Product teams: stop asking what you can do, start asking what you can stop doing
What if the path to a better product experience is defined by doing less for your users, not more? Stripping away features. Removing touchpoints. Reducing options. Simplifying.
This isn’t a natural way for product teams to think: to a hammer, everything is a nail, and to product teams, everything is a feature. It’s in our DNA. We make things. We’re builders. We ask ourselves, “What can we do?”
But maybe we need to get into the demolition business. Blowing things up. Looking for the fluff and cruft that drags us down. The features that aren’t converting. The options that aren’t scalable. The stuff users said they wanted, but never use.
If you’re on a product team, you know what I’m talking about. For reasons political or inertial, unloved features collect like cobwebs in the corners of your experience. Stuff no one wants, but even fewer people are willing to kill off. But it doesn’t end there. Oh no, we’re just so excited to add more stuff.
When was the last time you heard about a hack week where the goal was to kill—not build—features?
Feature creep starts with the best of intentions and ends in disaster. Users don’t know where to focus. They become disoriented and frustrated, worn to a nub by the paradox of choice. Meanwhile, we end up supporting things we shouldn’t, spending our already limited time reacting rather than evolving.
I love t-shirts, but I have a rule: no new ones until old ones go. Sure, saying goodbye can be hard: “But I got this at that awesome Flash conference in 2000!” But say goodbye I must. Anything that has a permanent stain? Out.Poor fit? Goodbye. Moth holes? See ya! After I drop it off at fabric recycling, I never think about it again. Poof, gone. My t-shirt drawer is manageable.
This is how we should approach product development, too: no new features until we kill some old features—and periodic pruning! Look at analytics, talk to users, and discard the stuff no one really wants. Do it gracefully; plan an exit strategy; deal with change management. Breathe deeply. Repeat.
Don’t worry. It’ll be okay.