Out with the Old and in with the New (Features)

There’s a product management rule of thumb to periodically review all your product features (features your users request as well as the features you’ve already implemented) and do a little house cleaning. If at least 10% of your users ask for a capability, it should be somewhere on your roadmap to solve that need. However, if you’ve already released a feature and given it time to be adopted, and less than 5% of your users use it, you should consider removing it (or taking another shot at it, depending on the circumstances).

What? Remove a feature? I mean, after all, the feature is already implemented! Why take away a feature that’s all a sunk cost? Well, there are two main reasons for this.

1. Bad features = bad product. A feature that’s used by less than half of the people who explicitly requested it is almost assuredly a poorly executed feature. Either you misunderstood the need, or you botched the delivery so badly that it is essentially unusable by most of the people who wanted it. Even worse, as new people find and try that feature, they are more likely than not going to be disappointed or confused, which takes away from your product’s overall ease of use.

2. There’s no such thing as a free feature. Keeping a feature around, even if you aren’t explicitly working on it, is never free. As long as it is in your product, you need to test it each time you release to ensure that other changes you make don’t break that feature. And, if you want to refactor the area of the product (rework the code to make it better) you’ll need to either work around it, which complicates your code, or refactor the darn thing that virtually no one uses, which wastes even more time.

We’ve recently announced the sunset of a little-used feature: the Home BETA tab on the MyQuickBase page, which was accessed by less than 1% of our users. About six months ago we removed access to this feature for users who weren’t already using it after I discovered that by simply accessing that page a user was more likely to stop using QuickBase! Additionally, since we’re in the process of improving the MyQuickBase page UX and the technology it’s implemented on it was time for the Home BETA tab to go.

Think about a product as a beautiful, varied garden. On closer inspection, you find pockets of withered plants that detract from the overall health of the garden. Sometimes things you plant need more care and cultivation, sometimes the plant is dead and needs to be replaced; and sometimes, you realize that as your garden comes together, you didn’t need that particular type of plant in the first place. OK, that metaphor is a little mushy, but the point is that every feature is an experiment and shouldn’t automatically get a lifetime pass, because over time, they’ll crowd out better features and grow the overall product into something unmanageable for us and you.

On the bright side: we hope you’ll enjoy the new MyQuickBase page! For more info on the updates see the release notes.

Ellie Ellerman

I’m a product manager at Intuit QuickBase in Waltham, MA. I like biking to work, British mysteries, and sci-fi action movies.

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