INBOX INSIGHTS, February 28, 2024: User Stories Deep Dive, GA4 Diagnostics

INBOX INSIGHTS: User Stories Deep Dive, GA4 Diagnostics (2/28) :: View in browser

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User Stories Deep Dive

If you’re new to Trust Insights, welcome! User Stories are one of my favorite forms of communication. If you’re not new, thanks for returning. You already know that my love language is user stories.

I realized, however, that I haven’t done a deep dive into why user stories are so effective. Well, buckle up, that day has come.

First, to get us all on the same page, we use user stories to help define the 5Ps. The 5P Framework is Purpose, People, Process, Platform, and Performance.

A user story is a three-part sentence that tells you the audience, action, and outcome.

“As a [persona], I [want to], so [that].”

The “persona” represents the “people”, the “want to” tells you the “process and platform”, and the “that” defines the “purpose and performance”.

But really, what is a user story?

“A User Story describes a feature or requirement that is to be implemented and is independent of a specific tool (i.e. JIRA, Rally, Trello, etc.). User stories are employed in various Agile frameworks including Scrum, Kanban, and Extreme Programming.”


Something I haven’t discussed is the acceptance criteria for a user story. It’s another framework! (I did not create this framework). The framework you can use is INVEST (Independent, negotiable, valuable, estimable, small, testable).


What the heck does that mean? It means that when you are creating a user story, it should be the lowest possible point of your requirement. If you can take your user story and break it into smaller stories, you still have stories to write. It also needs to demonstrate value. When I talk about user stories, the “so [that]” maps to the purpose and performance. Your outcome. It’s your “why”.

User stories in Agile development are well documented. Repurposing user stories in general business and marketing, not so much.

Why user stories?

I prefer user stories over other kinds of requirements because they are straightforward. It’s a simple sentence with a lot of flexibility. In Agile development, there are many rules governing how we create and execute user stories. In business, we don’t need the same rigidity. We can use them as a communication tool. We can use them to make sure we’re all on the same page about what we’re doing. We can use them when we aren’t sure if our actions align with our goals. We can use them when we want to make sure we’ve represented everyone’s needs.

How do we write effective user stories?

The first P is Purpose. This is your goal, your intention. What is the problem you’re trying to solve? What is the question you’re trying to answer? We often start with really big goals. When our goals are too big, it makes it hard to create a performance plan (the fifth P). Drafting high-level user stories can help break down your goal into manageable, measurable pieces.

“As a CEO, I want to create content around user stories, so that I can explain their value”

This is a good start, but it doesn’t tell me what I need to know. How do I define value? How do I know I’m explaining the concept correctly? Let’s keep going.

The second P in the 5P framework is People. Who are the people involved in your initiative? Who are the customers, the end users? Each of these people should have their own distinct user story. Each user story should speak to their needs and track back to your overall goal.

This is where a lot of teams get stuck. They don’t create enough representative user stories. They also forget to create user stories for their different audience members. You might think, “This person isn’t involved so they don’t need a user story.” To that I would say, create one anyway. You might realize that they have a role that you were not aware of. At the very least, you’ll have all your bases covered.

The third P in the 5P framework is Process. How are you going to write and collect user stories? I like to introduce the idea to my team and then let them create their own. It takes practice, or rather, a process. The more you use them, the easier it is to create them. Often when I’m talking with someone, I’ll rephrase their statements as user stories. It’s a good way to verify that you’ve understood what they are after.

User stories are also an effective way for you to work out what your process is for an initiative. The “want to” in the user story can start to help you understand what that is.

Let’s look at the example above, “As a CEO, I want to create content around user stories, so that I can explain their value.” That statement tells me that we’re creating content. The first thing I would do with this information is look at our content creation process. Do we have a repeatable process or do we need to develop one?

The fourth P in the 5P framework is Platform. I always discourage people from listing the platform in the user story. Why? Because it can create an unconscious bias towards the solution. If you state, “I want to create content” your options for doing so are wide open. If you state, “I want to create content with generative AI” you narrow the kinds of solutions you can choose from. In the first statement, generative AI could be a solution, but it might not be. You don’t want to limit yourself by stating the platform. The user story should inform you of the platform selection, not the other way around.

The last P in the 5P framework is Performance. How did you do? In the context of user stories, they should tell you what you need to know to move an initiative forward. They should inform you of your team and customer’s needs, and what actions you need to take. I frame the performance section as “Did you answer the question asked?” and “Did you solve the problem?” In this case, did I successfully show the value of user stories to my audience? Hopefully, you’ll tell me!

Tips and Best Practices

Keep your user stories concise and focused. They should always tie back to your goal. Make sure your user stories aren’t complicated or use overly technical language. Anyone, regardless of their involvement, should be able to understand a user story. Use user stories to help with shared understanding. Lastly, iterate user stories as the initiative evolves and as you learn more information.

Are you using user stories with your team? Reply to this email to tell me or come join the conversation in our Free Slack Group, Analytics for Marketers.

– Katie Robbert, CEO

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Diagnostic Reports of GA4 Health, Part 4 of 4

As we covered recently on the Trust Insights livestream, Google Analytics 4 can be a bit cumbersome to use. So starting this week, I’ll be sharing a four part series on diagnostic analytics for GA4, to understand whether or not your GA4 is working correctly. It’s important to note that we won’t be examining GA4 for marketing purposes – this is bare bones, bare metal “is it working?” Stuff.

This week, let’s dig into default channel grouping traffic. I personally extract the data from GA4 via the API but you can easily build this chart in seconds in the Explorations menu. Choose default channel grouping as your dimension and sessions as your metric:

GA4 events

It’s important to understand how Google assigns default channel groupings, so that we understand what traffic falls in each bucket. Google has some fairly decent documentation on the topic, on this page.

This is the reason why UTM tracking codes are so important to standardize and use according to Google’s guidelines. In doing so, you reduce the work needed to get traffic to fall in the correct buckets, which in turn makes things like attribution analysis work much better.

What we’re looking for in our default channel grouping traffic is balance. Ideally, no one channel should be greater than 50% of your site’s traffic. If it is, there’s a possibility that channel may pose a risk to your marketing strategy. This is especially true of mediated channels.

A disintermediated channel is a channel you have control over for the most part. These are channels like email, SMS messaging, direct mail, or other methods that allow you to reach a customer or audience member directly with minimal interference. When you send an email or a mass text, you can be reasonably certain that a decent amount of that message will arrive to your audience.

Mediated channels are channels that have an intermediary, usually AI-powered, standing between you and the customer. These are channels like organic search, social media, and ad channels. You do your best to create effective content for these channels, but you have no guarantee that more than a tiny slice of your audience will see the message in a timely manner.

For example, a long time ago I worked in financial services, and the owner had cleverly bought a bunch of very high value domain names early on that, back in those days, nearly guaranteed you top rankings in organic search. One year, Google changed its internal algorithm substantially, and the website – which earned more than 95% of its traffic from Google – dropped to the #4 spot in search results. The effect was an immediate 70% loss in revenue for the company, because the website was so reliant on a mediated channel.

Disintermediated channels such as email can be more than 50% of your traffic, but it’s still a best practice to try farming as much traffic as you can from diverse sources, so that your level of risk is spread out.

That concludes our series on basic GA4 diagnostics. Hopefully you found it helpful and your GA4 instance is now in good base operating shape.

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