User Story Card Clarified

Avoid storing user stories in digital forms, such as JIRA. Use physical index cards instead.

Zhimin Zhan
8 min readSep 2, 2021


This article is one of the “IT Terminology Clarified” series.

Not long ago, I heard a junior team member asked: “What is a story card?”. A programmer answered: “A requirement in JIRA”. Then he showed the JIRA board like below:

The image source:

Here I have to say that the common view the programmer held about User Story Card is not correct.

Table of Contents
· History of User Story Card
· My understandings of User Story Card
· Summary
· My User Story Card looks like this

History of User Story Card

I will first explain the history of the User Story Card.

Fact: The success of Agile is before JIRA

Prior to Agile, the common term for the software requirement is “Use Case(it was a quite big thing, here is a link to Use Case books on Amazon). A Use Case is often tied with Rational processes such as Use Case Modelling which was later proved heavyweight. Due to many problems with the actual use of Use Case in practice: too formal (such as modelling process) and encouragement for traceability (which is time-consuming, often wrong and has no practical benefits), the term ‘Use Case’ has been gradually deprecated since 2006.

User Story is the term introduced in Agile, originally by Kent Beck in 1997 (Wikipedia). In 2004, the book “User Stories Applied: For Agile Software Development” by Mike Cohn, IMO, made “User Story” well known. Since then, with more software projects adopting Agile, software requirements have been known as User Stories. But where does the word ‘Card’ come from? A user story was written on a physical index card (see the picture below). I will explain more about this later.

Physical Board example (image source)



Zhimin Zhan

Test automation & CT coach, author, speaker and award-winning software developer. Help teams succeed with Agile/DevOps by implementing real Continuous Testing.