Improve User Story Acceptance Criteria with Behavior-Driven Development (BDD)

In Agile development, a user story provides a simplified description of a software feature from an end user perspective. You can make your user stories stronger with techniques from behavior-driven development (BDD). In this article, I’ll describe BDD and how you can use it to improve your user stories, which will help improve developer performance, reduce rework, and increase end-user satisfaction. 

What is BDD?

Development teams use BDD to create simple scenarios that describe how an application should behave from the end user’s perspective. BDD encourages collaboration between the technical and business stakeholders, ensuring everyone has a clear, shared understanding of the intended user experience in the final product. BDD derives from Test Driven Development (TDD), a development process in which you write test cases before you write code.  

Using BDD to Write User Story Acceptance Criteria

You can apply BDD to a user story by adding scenarios that capture the story’s acceptance criteria. Using this technique, you ensure that the development requirements as well as the business perspective and the final user experience expectations are accounted for. And because the acceptance criteria are written in clean, concrete language that all can understand, you can more accurately evaluate release candidates against the acceptance criteria. Put simply, there’s less room for misunderstanding. 

To add an acceptance scenario to a story, we use Gherkin, a human-readable language for defining test cases. Using the simple format Given-When-Then, you can capture in first-person from the perspective of each of the team members, like this:

• Given is the setup; for example, “GIVEN the workflow exist”

• When is the action or trigger; for example, “WHEN I request a GET API”

• Then is the assertion; for example, “THEN the the Workflow should run their jobs”

How will the different team members use this in their work?

Business analysts: Collect software requirements in the form of user stories, focusing on the behavior of the system as well as the needs of the client.

Developers: Pass each of the test scenarios created for each story, and pass all the test scenarios. 

Quality assurance: Confirm all the test scenarios were implemented, understanding the specific items they need to validate. 

Product owners: Understand the user ‘s needs (customer voice) and the system behavior expectations, providing input for the creation of all the scenarios.

Stakeholders can collaborate more closely by adding examples of the expected behavior in the form of these acceptance criteria scenarios to the system.

Using BDD with user stories is an excellent strategy for teams that are performing well with user story development but then start to see complications in their work during testing. In this case, using the BDD approach enables stakeholders to work closely with all of the team, adding examples of the behavior they expect from the system. By providing their input in this way, stakeholders can help eliminate the need for guesswork or assumptions when building the application and help reduce complications in testing.

How Will Your Team Benefit From Using BDD With User Stories?

BDD offers many short- and long-term benefits to Agile teams, including: 

• Improved team collaboration: Using BDD to strengthen your stories leaves no room for the doubts and assumptions that can sometimes slow the process down. Instead, you get the information directly from the stakeholders in a simple, clear, easily understood format, making it much easier to understand the requirements.

• Improved visibility: When you use a colloquial language to write your stories, it allows everyone to understand the progress of the project and makes it easier to get a 360-degree view of the project.

• Reduced costs: Producing higher quality code that requires less bug fixing speeds time to market and reduces costs, producing more robust software delivery.

• Increased adaptability: BDD makes it much easier to modify scenarios as needs change. 

What Are the Challenges in Using BDD With User Stories?

The biggest hurdles most teams have in using BDD techniques with user stories are capacity and commitment. The BDD approach, especially in the beginning, is more time-consuming, so the team must have the time to commit to the work. All the participants must be involved during each planning session. If any team member who will be impacted by the application isn’t considered at the moment scenarios are created, you introduce the risk of assumptions being made about what that team member’s perspective might be. 

To avoid this issue, be sure to dedicate enough time for all the activities involved, including stakeholder mapping, learning about the BDD approach, story writing, and validation of acceptance criteria. 

Are You Ready for BDD User Stories?

Using BDD to capture the user story’s acceptance criteria can benefit your team in many ways. It can help clarify the requirements as well as the system behavior expected by all the project’s stakeholders. It can help the team work more efficiently from design to production and beyond. It can reduce the amount of time spent in rework. It can result in higher quality work and higher levels of end-user satisfaction. And it can significantly increase the team’s visibility to end-user needs so that they can add value to the business faster.

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