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Design Strategy

Product Design

Focus on Your Product’s Best Features (and Break Up With the Rest)

Evan Shoemaker

June 01, 2021

It’s time to face the facts. Things haven’t been working out for a while, and you’re starting to question your future together. You tried and things just didn’t work out. And, if you’re being honest, it’s not you, it’s them.

Breaking up with the features you once thought were a match made in heaven is hard. But there comes a time when you need to prioritize what’s working — and ditch what isn’t.

Maybe you’ve known things haven’t been working out for a while, but removing unwanted features is just too much work. And awkward. After all, it’s a lot easier to add features than it is to cut them out of your life.

The truth is, you’re not doing your brand any favors by hanging on. Hey, the truth hurts. But there are very real costs associated with supporting and maintaining twilight features that distract from your product’s best user experience.

When it comes to your product’s feature offering, less can often be more. And focusing on the right ones can be the most attractive thing you can do.

Fewer Digital Product Features Serves Users and Teams Better

You can’t be everything to everybody. So when you offer a boatload of features hoping to appeal to the masses, your product gets watered down. It’s not good for your user experience, and it’s not good for your team.

First of all, your product is competing with a lot for your user’s attention — dogs barking, kids asking for snacks, and viral memes to name a few. Offer too many features and it’s all too easy for users to get distracted and disengage. Which is exactly what you don’t want.

An unfocused UX also negatively affects your product team, too. Ask them to design, iterate, and manage too many features and their well of creativity (and concentration) could run dry — quick.

To focus on the best features that add to your product’s value, it’s going to take cutting out the underwhelming, devaluing, or dust-gathering ones. If it’s not obvious what those are, ask yourself:

Illustration of a line of shapes with varying colors. The blue circle is highlighted with a checkmark to indicate it's unique positioning.

  1. What are you uniquely positioned to do or give? What does your brand do best that others in your industry don’t offer? Look at the existing features that distinguish your brand. Don’t have any yet? Start brainstorming. Illustration of a man looking through a pair of binoculars trying to find the perfect product feature

  2. What are your users looking for? If your product focuses on supporting small businesses, does it really make sense to ship features that don’t address small business challenges? Think about what you hear from your users and what features could serve as a solution. Illustration of a two people with a figure-8 line connecting them. In the center are three question marks as they ask whether a product is relevant to them.

  3. Who is the feature relevant to? Different users have different needs. When you’re evaluating an existing feature or thinking about shipping a new one, think about its audience. Will it be relevant to a majority of your users, or just a small subset? If it’s only relevant to a small subset (but still essential) you can hide it in a settings panel that only the advanced users will find.

The trick is to find the intersection between what is most impactful to your users, what you are uniquely positioned to do, and what your strengths are as a team. That’s where the greatest impact lies.

Guide to Breaking Up With a Digital Product Feature

Breaking up is hard to do. But when it comes to your features, how do you know what to keep and what dump? Use this checklist to help you decide.


Prioritizing Features is an Instant Time and Money Saver

As your product team works to design, develop, and ship a new feature you’re always tracking the cost, right? But the costs don’t stop once the feature launches.

There’s maintaining the feature, updating the UX and UI, fixing bugs… the list goes on.

Now think about sinking all those costs into a feature that has a poor ROI. Sorry to make you sweat, but the gravity of keeping on poor-performing, unnecessary features is real.

Unfortunately, not all features reach their full potential. You may have shipped a feature that you were excited about, but if it hasn’t delivered back to you what you’ve invested, it should be on the chopping block. And, if a certain feature is sitting there without adding value, you know what needs to be done.

If you get stuck determining what features actually add value and what don’t, we can help with that. We’ll run user tests and interviews to find patterns that could help you make some key decisions.

Get Your Groove Back by Only Shipping the Best Features (and Trashing The Rest)

There’s no doubt that features are a great way to add character and value to your brand. And while you don’t want to offer too many features, your team will always be learning about your users and thinking of new ways to serve them.

But knowing what features to build and when is an art and a science. Often users don’t know what they want until someone innovative enough shows it to them.

“If I would have asked people what they wanted, they would’ve said faster horses.”

— Henry Ford

There’s no black or white answer to what you should release and when. But sometimes getting an outside perspective can elevate ideas or brainstorm things you hadn’t thought of. We’ve guided many digital product companies through the complex process of creating and shipping transformative features.

Here are a couple of things to consider when your team wants to build something new:

  • Check your intuition Will users value this addition?

  • Get user feedback Have people asked for this feature?

  • Conduct user interviews What do they think about your new idea?

  • Run user tests How do users respond to a test of the new feature? Ask their preference, or engage them in a dialogue.

  • A/B test what’s best Do your users like option A better or option B?

In the end, your product should only offer features that are going to excite, engage, and retain your users. Anything else is extraneous and takes precious resources away from building a better brand. And you deserve better.

Breakups are always tough. But in the end, they help you discover who you really are and where you are meant to be. If you need someone to lean on, we’re here for you.

Which Product Features to Toss: A free guide


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