Feature Bloat

What is Feature Bloat?

Feature bloat describes a phenomenon in which too many features are built into a product, and a team focuses more on output than outcome and often leads to adding features for extra value until they become a hindrance to the user.

Companies sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that more features will make customers happier. This often leaves them with bloated products that probably underwhelm in serving their core functions. Although they usually make new feature requests, customers may soon find out that these don’t make their experience better as they’d thought they would.

Why Do Products Become Bloated?

We already hinted above why feature bloat occurs. But why do companies continue adding features? It’s simple: they seek to have an edge over the competition. If your market is a very competitive one, you have your work cut out. You have to use every tactic or tool in your arsenal to ensure your product is one to reckon with. Among the options you have are new features, which help to differentiate you as offering more value.

You may find yourself adding more and more features until you practically lose sight of your key selling point. Adding new features doesn’t have to lead to feature bloat; you can remove those that are no longer relevant. However, companies may decide to not remove the unnecessary features; several factors may underlie this stance.

Killing features is extra work, for instance. It requires making certain expenses you might not be willing to accede to. You are especially less likely to do this work if customers don’t request that you remove some features. You might become afraid to take corrective action when you have a bloated product. If you decided to remove a feature that doesn’t appear popular, customers that use it may become displeased.

It is also possible that you might not even realize feature bloat has set in. Product teams may not know this if they don’t seek regular feedback from users.

How to Fight Feature Bloat

Give attention to relevance – A critical step to avoiding having a bloated product on your hand is ensuring that features are relevant before execution. Do users really need them and why, if they do? What proportion of these users will use the features and can absence lead to loss of market share to the competition?

You will need to carry out thorough customer research to answer those questions. This will also help to know if there are features users thought unnecessary. A good prioritization model can help you to identify features that are worth including.

Plan effectively – With proper planning, you can avoid the feature bloat problem. You’re less likely to experience this if you pay special attention to what it takes to deliver features and you prioritize well.

Do not let yourself be carried away by wanting to introduce new features. Think of all the work and resources that will go into executing them and what may follow afterward – that is, possible rework. This makes you to be more careful about what you choose to add.

Do the work – Finally, if you have somehow found yourself with a bloated product, summon the courage needed to do the needful. Getting rid of features isn’t an exciting thing when you consider all that has gone into them. Add to that the expenses involved in doing so and you see why companies seem to not bother.

But what better option do you have when leaving unnecessary features intact can cost you some customers? Probably none. Therefore, you will do better to simply remove out-of-favor functionalities. More is not always better.

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