Following up on last week's brainstorming metaphors post, here's another exercise to generate ideas about positioning your website or product for users. Say "Our product is like a (noun)," from a set of well known brands or products, and you'll brainstorm product attributes and comparisons. Use these to define and reveal your product.
At its most basic level, the exercise comes down to one sentence, relating your system to well known brands or products. For example, start with "Our [product, website] is like a [Mercedes, iPhone, 4-star hotel, or screwdriver]." Asking a group of coworkers to answer this question is easy, and it can yield surprising results.
Follow up on the one sentence by asking people about the comparison. Dig into the details until you're sure you understand all the implications. List them, then figure out what makes the attribute true for the product. For example how might eBay be compared to a car?
If I had to choose from cars, eBay is like my parents' minivan.
Why a minivan, and why your parent's?
Well, you can pick up just about anything in it, but it's not flashy or stylish, and it's a little slow and messy.
More on brainstorming