The More Features You Add...

by December 20, 2023

As Dave Fore once said: "features are the currency of software development and marketing." Spend time in any software company and you'll begin to echo that sentiment. But there's consequences...

The first of which is feature-creep: loosely be defined as “the tendency to add just another little feature until the whole product is overwhelmed with them”. That pretty much sounds like a bad thing, so why does it keep happening?

Multiple studies have shown that before using a product, people judge its quality based on the number of features it has. It's only after using the product that they realize the usability issues too many features create.

So in order to maximize initial sales companies build products with many features. But to maximize repeat sales, customer satisfaction, and retention companies need to prioritize ease-of-use over features. Cue the inevitable redesign cycle that software applications go through... design is never done.

The more you own, the more you maintain.

The other key issue with more features is more maintenance. Every feature that goes out the door is a commitment to bug fixes, customer support, and the resources required to keep the feature running and updated. Too often these costs aren't considered enough when features get launched. And an increasing number of features inevitably begin to bog down what a company can do going forward. Companies get stuck in their self-inflicted feature morass negatively impacting their ability to move quickly to address new customer and market needs, which often matters more than a few incremental features.

Like consumer shopping decisions, product team decisions are weighted toward short-term vs. long-term value. Launching new features within software companies typically gets you the accolades, promotions, and clout. Maintaining old features, much less so.

For both consumers and product teams the upfront allure of more features usually wins out, but in both cases, long-term consequences await. So sail the feature-seas mindfully please.