User Story vs. Use Case: What's the Difference?

Understanding the people who are using your product can help you make it quite a bit better. Both use cases and user stories help with this, but in different ways and for different reasons. Learning how to use these invaluable tools can help your team plan incredible product designs that blow your customers away and win over new leads with less effort.

Even better, with use cases and user stories in your arsenal, every member of your organization, from marketing to management, will be able to grasp the value your product can actually offer. Once you understand how both of these powerful tools for product planning are used, you may find yourself creating multiple versions of each for your product instead of choosing just one or the other.

What is a user story?

A user story is an integral piece of information for fully understanding how customers will actually use your product. User stories are typically informal and focus on generalities to convey a high-level sense of what your target customer experiences (or expects to experience) as they use your product. This type of explanation helps your team hone the value proposition behind your product and make it more appealing to your clientele.

User stories help emphasize the customer’s perspective during the development process and can keep your team from creating features that do not interest the types of people your product is intended to help. The relative informality of user stories is entirely intentional—it can help guide your team’s efforts without delving into minutiae or technical jargon. Instead of defining specific details, your user story should describe the steps users take in using your product, from beginning to end.

However, excessive verbosity should be avoided: Too many words can dilute the meaning behind your user story and make it more difficult for team members to align their own contributions with the end user’s interests. In the context of agile development, user stories are intentionally shortened and even broken down into separate components to make accommodating them in a single sprint easier to manage.

Expressing important details in your user story without wasting time is key to its effectiveness. Suggested inclusions run the gamut from your target user’s role in their organization to their expectations and personal capabilities. Including these important details in your user story should be simple enough for smaller projects, but it can become a bit of a challenge to accomplish as your project scales in complexity and scope.

Regardless of the difficulties your team may face in crafting a compelling user story, it’s valuable enough to warrant completing and refining over time. A single, solid user story can tell you all about your user’s actual needs, simplify collaboration efforts among members of your organization, and help to eliminate risks early on in the development process (such as scope creep).

What is a use case?

A use case is very similar to a user story in that it focuses on what a customer will be doing with your product. However, use cases are more formal and specific. Use cases are a lot like maps that detail how a user might get from point A (beginning interaction with your product) to point B (completing an interaction once their goal has been reached). A use case traces a customer’s path to achieving their goal with your product and helps your team identify any major obstacles along the way. Often enough, a use case centers on a single goal that a customer may have for your product. This makes use cases appropriate for fine-grained assessments of its user interface and more.

Without a use case to fall back on, your team would run the risk of overlooking bottlenecks in the design of your product. This could spell disaster for the user experience, potentially leading to low customer retention rates and higher acquisition costs than would otherwise be necessary.

Besides smoothing out development bumps, a proper use case for each feature you plan on building out can simplify communication between the dev team crafting the product and all relevant stakeholders across your organization.

Another key detail to consider when creating a use case for a feature of your product is that you can (and should) take known alternative flows into account. This involves considering what options are available to customers who cannot complete the intended primary flow from point A to point B. When issues arise, it is important to have alternatives at the ready for your users to try out. Use cases are uniquely beneficial for formulating such alternatives and identifying places or circumstances in which they should exist.

User story vs. use case

To sum up the points made above, user stories are shorter and more generalized than use cases, but they can convey the guiding concepts that define your product. In contrast, use cases are fairly specific and are meant to help identify issues with your product’s design flow.

Get product development guidance from VeryCreatives

To learn more about use cases, user stories, and the myriad other tools available for fully realizing your vision of a popular, profitable product, it helps to have a bit of guidance. Our team at VeryCreatives specializes in making digital product ideas a reality. Reach out to book a call with us today to learn how we can help you create the perfect product that produces profits early on and provides a stable launchpad for future growth.

SaaS expertise to your inbox

Join the group of Founders & CEOs and learn everything you need to build your SaaS product and grow your business.

Follow us on social media

Máté Várkonyi

Máté Várkonyi

Co-founder of VeryCreatives



Digital Product Agency

Explore more topics

  • Product Discovery

    Product Discovery

    Essential tips for exploration, finding a target market, reducing risks, going from zero to 0.1.

    Browse Product DiscoveryArrow
  • Product Strategy

    Product Strategy

    Useful tips about market positioning, scoping workshops, risk management and product-market-fit.

    Browse Product StrategyArrow
  • Minimum Viable Product

    Minimum Viable Product

    Best practices about idea validation, scoping, staffing, platforms and building a minimum viable product.

    Browse Minimum Viable ProductArrow
  • Business Model

    Business Model

    Articles about business models, recurring revenue, subscription models, and pricing strategies.

    Browse Business ModelArrow
  • Digital Transformation

    Digital Transformation

    Application of digital innovation to existing business problems.

    Browse Digital TransformationArrow
  • Outsourcing


    Benefits of outsourcing product development, fixed-price agile, build vs. buy.

    Browse OutsourcingArrow
Schedule a free consultation with us!

Book a free consultation!

Save time and money by getting the answers to all the questions you might have about your project. Do not waste your time spending days on google trying to extract the really valuable information. We are here to answer all your questions!