Tower of Jenga Features
You’ll be mesmerized by how it rises with a single touch.
There seems to be a contagious infection going around these amongst PMs. It afflicts even the most rational & well-meaning product managers who fall prey to this bug. ‘Featuritis' - is a condition that leads PMs to believe that their product will be better by simply adding more features. This condition, often appears as a shiny new technology, an irresistible integration to a service, or a well intended value add to the core product. PMs get carried away by the allure of an idea that might only be used by a small fraction but can potentially turn into something big. Early signs of this bug appear as an exciting new ‘hook’ to keep users coming back for more.
The SuperApp Bug
There’s a variant of Featuritis that particularly affects ambitious projects with huge funding - the SuperApp bug. It is more likely to appear at the CXO level who spend more time with consultants than with users. You will often see large corporates funding mammoth apps that bring together all verticals in one app. Granted, that the idea of a ‘SuperApp’ is attractive - the scale, the cross-sell, lower CAC, LTV projections.. uff. How can one resist? Plus, the ‘digital transformation’ consultants sealed it with such sophisticated frameworks and slides that made the board drool with excitement. All this with the hope that millions of users will find it ‘convenient’ to find all answers in one place.
The problem with the ‘convenience’ hypothesis is that it doesn’t work when the user context is different. We don’t buy broccoli the same way we book tickets to Bali. It seems common sense, but consultant tinted glasses don’t allow CXOs to see the obvious. Without common context for diverse features, the convenience of ‘One App’ is built on a weak foundation.
The Tower of Jenga
But there are times when Featuritis is hard to detect, because this new feature, one it’s own makes completely sense. It a response to a real problem that users have, it is sometimes even validated through research which corroborates the clear ‘need gap’ that we are solving for. But once it’s stacked up in your current product it somehow doesn’t add up. As the features keep stacking up, the product starts looking like a tower of Jenga. Each added feature, while potentially adding value, also increases the complexity and make product less cohesive. And without a core anchor that holds it all together, it is likely to collapse.
The One Thing
Consider the case of Google+. Launched as a social media platform, Google+ was packed with features, from Circles for organizing contacts to Hangouts for video chatting. However, it failed to resonate with users who found it too complex and confusing compared to simpler alternatives like Facebook.
Similarly, the mobile app Quibi, despite its high-profile launch and innovative features for watching short-form videos, couldn't survive in the competitive streaming market. The app was overloaded with content and features, but it failed to deliver on the fundamental user outcome: providing engaging content that fits into users' lives.
The consequences of featuritis extend beyond user dissatisfaction. It also leads to technical debt as the product becomes more complex and harder to maintain. Moreover, it's corrosive to the soul of a product. The product's identity gets lost in the myriad of features, and it no longer serves a clear purpose or delivers a core value to its users.
Customer problem stack rank
Half of intended MVP.
In conclusion, product managers must resist the temptation of featuritis. Like a Jenga game, the more features you stack on your product, the more unstable it becomes. Stay true to user outcomes, focus on delivering core value, and remember that sometimes, less is more. Avoiding featuritis not only leads to better products but also reduces technical debt and preserves the soul of your product.