The power of stories

Stories are powerful.

For the last few months we have been immersed in the world of small business owners. This began with a series of over 40 interviews with small business owners; we used these to gain an understanding of their goals, needs and pains. Based on these insights, we began imagining an ideal world in which WordPress serves the needs of these businesses even better than it does today.

In the past, when I have had ideas about how to improve a product, I have shared them by trying to explain the idea; I’ll talk about the problems it seeks to overcome, describe the solution, list the benefits I see and consider how it might be achieved. This has had mixed results.

One of our design principles at Automattic is:

Search for and tell stories about people, not just data.

We used this principal to take a different approach to describing our ideas. For every customer need we identified, we wrote a narrative which told the story of how WordPress could help small business owners achieve these goals. This proved to be a very powerful format for describing an idea.

Stories help build empathy; they show the context that a person is in, provide insight into their thoughts and feelings and help us understand their motivations and expectations. Sharing my ideas in the form of a story changed the way I thought about solving problems and creating experiences – it made me see things from the user’s perspective.

Stories also make ideas more accessible – they are more engaging and easier to understand than a list of requirements. Telling a story from the perspective of a small business owner avoids getting bogged down in implementation details and helps to build an understanding of the vision, and how it solves the user’s needs.

Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash


By Ben Dwyer

I make things. I particularly like to make music.

Music is meant to be fun, that's why it's 'played'.