Should you add more features?

I recently reviewed a product that I can easily describe as “having alot of features”, much more than the competition.  Interestingly, the competition has 1/10th the features yet is making 4x as much money.  How can this be?  Why would someone want to have a product with fewer features?  Seems counter-intuitive to some, but it is proven in the profits.

The reasons are fairly straight-forward.  One is the 80-20 rule (also known as the Pareto Pricniple).  It means that 80% of your customers usage will be in 20% of the functionality.  In other words, 80% of your functionality is hardly ever used.  Absence of that functionality is often unnoticed by the consumer.

The second reason is a core principle to my thinking around User Experience.

It doesn’t matter what it does.  It only matters HOW it does it. – Glen Lipka

The HOW is a key principle in quality throughout the world.  What makes a great restaurant better than a good restaurant?  What makes a great leader better than an average leader?  What made the original iPod better than an older MP3 Player?

There are tons of people who focus on the features.  “Our thing does X,Y and Z and theirs only does X.”  I am not saying software that does nothing is better than software that does something.  Rather, I am saying that if a company does just X way better than a competitor with more features, the consumer will be much more likely to choose fewer (but higher quality) features.

Doing it better is a critical advantage.  For you product managers out there… think of your roadmap.  Does it is list a bunch of “more features”?  What if you had fewer features and did them twice as nicely?  My advice is that this will yield you more success in the short and long run.  Focus on HOW you solve the problem, not just checking a box saying you have a feature and you will reap the rewards.

3 Replies to “Should you add more features?”

  1. I disagree with the general application of the 80-20 rule to software features. The useful 20% is not the same for everybody, so a “good” piece of software with lots of features has a great chance of beating a “marginally better” piece of software that has much less features; it all depends on what the remaining 80% features are/do.

    I do agree on specialization, thought.

  2. It’s good advice to somebody who wants to make formulaic bullshit 37signals-style software in an effort to make some money then die. Thanks.

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