Difference between user stories and tasks

Though they sound similar in a functional manner, user stories and tasks are quite different aspects of agile methodology. Still, many of us use the terms user story and tasks interchangeably. Not only this causes confusion, but also keeps you from reaping the full benefits of your agile work culture. Until and unless you clearly know the terms and their meanings, you will not be able to follow the best practices. So, let’s try to clearly understand the difference between user stories and tasks.

Let’s be clear - the difference that user stories go to the product backlog and tasks go to sprint backlog after sprint planning is not valid. It doesn’t explain the difference but just tell what goes where. We are looking to understand the exact meaning and the proper application of the terms. So, let’s start with the definitions.

'Matrioskes' by Miquel Bohigas Costabella 'Matrioskes', photo by Miquel Bohigas Costabella

User Story

A user story - simply put, is a way to define a software feature from an end-user perspective. For example, a user story may look like "As a user, I want to be able to update my profile with age, present occupation and social interests, so that people visiting my profile page get an idea of my interests". Generally, it is good to follow this template:

As a <end-user-type>, I want to be able to <user-requirement> so that <reason>.

This gives the developers a clear idea of what they need to develop and why. User stories are generally added in the product backlog, but in some cases they can even be added to sprint backlog based on the judgement of scrum master.

Another important aspect of developing a user story is that, it usually involves a programmer and tester, perhaps a user interface designer or analyst, a database designer, or others. It is rare for a user story to be fully developed by a single person. Even when that happens, the person would be filling multiple of those roles. Read more about user stories in our previous blog post.

Tasks

Sometimes it makes sense to break a user story down into the work that needs to be done. In calling out the tasks needed to build a story, the development team engages in an act of shared design. Tasks are not normally written in user story format. Instead, they are written by the team, for the team, so use language the team will understand.

A task is a piece of work that needs doing, usually in order to build toward a bigger story. As such, it does not have independent deliverable functionality or generate business value, and, unlike a story, it normally is not a vertical (end-to-end) slice. Most tasks tend to be for programmers, but they could be for anyone on the team.

In contrast

With the definitions of user stories and tasks, it is clear that user stories help in defining specific features of the end product from a user’s perspective. But if the user story holds a lot of information and can’t be used as a single unit of work, i.e. if the user story involves lots of activities that need to be broken down further, then we use tasks. Tasks may not represent whole lot of information in terms of user perspective, but they certainly help in make sure the developer has a well defined activity on his desk.

Adding user stories in Taiga

To add a user story, you need to first create a project with Scrum template. You can then go to the Backlog page and click on the Add a new user story button, new form appears, fill up the details and stories are added. All the users stories can be seen listed in the User story section. Next step is to add a user story to a sprint. To do so, select a user story by clicking on the small checkbox in its front. This will reveal a new button above- Move to current sprint. Click on this button to add the user story to the current sprint. Want to see this in action? Here is the video explaining the steps in detail:

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