Job stories also referred to as a jobs-to-be-done framework are nothing but a more generalized and enhanced version of user stories that primarily focus on defining user tasks in a product design. They are considered to be a great alternative for user stories. Unlike user stories that are created based on personas, job stories involve creating a UX design keeping in mind the needs and concerns of the real users. It avoids the personas approach, in other words, personas become contexts.
User stories are merely assumptions or one’s own imagination. Moreover, they do not acknowledge causality. The challenge that arrives when you form a user story based on assumptions is that you fail to properly understand the actual problems of a real user, and therefore they remain unaddressed. Job stories, on the other hand, are based around real people, and not assumptions. Here, the user situation triggers a motivation that leads to the expected outcome. The concept revolves around “when” and most importantly “why” a user wants to perform a certain task instead of what they want to perform and how they want to perform. Put simply, we can say that Job stories are more concerned with motivation and outcomes rather than a user performing some function.
A job story UX template or format comprises three key elements-
1. “When” (the situation or the context)
2. “I want to” (the goal or motivation), and
3. “So I can” (expected outcome)
The first element provides the context to the story or the thing which is triggering the story in a particular situation. The second point which says “I want to” provides the motivation for the story whereas the last element “so I can” indicates the desired outcome.
For example, “When one of my contacts joins the messaging app, I want to be notified about it so I can start a conversation with him/her”
Let’s take an example to understand how Job Stories are more meaningful than User Stories. Consider a scenario where a person makes a payment at the time of checkout on an eCommerce website.
A user story related to it can be-
“As a user, I want to be shown a message telling me not to make the transaction twice so that I avoid making repeated payments.
A job story of the same scenario would be-
“When I checkout, I want to see a success message so I can avoid making the transaction again”
This clearly highlights the “when”, “I want to” and “so I can” points of the job story template.
Which do you think adds more meaning to the story? The second one, right? There are two main reasons behind this. First, the story applies to everyone doing a transaction on the site irrespective of who the user is. Second, it provides a clear context to when it is happening, i.e. post-checkout. If you carefully take a look at the user story, it never really tells us anything about the user and when the message should be displayed. When there isn’t a situation, it’s important to define the “user”.
Most of the part remains identical in a job story as well as a user story template. It’s just a matter of defining the context and the user.
Both user stories and job stories have their own strengths in UX design. Deciding when to use what also depends on the product. For instance, user stories can be used for products whose users vary significantly, and it is imperative to thoroughly understand those users. This is the reason why user stories begin with “As a [user]” where we have to clarify who the user is. When we talk about user stories, who will be doing the story is as important as what they will be doing.
Conversely, in job stories, who is doing the story isn’t necessarily important, but the context is. You define a situation when a story will happen without thinking much about who is performing it. Job stories become a better option to opt for when your product has users but their needs do not differ a lot.
So the conclusion is that if your product’s users differ in substantial ways, user stories tend to be a great option but if they do not differ significantly, job stories are a better choice. The best thing to do, if possible, is to merge both and form a better contextual story with the users clearly defined.
A job story can be presented in a much better way if you follow the following tips-
Creating a situation is one thing, refining it is another which can be done when you add more context to it. By adding more contextual information to a situation, it will be easier for you to design a solution that eliminates the various concerns of real people. For example, a situation that says “When I want something to eat” can be further refined to “When I am in a hurry and want something to eat.” You can plan out the solutions accordingly.
Jobs stories, as we mentioned earlier, are based on real people, unlike User stories which are based on personas. The latter may create an incorrect image of the ideal customer and can leave holes in your design. Moreover, can you ask a persona why did they choose one product over the other? What challenges did they face while browsing your product or the competitor’s and what solutions did they demand? The answer is NO, you can’t.
With Job Stories, you fill this gap as it comes from the opinions of real people. You conduct interviews, talk to people and figure out the concerns they have and the contexts that were functional at the time when they used the product.
Another way to write your job stories and make them better is by adding forces to motivation which is much like adding more context to a situation. When you augment the motivation stage of the job story template with forces, it becomes more specific and helpful. You will be able to form a solution that minimizes the forces that push customers away from a product and boosts forces that pull them towards it. Let’s understand this with an example.
“When I am placing an order and encounter a problem, I want to be assisted right away so I can complete my order successfully.”
The situation: “When I am placing an order and encounter a problem”
The motivation: “I want to be assisted right away”. Now let’s couple the motivation with some forces. The forces that drive this motivation to get assistance can be-
I feel irritated because I wanted to place a quick order
I feel anxious because of payment failure
The outcome: “so I can complete my order successfully”
By adding forces, you reassure that customers won’t have to wait for long to get assistance and can place the order quickly, and can be made feel safe regarding the payment issue.
This provides a better solution, doesn’t it?
A design concept that involves motivation to reach the desired outcome is a far better approach than designing for attributes. That’s the key difference between User Stories and Job Stories. The former gives more value to roles and attributes while the latter gives preference to situations and motivations. User stories based on personas provide a reference to the different types of users and what they do but they never completely reveal why people do something. Knowing motivation is important and Job stories do that job remarkably.
What do you make of Job stories? Do share your thoughts in the comments below.
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