Jun 15, 2023

Story Mapping: Product strategy framework explained

Discover how story mapping can help you create a clear product strategy framework.

Story Mapping: Product strategy framework explained

In the world of product development and management, there are countless strategies and frameworks available to help guide teams to success. One such framework that has been gaining popularity over the years is known as story mapping. This strategic approach can help teams better understand user needs and prioritize features to create more effective releases. In this article, we will explain what story mapping is, the benefits of using it, how to create a story map, and tips for success.

Understanding Story Mapping

Before delving into the specifics of story mapping, it's important to have a clear understanding of what it is. Simply put, story mapping is a visual representation of a product's user flow, organized into a hierarchy of user activities, user tasks, and features. The process of creating a story map involves breaking down a product's story into smaller, manageable segments to identify what needs to be built and in what order.

What is Story Mapping?

To put it simply, story mapping is a strategic and visual approach to designing products. A story map starts with a high-level view of the user journey and gradually drills down into more specific details, eventually resulting in a more detailed view of the product's features and functionalities.

Story mapping is a flexible and iterative process that allows product teams to continuously refine their understanding of the user experience and the product's requirements. By breaking down the product into smaller segments, teams can prioritize their work based on user needs and business goals, ensuring that the most important features are built first.

The Origins of Story Mapping

Story mapping was first introduced by Jeff Patton in 2005 as a way to bridge the gap between user stories and agile development. As an agile coach and consultant, Patton saw that traditional user stories were often too focused on individual features and lacked a holistic view of the user experience. By creating a visual representation of the product's story, he was able to help teams understand the big picture and prioritize their work accordingly.

Since then, story mapping has become a popular approach in product development and management, as it offers a simple and flexible way to prioritize features and stay aligned with the product vision. It has also been adapted for use in other areas, such as service design and customer journey mapping.

Key Components of Story Mapping

A basic story map consists of three main components: user activities, user tasks, and features. User activities are the high-level goals or tasks that users want to accomplish, such as "book a flight" or "order food online." User tasks are the specific actions that users take to achieve these goals, such as "select departure location," "choose departure date," or "select meal options." Finally, features are the functionalities that allow users to complete their tasks, such as a search bar or a payment gateway.

However, a story map can also include additional layers of information, such as user personas, user pain points, and business goals. By including these details, product teams can gain a deeper understanding of their users' needs and motivations, and ensure that the product is aligned with the overall business strategy.

Another key component of story mapping is the concept of "slicing." Slicing refers to the process of breaking down user tasks into smaller, more manageable pieces that can be built and tested incrementally. By slicing tasks, teams can deliver value to users more quickly and reduce the risk of building features that are not needed or do not work as intended.

In conclusion, story mapping is a powerful tool for product teams that want to create user-centered products that are aligned with business goals. By breaking down the product into smaller, manageable segments, teams can prioritize their work based on user needs and continuously refine their understanding of the user experience and the product's requirements.

Benefits of Using Story Mapping

Now that we have a better understanding of what story mapping is and how it works, let's explore some of the benefits of using this framework.

Improved Product Vision

Story mapping helps teams gain a clearer understanding of the product vision by breaking it down into manageable chunks. This approach allows teams to create a shared understanding of the product's goals and helps to align everyone involved with the same vision. As a result, teams can make better decisions about which features to prioritize and which to hold off on.

Enhanced Collaboration

Story mapping fosters collaboration between cross-functional teams by creating a shared language and understanding of the product. By involving stakeholders and team members from different departments, it's easier to spot potential roadblocks early on and align everyone towards the same goals.

Prioritization of Features

With story mapping, teams can better prioritize features based on the impact they have on the user's journey. By organizing features based on user tasks, it's easier to understand how each feature contributes to the product's overall success. This approach helps to avoid feature bloat and ensures that the most important features are built first.

Effective Release Planning

Story mapping is a great tool for release planning. By mapping out the user journey and identifying the necessary features, teams can create a roadmap that aligns with the product vision. This approach helps to manage stakeholder expectations and ensures that releases are delivered on time and on budget.

How to Create a Story Map

Now that we understand the benefits of using story mapping, let's explore how to create a story map in four simple steps.

Step 1: Identify User Activities

The first step in creating a story map is to identify the user activities. User activities are the high-level goals or tasks that the user wants to complete. For instance, if you were building an e-commerce platform, your user activities might include "sign up," "browse products," and "make a purchase."

Step 2: Break Down User Activities into User Tasks

Next, break down each user activity into smaller, more specific user tasks. These tasks should represent the steps that the user must take to achieve a particular goal. For example, under "browse products," your user tasks might include "search for a product," "filter products by category," and "view product details."

Step 3: Prioritize User Tasks

Once you have identified the user tasks, it's important to prioritize them based on their importance and impact on the user's journey. This prioritization should be based on user research and stakeholder input and should reflect the product vision.

Step 4: Organize User Tasks into Releases

Finally, organize the user tasks into releases based on their priority and impact. Start with the most critical tasks and build releases around them. This approach helps to ensure that the most important features are built first and that each release has a clear purpose.

Tips for Successful Story Mapping

Now that we know how to create a story map, let's explore some tips for success.

Involve Stakeholders

It's important to involve stakeholders in the story mapping process. This includes team members from different departments, customers, and end-users. By involving everyone in the process, it's easier to gain a shared understanding of the product vision and ensure that the story map accurately reflects the user journey.

Keep it Simple and Visual

Story maps should be simple, visual representations of the user journey. Avoid overcomplicating the process by including too much detail or extraneous information. Keep it visual by using color-coding, labels, and icons to represent different features and functionalities.

Continuously Update the Story Map

Story mapping is an iterative process, so it's important to continuously update the story map as new information becomes available. This includes user research, stakeholder feedback, and changes to the product vision.

Use Metrics to Measure Success

Finally, use metrics to measure the success of the story mapping process. This can include user adoption rates, feature usage, and user satisfaction. By measuring success, teams can continuously improve the story mapping process and ensure that they are building products that meet user needs.


Story mapping is an effective and simple way to prioritize features, stay aligned with the product vision, and promote collaboration between cross-functional teams. By following the steps outlined in this article and utilizing the tips for success, teams can create more effective products that meet the needs of their users. So why not give story mapping a try and see the benefits for yourself?

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