August 12, 2021
0 min read

Use Cases vs. User Stories: relationships and differences

Use Cases vs. User Stories: relationships and differences.png

Any good Agile team knows the difference between Use Cases and User Stories. They deploy both to outline requirements. But the purposes of User Stories and Use Cases could not be more different. Let’s define our terms.

User Stories are simple short descriptions of a feature or bug fix written from the end users’ perspective. User Stories should explain what the team needs to accomplish in common, non-technical language. User Stories, by their nature, should not delve deeply into technical details. The team instead wants to write a simple declarative statement to explain what the user wants and what result they want to achieve. User Stories can look something like this:

“Bill, a florist, wants to track which flowers customers buy most often. He needs a database to keep track of all the flowers he sells.”

“Sandra, a car owner, would like to keep track of how much her daily commute costs her. She needs a way to track all her car-related expenses.”

User Stories follow a simple structure. The goal is to summarize the User Story in a sentence or two. User Stories usually follow this structure: 

  • As a

    • I want to

      • So I can

      As you can see, User Stories give a high-level overview of a feature or bug fix. Teams aim to tackle one user story per sprint.

      Related post: Converting Story Points to Hours: Why Doesn’t It Work?

      Use Cases  describe the relationships between a system and users or actors. Use Cases  lay out in detail what Users Stories describe at a high-level. Writing out Use Cases helps teams to understand the implications of User Stories. User Stories start the process, Use Cases dive into the details. Good Use Cases contain most of the following information:

      • Goal

      • User / Actor

      • Preconditions

      • The standard path to success 

      • Possible alternate paths or variations

      • Post conditions, end state

      Use Cases give the development team a space to describe how a system will function in detail. While User Stories aim to describe a Sprint in layman's terms, Use Cases use technical language and great detail.

    What comes first, use case or user story?

    User Stories start the software development process. In Sprint planning meetings, Product Owners share the User Stories at the top of the backlog. The software development team asks questions and seeks clarity on the User Stories. They seek to understand requirements and the definition of done. By the end of the Sprint planning session, the team should have a clear idea of how the Sprint will proceed.

    Daily Standup meetings help the team stay the course. In each short meeting, the team communicates with the Product Owner any roadblocks or issues they face. They ask questions and share their progress. They share what they have completed the day before and what they would like to complete in the coming day. Daily Standup keeps the team focused on the User Story.

    So as you can see, User Stories and Use Cases serve different purposes. They both describe goals for the user. But you cannot substitute one for the other. Product Owners should create User Stories first. User Stories should describe a feature in general, everyday language. User Stories describe the benefit of a feature or function. Use Cases describe, in detail, how the team will create that function, how they will meet that goal. 

    What are the key similarities and differences between a user story and a use case?

    User Stories focus on who, what, and why. Use Cases describe how we will build the process to achieve the goal of the user story. User Stories apply to a single Sprint, whereas Use Cases may cover more than one Sprint. 

    Software development teams write User Stories as a very brief and succinct description of a small feature or fix. On the other hand, Use Cases offer a detailed overview of a system or set of functions. The structure of the two also proves very different. User Stories should be just a sentence or two. We could write out a User Story on an index card or on a post-it note. A User Story should not take a lot of time to write.

    User Cases take more time to create. Use Cases should spell out in detail each step the team needs to take to complete the Sprint. Many teams find it best to write out the Use Cases in the form of a diagram. A diagram helps teams to identify places where the process flows less than smoothly. 

    User Stories

    Use Cases

    Written in plain language 

    Detailed Technical Language



    Usually a sentence or two

    Longer description or detailed diagram

    Written from the end-user’s perspective

    Written in technical language for the development team

    Describe a feature or function

    Describe how to create that feature or function

    Fits a single Sprint

    Can take up multiple Sprints

    Easy and quick to write

    Should take time and effort to create

    So which should you choose for your project, User Stories or Use Cases?

     It really depends on the scope of the work. If the project is not too complex, User Stories might prove sufficient. If the project is complex with dependencies, Use Cases may make more sense.

    Many teams find the best way to work is to use both User Stories and Use Cases. Using both allows teams to have the best of both worlds. They first describe their Sprint in simple terms that all team members and stakeholders understand.  Then the team builds the Use Cases, fleshing out the User Stories. This gives them both simplicity and detail, structure and creativity. Teams that use both User Stories and Use Cases have better focus and clear expectations for their project.

    Here at Blocshop, we are big fans of User Stories and Use Cases. Using Agile and Scrum our teams work hard to deliver results, on time. If you’d like to learn more about how we harness the power of Agile, please get in touch!

Learn more from our insights

0-4 cover.png
October 03, 2023

IT Staffing: Individual Hiring vs. Specialized Developer Teams

Should you hire individual developers or go for a specialized, custom-built developer team?

July 17, 2023

ChatGPT-3.5: An Overview and Limitations

In this article, we'll take a closer look at the capabilities and limitations of ChatGPT-3.5, providing you with a comprehensive overview of what it can do and what its boundaries are. So, let's delve into the inner workings of this large language model.

gpt4 vs gpt3-5 and the key differnces.png
June 15, 2023

A Deep Dive into GPT-4 vs GPT-3.5 Differences and Ability to Revolutionize Software Development

There are key differences between ChatGPT-3.5 and ChatGPT-4 that software developers and companies procuring software solutions alike should be aware of. Let's see how these differences affect the output generated by these models on specific examples.

May 09, 2023

AI-powered software development: What CTOs need to know in 2023

As technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace in 2023 and beyond, CTOs must stay ahead of the curve by utilizing predictive analytics, automated testing processes, and deployment solutions.

May 05, 2023

How Artificial Intelligence is changing web development

AI technology is now being used in many different industries, including web development. It’s important to understand the impact that AI can have on web development as it can help companies to create more efficient and user-friendly websites.

May 05, 2023

How AI-powered software development is changing the role of the CTO

As AI-powered software development becomes increasingly commonplace, CTOs must prepare themselves to take on a new set of responsibilities that require more than just technical know-how.

April 17, 2023

How to build a minimum viable product (MVP)

The MVP is the version of a new product that allows Blocshop and your team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least amount of effort. The essence of your core idea is delivered as a barebones solution. The solutions is, however, sufficient for usage by early adopters. As a product, it has tangible qulities that express a look and feel.

March 21, 2023

10 AI tools for developers you should know about in 2023

For developers, programmers, and data scientists, AI coding solutions can free up thinking time, allowing such professionals to focus on the fundamentals of their projects, and complete such projects much faster.

February 14, 2023

17 Ideas for Web Apps in 2023

Gazillions of web apps and ideas for web apps are floating around the metaverse - so creating one that properly represents a unique brand is a huge challenge. Our list provides a number of areas of simple app ideas to help businesses transform their online presence through a web app.

Top 15 micro-SaaS ideas for your startup in 2023.png
December 06, 2021

Top 15 micro-SaaS ideas for your startup in 2022

What exactly do we mean by micro SaaS? Micro Saas solutions use a web browser or mobile app interface. Micro SaaS solutions usually come about through the effort of an individual or very small team. It aims to solve precise problems. Micro SaaS projects have small budgets and overhead. Customers use Micro SaaS solutions on a monthly or yearly subscription basis. Micro SaaS projects target a small niche of the consumer market.

Software engineer hourly rates in 2021 (based on experience and location).png
November 22, 2021

Software engineer hourly rates in 2022 (based on experience and location)

Region influences salary more than any other factor. Taxes rates, cost of living, and government benefit programs affect the rates software developers charge. Software developers in the USA  and Canada earn more than software developers in other countries.

The best programming languages for app development in 2022.png
November 15, 2021

The best programming languages for app development in 2022

Software developers usually have three main ways to create an app. They can choose to code a native app, a hybrid app or a progressive web app. Developers create native apps to function on one specific platform, usually either iOS or Android. They create these apps using Swift or Objective C for iOS. For Android they use C++, Kotlin or several other languages. 

Cross-platform mobile app development: Tools & frameworks for 2022.png
November 09, 2021

Cross-platform mobile app development: Tools & frameworks for 2022

The cross-platform development project aims to create apps compatible with several operating systems. Cross-platform apps work on iOS, Android, and Windows. Cross-platform apps look and feel like apps developed specifically for the operating system.

App development cost breakdown in 2022.png
November 08, 2021

App development cost breakdown in 2022

Your business needs an app, but you aren’t sure about the cost of creating an app. Without some figures, you can’t even begin to estimate the potential budget, so let’s get you sorted with the information you need to make your app a reality.

November 04, 2021

Web app development: a detailed guide

The best web apps give a responsive and engaging user experience through a browser instead of a single application. Think of web app development as a super-charged website. Web apps have many features of mobile apps coded for iOS or Android without the need to code for specific platforms. Developers create web apps using HTML, javascript, Python and CSS.

15 useful web app development tools for 2021.png
October 29, 2021

15 useful web app development tools for 2022

Web development vs app development: Choose the best for your business.png
October 19, 2021

Web development vs app development: Choose the best for your business

Outsource web development in 2021 and beyond: benefits & tips.png
October 15, 2021

Outsource web development in 2021 and beyond: benefits & tips

8 IT outsourcing trends in 2022.png
October 11, 2021

8 IT outsourcing trends in 2022

More and more firms choose to outsource their IT operations and functions. IT outsourcing grows each year. The Gartner report announced that firms spent $3.8 billion dollars on IT outsourcing in 2019. They expect that the trend will continue. Companies aiming for digital transformation need partners and tools. They need tools that they cannot build in-house with speed and accuracy. 

In-house development vs outsourcing software development.png
October 01, 2021

In-house development vs outsourcing software development

Every business starting software development must ask themselves what will serve them better, in-house or outsourcing? There is not a simple answer to the question. Making the choice to develop in-house or to outsource will have long-term consequences.