Less Is More! Five Golden Rules for Feature Minimalists
Increasing your features doesn’t mean creating more value.
Product teams often spend too much time defining which features to work on next. Handling prioritization challenges usually keeps people up at night. Yet, that’s part of the job, and you got to deal with it and find ways of creating value instead of waste. The trap relies on how you approach this situation. Jeff Patton once said: “There’s always more to build than we have time or resources to build — always.” How do you solve this dilemma?
A common approach would be figuring out how to boost velocity and create more output. That sounds like a perfect choice, right? More speed, more features, and happier stakeholders. What if I tell you that this would be the right choice if you want mediocrity as a result.
Let me explain why more features can damage the product instead of creating value. Also, I will share an alternative to ensure your product remains uncluttered and delightful. Boosting Velocity = Maximizing Features Nobody Needs Decision-making is one of the most critical skills of Product Managers. Accepting all requests coming from stakeholders and putting all of them into your backlog is a sign of poor decision-making. In many companies, stakeholders define how the product will evolve, often resulting in a kind of Frankenstein that confuses users instead of helping them get their job done. Product teams receive unprecedented pressure from business people to deliver more. If you bow to the pressure, your stakeholders will be happy in the short term, but you will be surprised in the medium term with poor product results. When focusing on shipping features, teams will likely miss the point of increasing value. If a feature does not contribute to success, it should be discontinued or not even built. The more features your product has, the bigger the chances your users get confused and bounce. The more oversized your product gets, the more complicated maintaining it becomes. Feature Minimalism Let me ask you one question: how would you define a great product? Many people think a great product is the one you have nothing else to add. This thought is dangerous because you assume everything the product has is relevant, and then you focus on creating more features. This mindset will potentially create waste and reduce the value of your product. For me, a great product is one that you have nothing else to remove. You continuously review the value proposition and evaluate whether the product features contribute to it or not. You get rid of whatever doesn’t create value for end-users. As Leonardo Da Vinci said: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Yet, I’m not saying it’s trivial to create a minimalistic product. It’s daunting and time-consuming. But the rewards will pay off all the effort. Here is what will hurt you the most when becoming a feature minimalist:
You need to say “no” ten times more than you say “yes”
You focus on reducing features instead of increasing them
You remove features that took your blood and soul to make it live
I know those points are challenging, but I also understand how demotivating it is to have a mediocre product. You can choose which pain you’d prefer to have. I’m a rebel product professional because I won’t accept mediocrity as a result. When you decide to have an uncluttered and delightful product, be sure that you will need to step on some people’s toes, that’s part of the journey. As they say, no pain, no gain.
Keeping a Minimalisc Product If you want to get where most product companies don’t get, you must do what most companies don’t do. Most companies focus on maximizing output, so you better focus on maximizing value. Most companies don’t dare remove features from their product, but you better remove what doesn’t serve users any longer. Here are our five golden rules to be feature minimalistic:
Define your value proposition: work with business people, product professionals, and real end-users to craft a sound value proposition. This is key to empowering you to make meaningful decisions.
Focus: Don’t let pressure drive your decisions. Only let features related to the value proposition go to your Product Backlog.
All features have a clear outcome: start with the end in mind. You’re not ready to work on a feature until you understand the problem you want to solve and the value you want to generate.
Define a routine to review your product features: ensure you frequently check your available features. As time passes, some features become irrelevant and may get in the way of creating value. You need to measure results and learn from end-users as often as needed.
Remove the clutter: Be brave to discontinue features you realized that don’t serve end-users as you imagined. The fewer distractions your product has, the more engaged the users are.
The routine we suggest is unnatural to most companies, and we know that. Yet, following the masses is generally a bad choice. If you want to stand out, we strongly recommend cultivating a features minimalistic mindset.
More features = more problems = less time to create value
If you’re still not sold that great products have nothing else to remove. Let’s pick Google as an example. When you open google.com, what do you see? Take a minute to reflect. Do you think Google lacks the idea to create new features for its search, or have they nailed what users need and removed all distractions? Now, let us give you one more hint on how to learn the value of your features. Occasionally, be radical and run A/B tests removing features. For example, take your product, deactivate secondary features, and run split tests. Collect feedback and learn from your audience. You may be surprised that many times nobody notices something was removed. Then, you got a chance to embrace feature minimalism and unclutter your product. Wrap Up It’s easy to fall in love with solutions and be afraid of removing features because you may think you’re throwing your job away. However, it’s too risky keeping irrelevant features and losing users because they no longer understand how to use the product. Great products are uncluttered and have just essential features to deliver on the value propositions. References
Value Proposition Method
Value Proposition — Uber
Value Proposition — Hands-On
Thanks to Rainer Collet and Sandra Hinz