A philosophical approach to product story telling

A common practice suggests you base your user stories on the following template:

“As a user, I want this so I can achieve that”.

This type of opening line sends us, product managers, on a journey in search of functionality, of tangible value. This is great. This not only puts things in order but also allows better communication, both inbound and outbound. A road map looks clear and tangible when it holds stories like “integration with Google Drive” or “iOS app”, right?

Right.

The problem is not the feature backlog or roadmap. The problem lies in our misconception that functionality is everything. We may say we don’t think so but take a look at your roadmap and tell yourself how much of it is not about functionality?

You may, or even should, ask what else is there? Well, the title kind off gives it away. the missing element is the emotional value.

Many products are built around the emotions they trigger, enhance or inhibit. Their functions are just means to serve the emotional end goal.

Take Facebook as an example, it delivers an emotional value to its users (not their advertisers clientele). It helps users feel connected and better about themselves, sometimes even feel like they are better than others (shaming anyone?) Facebook Groups help users feel part of something bigger or in some cases just feel normal (even when they are clearly not). These emotional value propositions are delivered by Facebook through a pack of features and functionalities, all designed with our emotional needs in mind. There was never a user story about wanting to poke a friend, yet this became a legacy feature.

So what is my point?

Have you ever considered a story template such as this one:

“As a user I want to feel safe when making an online payment.”

or maybe

“As a user I want to feel in control when opening my inbox”

While these are not the entire story, they set us product managers on a different path in which we think about what our users feel, not what they do.

I work in ed-tech, to do my job well I need my users (students) to feel confident, relaxed, open, focused, otherwise they will not learn. If I make them feel uneasy, stressed, confused they will not be able to learn, their state of mind while using the app will not allow the functional value to manifest and my users will not buy in.

So what do your users want to feel when engaging with your product?

If you’re interested in some additional angles I would recommend you watch “Life lessons from an ad man” and Simon Sinek’s Ted talks.

Adi

A Product Manager, Biz Dev Director and Mentor, working with early stage startups, helping them to focus and scale.

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