How we've embraced One-Pagers at Poncho

• 6 min read

iPad showing a One-Pager template in Notion

If you just want to see the one-pager template we use, skip to the bottom of this article.

I’ve been from the school of what problem are we actually trying to solve for as long as I can remember. But this was more in the conversations we were having, rather than anything too strategic. We’d do the research, have the questions and debate, then everything would go into JIRA (sorry) as a story. Losing the fidelity and nuance.

For a while now at Poncho, we’ve been using One-Pagers to document product themes and assess priorities. We use these themes in tandem with the North Star Framework, to tie everything back to customer and business goals. These then go into a Now, Next, Later roadmap. It’s working out well.

When I started looking into it, I struggled to find many examples of one-pagers people were using in the wild. So I thought it might help someone, somewhere if I shared mine.

It draws on the work of some great minds, Ryan Singer (particularly Shapeup), John Cutler, Janna Bastow and others. I found John Cutler’s Great One-Pagers especially helpful.

We’ve been using variations of this format with success for a while. If some of the sections/wording seem like they have been lifted, almost verbatim, from the works mentioned above, trust your instincts.

Below is the template that our one-pagers start from (we don’t always use all sections), with explanations of what is expected in each section.

We use these to write-up themes, which are high-level bodies of work — based on user outcomes rather than features. Once we have the required understanding of the problem, we write up a selection of user stories, which have a simpler format. We’ve avoided the common As a user, I would like, So that format. While I understand the good intention this format has, I have so often seen it misused so that all you end up with is a feature requirement with a bunch of filler words. We’ve stuck to simple, plain English descriptions. So far, so good.

A key point here is that the stories still don’t start as “build exactly this”, but give a general problem to solve and some boundaries, in the context of the user and their problem.

I’ve learnt a few lessons so far. In an early-stage startup, you often can’t justify decisions with hard data — you’d mostly be data dredging and finding patterns in anomalies. You have to rely more on qualitative sources (user interviews, customer feedback) and even gut instinct. As you scale and have enough customers and data to meaningfully benchmark with quant data you can add this to your arsenal and make a solid case based on numbers.

Here are the templates, I hope they are useful for someone :)

One-pager theme template

This is the format we should aim to use for all significant new work. You only need to include the sections where there are relevant details. One-pagers can cover work that could take anywhere between 1 week (tactical) and 3 months (strategic).

Less than 1 week and it’s probably too small to need this, more than 3 months and it’s probably too long a feedback loop. Just a guideline — YMMV.

Some of the below might appear like it requires certainty. It doesn’t. But It does force you to stake a claim. You’re not expected to know the exact probabilities of success, but stating clearly what you know with some certainty and what is little more than an educated guess is important.

Brief (tweet-length)

Summarise the work in a sentence or two. What’s the background and why is this in consideration. Remember, this is a bet — what are we betting on? Is it high-risk high-reward or a sure thing?

What’s the problem being solved?

Is it business (make more money) or user (achieve a goal)? What is wrong with the current state, what problem are people facing? How can we improve this? What is the ideal outcome?

North star input

Which North star input does this relate to? How will this affect it?

Customer feedback?

Any direct feedback from customers relating to this? Requests from departments or clients etc? Have we tried to solve this problem before? What happened?

Success criteria

What’s the hypothesis?

If we solve this problem, what will happen? Will it lead to greater engagement? Better retention? More revenue? What would success look like?

How can we measure success?

Pick one key metric as a proxy for this outcome, how can we track it and what numbers indicate things have gone well?

Pivot/proceed/pull gates

We don’t want to ship and hope. We don’t want to chase a sunk cost. At what points and what metric measurements should we try something different, keep going or pull the feature entirely?

Will we roll out with a subset of users? At what points do we increase user % in that pool? At what point do we do a full roll-out?



Would you bet a significant amount of your own money on the success of this? What can we learn early on to double that bet? Or halve it? Or Reduce it to zero? What % chance of success would you say there is (gut-feel is fine)?

Size of impact

How big would success be for the company? What’s the financial size of the opportunity? What’s the size of the opportunity in user engagement?


Big or small bet?

Is this a big bet or a small bet? With big bets, they require a longer time investment 4weeks+, so should have a larger reward. That reward should be worth taking the risk of the time cost. Small bets should be wrapped up quickly, probably with lesser rewards. We don’t want to end up giving up too much time to these. If there is significant delay, it’s worth asking if we should stop altogether.

Why now/cost of delay

What do we unlock by moving on this now? What would happen if we waited 6 weeks? 3 months? 1 year? What’s the risk if we do nothing?

Story template

What is the desired user outcome?

If we implement this feature, what do you hope will happen? What problem is it solving? For who? How might we measure this?

Tweet length description

In a sentence or two describe what you are proposing we implement.

North star input

Which North star input does this relate to? How will this affect it?

What’s the cost of delay?

What will happen if we don’t do this now, this week, this month, at all?