Creating a great user experience starts before you ever have a single brainstorm, whiteboard session, or sketch a wireframe. One of the most important parts to creating a great user experience for any product is establishing the story of why the product exists and what the product does.

We’ve all heard the term “value proposition” but, sometimes I question the value of our value propositions.

I work with a variety of clients and do some teaching so I’m exposed to a lot of product ideas. One of the main problems I encounter is that teams often have a great idea, but the idea lacks enough focus to be a great product. Why? Because so many times we get excited by our ideas and see the vision of where the product could be in 3 years, and we forget that we need to start small.

Some common mistakes I see people make are thinks like using generations and vague statements. For example, have you ever heard someone describe their product as being for “soccer moms” or “millennials” or some other stereotypical phrase? Or, here’s one I bet we’ve all heard … “it’s like Pinterest for _______”.

Another mistake I see is when people talk about a project in terms of it’s features and not why those features will matter to the intended user. Too many times we become mesmerized with how the product will work and not why it exists.

We need to stop talking like this! Why?

Well, because speaking about our products without specificity allows room for assumption and re-interpretation of the idea. When this happens, you end up with a disjointed product and experience.

Remember when you were a child and you played the “telephone game” where everyone sat in a circle and whispered a phrase in each others ears? Then, at the end of the game someone would say the word or phrase and it would be wildly different from what it started out as.

This may be an extreme comparison, but I honestly don’t think it’s far off!

When we don’t take time upfront to truly define the story of who our users are and how the product’s features will impact their lives, we end up with products that lack continuity and a cohesive experience.

So, how can we fix this?

Well, I stumbled upon a great article in Tech Crunch called Mad Libs For Pitches: How To Perfect The One Sentence Pitch that walks through a Mad Libs style template for how to develop a micro pitch — in other words, a simple sentence, or product story, that clearly defines what your product is, who it’s for, what problem it solves or opportunity it embraces, and the key differentiators.

The template was created by Adeo Ressi , Founder of of the Founder’s Institute, so it’s safe to say he’s heard a lot of pitches and knows a few things about why some products fail while others gain traction and sometimes are wildly successful.

If you are creating a product, I highly recommend reading the article and creating a product story. It’s super valuable and Adeo walks through a few great examples to help you see why it’s important to not fall into some common traps such as using stereotypes and using vague terms and adjectives.

Here’s a video clip from the article incase you don’t have time to read the whole post:

If you are working on a product and are comfortable sharing, please feel free to post your one sentence pitch or product story in the comments below and I’ll be sure to give you some feedback.