User Stories, Tasks, Epics and Bugs – How to Choose the Correct Jira Issue Type

by | Nov 21, 2022 | Jira, Scrum

If you are somewhat new to Jira and see the term ‘issue’ or ‘issues’ on many screens, you might be wondering what Jira issues are, what are different issue types, how to use them, and what are Jira tickets.

In simple words, teams who are using Jira Software utilize issues to track individual work items that must be completed. Depending on how a specific team uses Jira, an issue could be anything that will eventually get someone’s attention required to achieve some sort of completion.

That is a bit of an academic statement, and it is quite abstract, so let’s try to use a specific real-life example to help describe the concept.

Turning Requirements Into Jira Issues

Say you are working on a software project, and you are asked to close the remaining gaps in the user authentication system. These gaps are described in an email, and they include a lack of functionality for a password reset and changing the email address. On top of that, the phone number should be added to a user profile.

There are also known problems regarding allowing usage of the space character in a user name and broken validation of the length of the user name.

And You are also asked to ensure that all user records that have not been active in the last five years are deleted, and the user database is reindexed.

That information can be translated into a list of things that need to be done, something like this:

  1. Enable password reset
  2. Enable email address change
  3. Add phone number to a user profile
  4. Username should not allow space characters. 
  5. Username length should be validated
  6. Delete users not active in the last five years
  7. Re-index user database

Although short, this list is the right candidate for tracking in Jira. It is clear that each item will become a Jira issue, but there are several issue types to chose from. Let’s review what these types are and how items from the list match them.

Jira Stories

The first issue type is the Story, and it is used to describe a new functionality, a new feature, something that your users will care about.

Looking through our list’s first three items, enabling password reset and email address change, and adding phone number certainly qualifies as something users are interested in. Let’s mark them as stories. 

But what about the remaining items? Will users like your application more if spaces are allowed in username or if in-active users are deleted? Probably not, so items 4 to 7 are definitely not ‘story’ type.

Jira Bugs

The next issue type is Bug, which represents something that does not work as expected and needs to be fixed, a problem that we have and want to correct.

Items 4 and 5 are clearly something that falls into that category. You wanted the length of the user name to be validated and space character not allowed in it, but for whatever reason, it is not working and needs fixing. So, these two are becoming Bugs.

Jira Tasks

The last issue type is Task, which represents work that needs to be completed, but it is not a feature that users care about, and neither it is work to fix something that is currently not working as expected.

The last two, items 6 and 7, qualify because you will be doing them to keep your app in good health, not to correct a problem or to please your user. I will tag items 6 and 7 as Tasks.

Jira Epics

We mapped all our items in the list, but there is still one more issue type – the Epic type.

Often we refer to a group of features as a feature as well, silently assuming it is clear to everyone that there is some sort of hierarchy in place. For example, ‘shopping cart’ is a common feature in e-commerce applications. Still, there is a set of features that all belong to the shopping cart, ‘adding items to cart’ or ‘removing items from cart’ or ‘adding multiple items’ or ‘showing related items’ and many more.

That is where Epic becomes useful. It is used to group related issues under one umbrella issue. In the previous example, ‘shopping cart’ will become an Epic, and all other items mentioned, like adding and removing products to and from the shopping cart, will be stories or different issue types.

Let’s see how to apply that to our example. When we talk about username and password, that is all part of user authentication functionality, which becomes our epic. Items 1, 4, and 5 seem to be a good fit for that, and they should all belong to User Authentication epic.

User Profile functionality is about maintaining a user record, including name, address, phone number, etc. Items 2 and 3, email address change, and phone number are definitely part of that, so let’s relate them to the User Profile epic.

Two remaining items don’t seem to belong to any higher-level functionality, so we will leave them without the epic, which is perfectly fine. Belonging to an epic is not mandatory.

Jira provides four issue types out of the box. Each issue type should be used to capture and describe a specific type of work, such as:

Story – new functionality, a new feature, something that your users will care about

Bug – something that does not work as expected and needs to be fixed, a problem that we have and want to correct

Task – work that needs to be completed, but it is not a new feature, and neither it is fix to something that is currently not working as expected.

Epic – work consisting of a group of related issues

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