that are collapsed are remembered

Quality of life updates will be seen frequently as we receive feedback and suggestions.
Already we’ve released a mini addition (now officially on v4.0.1 at time of posting) that remembers the last active setting of your layers or groups.

Now when you collapse, and adjust the views, those layers/groups will remain collapsed when you return to the map or reload.

Layers: Testing and complete are collapsed and will be remembered upon reload. Group Version 0.2 Website is collapsed and will also be remembered.

Sign in with Microsoft or Google accounts

Passwords can be a pain. We get that. Why not just log in to FeatureMap using your existing Google or Microsoft account ?

Linux support

For those of you interested in using FeatureMap on-premises, you can now install and run the application on Linux servers and not just Windows.

Anything else? What’s next?

We made a lot more changes that are not directly visible right now. These will allow us to release some long-requested features in the near future. Here are some of the improvements we are already working on:

  • Custom tags for your cards
  • A more modern look for FeatureMap
  • Quicker actions on cards: copy-paste, move, or update several cards at once
  • Dedicated workspaces for teams
  • Organized dashboard

Please send feedback and get involved with our roadmap.

What features do you want to see?

Keep an eye out for our future announcements. And as always: Happy mapping!

Product Owner Skills: What Do We Need?

It is essential that Product Owners in 2021 have a wide variety of skills. Soft skills (skills that are hard to measure) and hard skills (easily defined and specific skills).

Soft skills (such as communication, leadership, and creativity) and hard skills (like sales, data handling, and proficiency with development tools) both help create the best Product Owner. Gaining experience and knowledge in both skills is challenging and rewarding, but the soft skills are naturally harder to define and therefore harder to measure improvement.

Product Owners Boost your soft skills and enhance your collaboration, leadership and creativity with FeatureMap.

The role of a Product Owner is to lead, defines the work flow of the project, organize and prioritize the backlog of the team and streamline the project while maintaining the conceptual and technical integrity of the product. Heaps of hard skills, glued together with that all important management of individuals via soft skills.

A product owner can however help themselves with the use of Tools which complement and enhance those soft skills. User Story Mapping, and the use of creating a map and running a mapping session with the entire team, can really help boost and compliment your backlog management or project planning.

In LinkedIn’s ‘The Most In-Demand Hard and Soft Skills of 2020’, the top three soft skills are creativity, persuasion and collaboration. Three top skills that are required in Product Owners and Project Management.

With User Story Mapping and FeatureMap, you can give your creativity a boost as you create a map with ease, layout your product in easy organized cards, columns and utilizing the basic Agile design. Linking in immediately you can super up your collaboration as you bring your team members onto the board, and your entire broader team can fill in their own user story journeys, discussing and building a map together.

Seeing the bigger, larger, broader view of a project gives your decision-making and leadership a boost.

With the broader view, and bigger picture, you can give your persuasion and leadership that supported weight and sell your decisions to your team and stakeholders.

As a Digital Product Owner, you are at the helm of the product.

You will be the one responsible for ensuring the product is on track, and the product vision has been achieved.

You will be responsible for influencing cross-functional teams.

Why not give yourself a secret weapon?

Story Mapping: A Reliable Agile Methodolgy

User Story Mapping - A Reliable Agile Methodology

Story Mapping consists of ordering a project or product into tasks and organising each one into segments so you can better understand the whole picture and make better informed decisions for timelines, resources and roadmaps.

Such tools as Trello can be great for tasks or quick lists, but when you need more than a just columns. User Story Mapping utilises an agile methodolgy, incorporates sprints and gives you a broader view across the entire project.

When it comes to backlogs it can feel overwhelming, in some cases difficult to grasp how to start or what to prioritise. At times projects can be entirely sidetracked by mismanagement of priorities and a good Story Map of a product can highlight the Minimum Viable Project.

To solve these situations a Story Map can be utilised to reduce the backlog, refocus the project and remind the entire team of the end goal.

When designing a Story Map you must look at the bigger picture. It is often sensible to set aside a period of time (hours or days) to effectively cover the vision. We have some further in depth guides and resources to read up which are linked again at the bottom of this article. But for now.. we’ll cover the basics as an intro to why Story Mapping is a reliable Agile Tool.

We have guides all across this blog, but to get you straight into it, lets do a quick theory crafting test.

You will need to set out the broad goals of the entire product… the ideals, the dreams, think big.

To best utilise Story Mapping is to tackle the entire big picture, not just a singular sprint. Do not fall into the trap of a niche narrow sprint at this stage. The power of User Story Mapping is being able to see the entire product and split it up into those sprints. To see what can the MVP, what can be the optimal, and even split the big picture into easy acessible projects.

First write out the user stories by setting out functions.

The fuctions could be “Logging in” or “Website Dev” or “Graphics Design”.

The limit is based on how you wish to organise. We suggest basic, and start simple as the beauty of working on a tool with many is the ability to adjust and change at will.

Good rules to follow:
Horizontally, set out the title and set the user story under each function.
Vertically, set out the main stories or issues related to each other.

At this stage you can then prioritise importance from left to right, and from up to down. This creates a format of the top left card, being the most important.

Once you have the information down in cads and across the board. Start to slice.

Slicing the list.

Once the stories are organised into groups and themes. You can start with slicing the list into sprints of what is the Minimum Viable Spec, or as Jeff Patton puts it — “The minimium viable product in the smallest product releases that successfully achieves its desired outcomes”.

Step 2 — You can see the sprints have seperated, clearly, what functions are required in each layer.

You can set sprints into what you need to achieve. The trick of utilising story mapping is by setting out the entire dream product, then breaking your product/project into sections of achievable, working, and required sprints.

Wait… are we done already?

Do remember, the story map is not a static beast, it can be adjusted, amended with feedback, changed and adapted to suit the needs.

With multiple team members working on it, as a team, you can start to see the end goal, the ideal product. When working as a group you will be able to clearly define what each of you need.

Too often I have seen teams all have an idea in their head, start with a map and quickly realise their shared vision was mismatched!

The simple act of making the map together re-aligned with everyone on the same page, generated new innovations and removed any potential future unnecessary friction.

Next Steps.

Some more tips for the next steps:

  • Set status of a card
  • You can set time estimations
  • Set importance of cards
  • Use colours to set a custom identifier, such as challenge or complexity.
  • Use extra columns and set sections

The use of a story map will grow with each iteration, and with each demand.

Step 3 — Expanded map with colours, descriptions, checklists, status, and time estimations.

One thing is to ensure you are always planning the entire project, clearing backlog and not focusing on individual sprints.

And all of a sudden you have a grasp of your project.

It really is that simple.

If you want to see the tool we used for the images, check out FeatureMap.co

Conversation is Crucial with User Story Mapping

In 2020 we saw the rise of Remote workers. In 2021 we saw businesses, that were ahead, embrace working from home and remote workers. With the shift, came the realisation that conversation is king when it comes to project management. Communication, communication, communication.

User Story Mapping is the tool for a team to build out, or embrace a project. It enables you and your wider team to come together and design your product in full.

In essence, a simple story idea is; write something on a card, talk about it, converse and agree on what to build.  -> Complete the build and move to the next.

It sounds simple, but in a working environment, it is normally vastly more complex. Stories end up going through multiple processes, cycles and conversations. Stories end being created with 3 main needs. A card for the business, a card for the user and a card for the developers. Luckily User Story Mapping is something that can absolutely lend itself to this process.

 

The Right Size for the Right Story

A tried and tested method to help develop your Map is utilising the “right size” method. Break down each part of the project/prodocut until it fits the “right size”.

For example, when writing a User Story Map with a team, you loosely fall into three categories:

  • The User.
  • The Business.
  • The Developer.

The user’s “right size” is a story or card that fulfills a need.

The businesses “right size” is a story which bundles features, outlines updates, themes or new products. First it is set-up as a Minimum Viable Product and following releases are the right size which helps a business achieve a business outcome.

The developer’s right size is the most efficient for designing, building and testing.

Really you can define these to your preferences, but if you are unsure, use the above outlines.

 

Big Stories Break Down to Smaller Stories

Big stories (or epics) can be broken down to smaller stories, and then again even smaller. Each sprint/epic/story/card can be defined for each group but no matter the size, they are still a story.

To break down larger stories, use conversation.

Conversation is one of the best tools for breaking down big stories.

 

Discuss and Discover

When you discuss with your team, break down each story until it fits the “right size”.

Each size will vary from business to business, and project to project, so don’t define too much. Use conversations to allow you to naturally identify the “right size”.

When you discuss, dig deep into:

  • Who the user will use your solution.
  • How the user meet their needs without your solution.
  • How it would change with your solution.
  • How your solution would look and function.
  • How long will your solution take to build.

Even after your discussed discovery session, don’t stop talking, don’t stop collaborating.

With each step, each conversation will have different teams and different conversations, in particular, the main three, so do note each evaluation will vary.

Yet with each conversation, each meeting, each get-together, this can lead to slow down, so be aware of how you plan your meetings.

With FeatureMap you are able to construct your maps and have constant, flowing conversation on each card, story or epic. Have your entire team chime in, discuss and do so remotely. Allow this process to be part of the working stage eliminating unnecessary meetings for all and saving time and money.

With each card, story and sprint you design and build, every single card will have consequences, re-explore these, discuss them, confirm them.

Conversation is King with User Story Mapping so get started, and save time and hours, Plug in your exisiting work, or start anew.