How to label user stories - StoriesOnBoard

Although card colors and also personas serve a great opportunity to add more visuality to your user stories, it’s often not enough. We got tons of requests on UserVoice to add colors, add secondary label options. StoriesOnBoard’s Support Team made up cool solutions for several questions. For example, how to visualize user journeys, sub-personas, how to add secondary or tertiary tags to cards.

 

A few days ago, I did a great discovery. I updated an old story map and tried out ideas with Emoji icons. The result looked only funny but later found something useful in the Emoji library… What was that? Dots, squares, colored exclamation and question marks. And I found it an awesome opportunity.

  1. Put Emoji icons into card title so you can see them from the bird of view
  2. Search & filter panel handles these icons so you can search for tagged cards
  3. use shortcuts to insert emoji icons at anytime

It means the opportunities are U-N-L-I-M-I-T-E-D for tagging, labeling, visualizing or whatever you call it. The topic inspired me a lot, so I started a mini-series about tagging. Follow us to get ideas and boost your story map!

How to label user stories

Card colors are still a great feature to add more visuality to a board, so use them for high priority information such as task type, risk points. Afterward, try to add icons to cards. You got two options:

  • add tags to card title to get a better understanding (eg annotations, priority) or
  • add icons to card description the lower priority dimension (Don’t forget, you can filter out tags if they are in description)

Where to put? It’s up to you and your team. I placed persona, priority, and journey tags for the first place and put other marks after the title.

If you used three or more icons, try to preserve the first row for tags.

 

Which icons should you use for labeling? Use any of them, but keep serious. My suggestions are

  • dots: 🔵🔴⚫⚪🔘
  • squares: 🔶🔷🔳🔲⬛⬜
  • exclamation or question marks: ‼⁉❓❗
  • easy to understand pictograms: ⚠🔐📌🔍🔑💡
  • icons for prioritization: 1⃣2⃣3⃣🥇🥈🥉

 

Emoji shortcuts

Mac: Hit CTRL + COMMAND + SPACE to open emoji panel

Win: 1. Add Touch Keyboard to the taskbar by clicking on it with the right mouse button and select “Show Touch Keyboard”. 2.Open Touch Keyboard with by clicking on the keyboard icon.

Most popular user story labeling methods

Story mappers use many grouping opportunities for labeling routines and every project is different, but the most purposes of labeling are the followings:

  • differentiate personas and sub-personas
  • visualize user journeys
  • mark priority levels
  • separate task types
  • add any other information

 

Let’s start from the back. I studied several story map examples and public boards. Teams use often labels for further action e.g. “must be discussed”, “must be re-prioritized”, “needs improvement”, “blocked” etc… When an issue came up just mark the story and discuss it later. Bigger teams often separate sessions for a better productivity. For example, a brainstorming session is a perfect place to re-prioritize or discuss user stories. If you marked these cards, use the search & filter to find them fast and easy. User stories can be qualified with labels e.g. “security feature” “integrations”. These marks can be special information for a developer.

 

I think the oldest usage of labels is separating task types. By improving a running product, you should visualize tasks, bugs or features if they belong to different priority level or dev team.

Prioritize user stories

In fact, you have two opportunities to visualize priority levels on a user story map. The most authentic way to express priority between cards is the vertical order. This is as simple as the method itself, move high priority cads upper and place less important stories on the bottom of the board. Organizing features into releases is also a prioritization. In addition, you can use releases such as MoSCoW categories. In contrast, in some cases, these methods don’t deliver enough value. For example, the fourth task of a user step can be more important than the first card of another step.

 

The most popular priority labels are:

  • Standard sequence: “High”, “Medium”, “Low”
  • MoSCoW: “Must”, “Should”, “Could”, “Won’t”
  • Jeff Patton used the following three categories for prioritization (according to KANO model): “Must haves”, “Delighters”, “Satisfiers”.

To sum up, labeling with Emoji icons gives an excellent option to separate, differentiate, prioritize tasks. At the same time, you can narrow the team’s scope by using the search & filter. And also your backlog will look nice.

 

How to use the Search & Filter Panel

1. Open Search & Filter Panel and enter the selected tag

2. Hit “Find Next”

3. Hide the panel to explore the filtered story map

 

I’m curious about your labeling tricks, so any other ideas are welcome.

Leave a comment below and follow us to the next part!

Example Story Maps:
Accommodation Website Example – Personas

Accommodation Website Example – Journeys

Handpicked related articles:

How to visualize personas and journeys – Tag, like a pro PART2

5 Replies to “How To Label User Stories – Tag Like A Pro PART 1”

  1. Awesome! This really helps display maps for users that are not accustomed with how story mapping works, can be very overwhelming with new clients and co-workers that are not familiar with the concept. Love it and will totally use the touch key pad starting immediately, as I ran out of colors a long time ago. 😉

      1. It takes too long to open the touch keyboard and find a specific icon each time. Can you add a common set of icons to the markdown options? Thanks

    1. Hey Chris,

      Thanks for the question. To be honest, the emoji labeling is a “DIY-idea”, but our dev team would improve the labeling features.

      The emoji shortcut on Mac works good and shows the frequently used icons on the top, so you don’t need to scroll down. It’s a bit slower on windows.

      You should try out an emoji extension, but I’m not sure it will be faster.

      In addition to, I have another suggestion: You can tag user stories with standard characters eg [_] [O] or [?]. Using this method you can filter out labeled cards, and visualize journeys etc. Use them in bold version __[_]__ , __[O]__ or __[?]__ to gain visuality.

      I made up a small map to represent it: https://storymapexamples.storiesonboard.com/m/custom-labels

      It delivers less visuality but more speed.

      You can vote for improved labeling feature on UserVoice and share your thoughts: https://storiesonboard.uservoice.com/forums/276721-general/suggestions/6950016-custom-colored-labels-on-cards

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