User story cards for web writers

Do you or your colleagues have problems knowing where to start when writing for your organisation’s website? Or do you find it hard dealing with different opinions about what you should write or who you’re writing it for? User story cards can help. They’re an easy way to do a little planning to help guide your writing.

A simple planning tool

User story cards are simple tools that briefly describe a user, task and goal in 3 statements:

  • I am a [user’s role]
  • I want to [user’s task]
  • So I can [user’s goal].

They’re often written on index cards, but you can write them on anything or create them as a Word document.

Photo of
User story card

User story cards have been used to identify requirements in agile projects (a fast, flexible method for developing software). Recently, I read an article suggesting they could be used to help develop content requirements for a website. I think they could also help web writers.

Some examples

I am a year 12 student
I want to find the entry score for the course I’m interested in
So I can decide whether to list it as a preference on my application

I am an expectant mum
I want to find out more about the pros and cons of vaccinations
So I can make an informed choice for my baby

I am a local resident
I want to find what Council can do about neighbourhood noise
So I can work out who to contact about a barking dog

Creating user story cards

Who should create them?

Anyone who needs to write web content can create user story cards. If you’re a web content manager, you could create some examples to encourage content authors to use them.

How should they be produced?

  1. Spend a little time thinking about the people who will be using your content. If you’re not in a rush you could also:
    • Do some brainstorming with a colleague, or better yet, your whole team
    • Talk to customer service and your social media team about customer enquiries related to the content you’re working on
    • Check email enquiries you’ve received from users
    • Ask your web team to provide information about search terms related to your content
    • Interview users (if you have the opportunity or budget).
  2. Think about the tasks users will be trying to do, and why they would be doing them.
  3. Create a card for each task. If the same task is done by users with vastly different information needs, you might create 2 or 3 cards for a task—one for each type of user. Don’t fuss about it too much—this is meant to be a simple tool to help you plan and then write better content. It’s not meant to become its own project.
  4. Try to write the task and goal using words the user would use.

Benefits of user story cards

User story cards can help focus your attention on the:

  • People you’re writing for (through the role statement)
  • Information needs of your audience (through the task and goal statements)
  • Keywords your users might search with (through the task statement—if you’ve managed to write cards in your users’ language).

If you try them, I’d love to hear about your experiences with them.

Related links

On user story cards

On content planning