Anticipating User Needs Through Stories

One of the most common traps of product design is ending up designing for yourself. It’s sometimes easy to forget that there’s an entire planet full of people outside of your office and so starting project planning with user stories is an incredibly valuable way to stay grounded and is one of the core design principles ay Automattic. By using stories based on what we already know about our users, we can anticipate feature usage and design experiences that feel like they were tailor made for our users.

Search for and tell stories about people, not just data.

A recent example of this is Site Stats. Stats is one of the most used features inside the mobile apps. It makes sense, take your mobile device with you anywhere and check in on how your site/post/blog/store is performing while you’re on the go. But did you notice all those /’s that’s because there are a great many things users care about when it comes to their site’s performance. Furthermore if they happen to be the owner or admin of multiple sites they probably even have different interests in stats between them. This is where stories play their part.

  • Anna is a stay at home mum, she writes passionately about her family life and shares her posts with her friends and family on social media. She tries to post daily.
  • Natan is a freelance photographer, he uses his site to catch new clients. He updates his site whenever he gets a chance. He mainly uses his site as an “online leaflet”.
  • Christine is a commerce site owner. She runs her site from home and always likes to stay on top of what items are trending.

In these three examples, Anna and Nathan and Christine all find value in keeping tabs on their site’s performance but granularly what they care about is worlds apart and as a result the way they use the feature is different. Acknowledging this is the important step, now the solution will be laser focused on customer satisfaction – not your own personal experiences.

In this example, this boiled down to a feature that will be included in a future iteration of stats – Personalised Insights. But this principle can be applied to the genesis of any product, feature and interaction – Anticipating user needs through stories based on our existing knowledge of our users is crucial in the first steps of project planning.


By Sylvester Wilmott

Mobile designer @ Automattic