The field of interaction design is rich with techniques for getting inside users’ heads. Often, though, these techniques take a back seat in the development process because they seem to take up too much time or require too much money that’s better put into ensuring a technically sound product. But is that the real reason?
Let’s face it, the reason people work in technology is because they like technology. But when it comes to explaining technology to people, we have to turn things around and think about the people, where they’re coming from and what they need to know. This isn’t easy, and when you’re trying to get a product out the door, the hardest thing to do is to stop thinking about it and start thinking about people.
User stories are a popular design technique in agile development teams. The reason they’re useful is that they encapsulate something about the people using the technology early on in the process, whereas traditionally the technical writer might be one of the first “non-technical” humans to interact with it. With user stories, the human factor is there early on and considered in the decisions made. They don’t force the team to stop and start thinking in a completely different way, that germ of user thinking has been present from the early stages.
User stories are only one of the many reasons agile development has become so popular. But it does illustrate that it is possible to introduce the user’s perspective early in the development process.