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“How well does our website and app communicate our vision?”

I was recently asked the question while giving feedback to up and coming mobile social sharing service. We had already talked a couple of hours about the service, so I had gotten a clear picture what the founders’ vision was.

I paused and finally answered:

“It’s like a jigsaw puzzle: You have all the pieces, but they are assembled in the wrong order, so you can’t see the complete motive of the puzzle, i.e. your vision.”

Update: Dennis Crowley, CEO of Foursquare, says it even better! Great quote from this excellent interview on his learnings, and how Foursquare keeps building towards its long term vision.

“We’re basically taking all the stuff we built over the last two years or so, disassembling it […] You put all the pieces on the table, and figure out, Okay, what is the best way to put these pieces back together so that it tells the story of Foursquare in the way that we want it to be told?”

This is fairly common, especially in the early phase of a product. You’ve probably heard “Can’t see the forest for the trees”: You want too much, too early, and become feature rich. It’s easier and more fun, especially being a geek, to build more features than think about the bigger picture, nail the one thing and follow your long term vision. It also takes time to crystallise your vision.

That is also why there is so many recurring startup advice out there to remind you to:

  • Focus!
  • Do one thing well
  • Start by serving one niche well
  • Find the one thing, the heart and soul of the product
  • Don’t add, but remove features
  • Stay away from the feature wars

When the dance floor is filled with other pretty and smart boys and girls, it’s easy to become anxious, get caught up in feature wars, and lose the sight of ones vision. Don’t. Instead, keep refining and aligning your core functionality with your long term vision. (Why I love Foursquare so much)

Remember, there’s almost nothing as appealing and contagious as self confidence and clear vision. Mixed with large portion of humility and humbleness.

Don’t Make Me Think!

Being feature rich only ends up confusing the user and buries the message and the value or your service. When the service lacks natural flow it makes a user think. An intuitive service makes a user excited and incentivized. Keep in mind that an average user only engages with between six to seven websites and services on daily bases. There’s no place of being confusing.

Advice To Make Your Product Communicate Your Vision

“You gotta start with the customer experience and work backwards to technology”. Steve Jobs

Whenever in doubt, these five minutes will pull you back and keep you on track.

“That’s what sold me. One slide.” Fred Wilson

Getting your one line pitch right is really, really, really hard. It also boils down to being able to communicate your vision in one slide. It’s part of the journey, and it might take few years to get it right. Ask Alexander Ljung of SoundCloud.

“Sound” from SoundCloud

“Sharing your vision is the most important thing a founder can do.” Alexa Andrzejewski

Alexa Andrzejewski, CEO & Co-Founder of Foodspotting shares her learnings on how by sharing your vision, you can avoid many common mistakes startups make:

The UX Driven Startup (Or The Vision Driven Startup) – Updated October 2011

One more thing: Watch TechStars show on Bloomberg TV! Six extraordinary great episodes, that capture the early phase of building a product and refining how to communicate your vision.

Paula is Digital Product Advisor and Top 100 Women in Tech in Europe, focusing on Product, Go-to-market, and Internationalization strategies. Rated as one of the very best startup mentors in Europe, she has to date mentored over 150 digital technology companies on product, marketing and growth. Pick My Brain! is her fixed price service tailored to early stage startups, gender wage gap adjusted for female founders. Contact Paula for digital strategy work or book her as keynote speaker about #Startups #WomenInTech #GenderEquality #Entrepreneurship. Read more about her work and connect @Twitter, @LinkedIn. “You never learn anything when you speak, only when you listen”Roelof Botha / Douglas Leone, Sequoia Capital