An Agile Story Map takes a user journey and then prioritizes product releases based on each of the user journey phases.
There are many benefits to this approach, but an important trait is that it results in a balanced roadmap. Agile Story Maps allows you to focus on the user’s journey as a whole as opposed to discrete pieces. It also makes any trade-offs you might have to make quite transparent. This is not only helpful for making product design decisions in a collaborative way but it can help align your team when everyone can visually see the give and take that is within the scope of the release.
Agile Story Maps are organized by a horizontal axis that represents the user journey and a vertical axis that organizes features based on releases (priority). Here’s what it looks like (note, I’ve made some edits to the structure replacing releases with “Next” and “Later” but the format is basically the same).
So Much to Love
There are many things to love about Agile Story Maps! My favorite is that it’s a dead simple way to visualize and actually see a roadmap. Since it’s so easy to understand it’s great enabler for collaborative conversations and decision making. Cards (features) can easily be shuffled around and in real time a team can comprehend the implications of this shuffling. It’s easy to update and redistribute at anytime.
There are a variety of ways to build your Agile Story Maps before digitizing them. My choice, in tandem with another designer was to use physical cards tacked up on a wall. You can also use a whiteboard. The benefit of physical cards is it allows you to shuffle cards around very easily without erasing and re-writing until you’re happy with the final version.