Example Mapping

Involving stakeholders in defining acceptance criteria

options loop position

No. People



up to 30 minutes per story




The Team, Product Owner, Stakeholders

What is it?

Example mapping is a technique for fleshing out and gaining clarity around the acceptance criteria for a given story. It is based on the idea that multiple examples of specific cases convey information better than a single bad abstraction of a concept.

When to use it?

Example mapping should be used when you have the right people in the room to be able to explain business rules and example scenarios, and a technical team that can ask the right questions about those rules. It should be used as a tool to ensure that the team appropriately understands what is expected of the story, and to get the stakeholders involved in the development of acceptance criteria. It also brings to light misunderstandings while discussing specific examples of business rules.

How to do it?

Example mapping uses four different colors of sticky notes, which are:

  1. Yellow - for the story itself (as a header for the example map)
  2. Blue - for specific rules associated with the story
  3. Green - for examples of rules
  4. Red - for questions that arise during the discussion

Begin by selecting a story and write it on a yellow sticky note. Place it at the top of your example map as a header. In a horizontal row underneath that, begin writing business rules on blue sticky notes. Beneath the blue business rules, create columns of green sticky notes with individual examples of those business rules. These could be relatively unstructured, Friends-style “The one where…” examples, or full blown Gherkin criteria.

As misunderstandings arise surrounding individual examples or entire business rules, add red stickies with questions written on them if the right people to answer the question or resolve the misunderstanding are not in the room.

When there are enough examples that everyone is comfortable with what is being asked in the story, they can be rewritten as both automated tests and acceptance criteria.

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