D User Stories and Use Cases: Defining UX Requirements

Por Redacción Aguayo

Discover the essential differences between user stories and use cases in user experience (UX) design. Learn how to apply each approach to define effective requirements and enhance your design skills with practical examples.

CAPTION: Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Understanding Requirements in UX

In the world of user experience (UX) design, precise requirement definition is fundamental to creating products and services that meet user needs. Two common approaches to defining requirements are User Stories and Use Cases. Both methods have their own characteristics, advantages, and specific applications.

Let's explore the essential differences between User Stories and Use Cases and how to apply each of them to improve your design skills. We will use practical examples to illustrate how these approaches can benefit UX projects.

User Stories: Understanding User Needs

Definition of User Stories

User Stories are an essential tool in user experience (UX) design that focuses on understanding and representing user needs, desires, and goals. These stories are concise statements that describe specific functionalities from the user's perspective, expressing the "what" and "why" of a feature. They typically follow a simple yet powerful structure: "As a [type of user], I want to [perform an action] to [achieve a goal]."

User Stories enable designers, developers, and other team members to see the world through the eyes of users. By placing the user at the center of the design process, a human-centered and empathetic approach is encouraged, ensuring that the end product is relevant and useful to the target audience. By understanding user needs and goals, the creation of solutions to solve real problems and provide genuine value is facilitated.

Example of a User Story

User Persona: As an online shopper Action: I want to see reviews from other buyers when viewing a product Goal: To make informed and reliable purchase decisions

In this example, the User Story represents the needs and goal of an online shopper. It expresses the desire to access reviews from other buyers when viewing a product, with the goal of making informed purchase decisions. This simple yet comprehensive statement becomes the foundation for designing the functionality that enables the display of reviews on an e-commerce platform.

Applications of User Stories

User Stories are invaluable in the user experience design process and offer numerous applications:

  1. Understanding and Prioritizing User Needs: User Stories help teams identify and understand the most pressing user needs. This allows for the prioritization of features and functionalities.
  2. Developing User-Centered Solutions: By defining user needs clearly and concisely, User Stories serve as a guiding light for the development of user-centered solutions.
  3. Facilitating Communication and Collaboration: These stories are effective tools for fostering communication among designers, developers, marketing specialists, and other stakeholders. They facilitate a shared understanding of project goals.
  4. Evaluating and Testing Design from the User's Perspective: User Stories are useful elements for prototyping and product evaluation. They help verify whether the design meets user expectations.
  5. Maintaining a User-Centric Focus Throughout the Project: These stories serve as constant reminders that the user should be the primary focus at every stage of the design project.

User Stories are a powerful tool that ensures the user remains the primary reference point in the design of products and services, which, in turn, translates into a more effective and satisfying user experience.

Use Cases: Detailing System Functionality

Definition of Use Cases

Use cases are an essential part of user experience (UX) design that focuses on describing in detail how users will interact with a system, product, or service in terms of the functions that will be utilized. These cases provide a logical and sequential description of how a user engages with the system and how it responds to the user's actions. Use cases are valuable for both designers and developers as they provide a clear understanding of the interactions between the user and the system.

A typical use case is presented in the form of a diagram or a text description. It usually begins with a title that describes the function or process being analyzed. Then, the specific steps a user follows to complete a task are detailed. Use cases may also include details about prerequisites, involved actors, and expected outcomes.

Example of a Use Case

Use Case Title: Purchase a Product in an Online Store Main Actor: Online Shopper Preconditions: The shopper is logged into their account. Description: The shopper navigates the online store, selects a product, adds it to the shopping cart, completes the payment process, and finalizes the purchase. Steps:

The shopper browses the online store for a desired product. Once found, the shopper selects the product to view more details. The shopper clicks on the "Add to Cart" button. The product is added to the shopping cart, and the shopper can review the items in the cart. The shopper clicks on the "Complete Purchase" button. The shopper provides shipping and billing information. The shopper selects the payment method and completes the transaction. Expected Outcome: The product is successfully purchased and shipped to the shopper.

Applications of Use Cases

Use cases have various applications in user experience design and product development:

  • Designing Clear Interactions: Use cases help designers and developers create clear and effective user interactions, ensuring that the system responds as expected.
  • Testing and Evaluating Prototypes: These cases are used to test prototypes and products in development, allowing teams to verify if the system behaves correctly.
  • Effective Communication: Use cases are valuable communication tools that help team members understand and align regarding how the system is expected to work.
  • System Documentation: These cases provide detailed documentation on how the system operates, which is useful for user training and issue resolution.
  • Risk Assessment: Use cases can help identify potential issues and risks in user interactions before a product is launched.
  • Continuous Optimization: Use cases can be used to identify areas where the system can be improved and optimized for a more effective user experience.

Together, User Stories and Use Cases provide a comprehensive and deep understanding of user needs and how they translate into specific system functions. Both tools are essential for designers and developers looking to create user-centered and effective products and services.

Key Differences Between User Stories and Use Cases

The key differences between user stories and use cases are essential to understanding when it is appropriate to apply each approach. Here, we will explore these differences in more detail and provide guidance on when to use one or the other.

Abstraction Level:

  • User Stories: User stories are usually more abstract and focus on user goals and high-level needs. They are written in language understandable to stakeholders and focus on the "what" and "why" of the requirement.
  • Use Cases: Use cases tend to be more detailed and technical. They focus on the "how" a functionality is achieved and are described in more technical language.


  • User Stories: They are smaller and focus on specific features or functionalities from the user's perspective. Each user story represents a small part of the system.
  • Use Cases: They are often broader and describe more complete scenarios. They can address multiple interactions and functionalities in a single case.

Main Actors:

  • User Stories: They focus on the needs of a specific user or user group. Actors can vary from one story to another.
  • Use Cases: They focus on primary actors, such as users, external systems, or internal system components. Each use case has clearly defined actors.


  • User Stories: They are written in simple sentences and focus on storytelling. They follow the structure "As [user], I want to [perform an action] to [achieve a goal]."
  • Use Cases: They typically follow a more formal and technical structure. They include sections like preconditions, main steps, and postconditions.


  • User Stories: They are primarily used to keep the focus on user needs and effectively communicate project priorities.
  • Use Cases: They are useful for detailing more complex interactions between the system and actors, especially in software projects.


  • User Stories: They are flexible and encourage adaptation to changes in user needs. They can be easily modified or rearranged.
  • Use Cases: They tend to be more rigid and may require more effort to make significant changes.

When to Apply Each Approach

The choice between user stories and use cases depends on the context and project needs. Here are some guidelines to help you decide when to apply each approach:

  • User Stories:
    • Use user stories when you want to focus on user needs and prioritize features based on their perceived value to the user.
    • They are ideal for agile and dynamic projects where adaptability to changes is essential.
    • They work well when stakeholders and the development team seek a quick and clear understanding of requirements from the user's perspective.

  • Use Cases:
    • Use use cases when you need a more detailed and technical description of system functionality.
    • They are suitable for projects with complex requirements or technical interactions that require precise description.
    • They work well in projects where comprehensive documentation is needed, and technical details are critical.

In many projects, a combination of both approaches can be beneficial. User stories can be used to communicate user needs and priorities, while use cases can detail the technical implementation. The choice will depend on your project's specific context and your team's preferences.

Practical Examples: Applying User Stories and Use Cases

To better understand how user stories and use cases are applied in practice, let's look at concrete examples of both methodologies in real-life situations.

Example 1: Online Shopping Application

User Story:

  • Description: As a user, I want to be able to add products to my shopping cart and make online payments to facilitate online shopping.
  • Reason: This will enable users to make convenient and quick purchases without having to visit a physical store.
  • Acceptance Criteria: The user should be able to add products to the cart, view the cart's content, modify the quantity of products, and complete an online purchase.

Use Case:

  • Use Case Name: Make Online Purchase
  • Main Actors: User, Online Shopping System
  • Preconditions: The user is logged in and has selected products.
  • Main Steps:
  1. The user adds products to the cart.
  2. The user reviews the cart's content.
  3. The user modifies the quantity of products if necessary.
  4. The user proceeds to payment.
  5. The system processes the payment and confirms the purchase.

In this example, the user story focuses on the user's need to conveniently purchase products online. It describes the "what" and the "why" of the requirement. On the other hand, the use case details how the online purchase process is carried out, with specific actors and detailed steps.

Example 2: Flight Reservation System

User Story:

  • Description: As a traveler, I want to be able to search for available flights, select seats, and book a flight to efficiently plan my trip.
  • Reason: This facilitates travelers in organizing their trips and obtaining flight tickets.
  • Acceptance Criteria: The user should be able to search for flights by destination and date, view available options, select seats, and complete the reservation.

Use Case:

  • Use Case Name: Book a Flight
  • Main Actors: Traveler, Reservation System
  • Preconditions: The traveler has logged into the system and selected a flight route.
  • Main Steps:
  1. The traveler enters search details.
  2. The system displays available flight options.
  3. The traveler selects a flight.
  4. The traveler chooses seats.
  5. The system confirms the reservation and issues a ticket.

In this second example, the user story focuses on the traveler's need to plan a trip and obtain an airplane ticket. Once again, it centers on the "what" and the "why." The use case, on the other hand, focuses on the technical details of how flight reservation is done, with specific actors and detailed steps.

These examples illustrate how both user stories and use cases can be used to effectively document requirements. The choice between one or the other depends on the level of detail and the need for technical documentation in a specific project. Both approaches are complementary and can be combined to gain a comprehensive understanding of system requirements.

The Basis of User Experience (UX) Design

In the discipline of User Experience (UX) design, precise requirement definition is an essential step in the process of creating products and services that meet user needs and expectations. User stories and use cases are two key approaches to document these requirements, each serving its own purpose and specific applications.

User stories focus on the "what" and "why" of a requirement. They are designed to be understandable by both users and development team members and center on user needs. User stories are ideal for fostering empathy and understanding user needs, potentially resulting in more customer-centric solutions.

On the other hand, use cases focus on the "how" of a requirement. They provide more technical and detailed documentation of system functionality. Use cases are particularly useful for projects that require a deep understanding of system logic and technical details. They are also well-suited for large and complex projects where extensive documentation is needed.

The choice between user stories and use cases depends on the project context, its scale, and the specific needs of the team and stakeholders. Often, they can be effectively combined to gain a comprehensive understanding of requirements.

Ultimately, the most important thing is to ensure that requirements are documented clearly and comprehensibly for all parties involved. Whether you use user stories, use cases, or both, the goal is to create a solid roadmap for designing and developing your product or service and ensure that it meets user expectations and achieves its objectives.

The choice of approach will depend on your team, your project, and your specific needs. What matters most is that both user stories and use cases are valuable tools in a UX professional's toolkit for defining and effectively communicating requirements.

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