Featuritis is a term used to describe software which over-emphasizes new features to the detriment of other design goals, such as simplicity, compactness, stability, or bug reduction.
Featuritis is often accompanied by the mistaken belief that "one small feature" will add zero incremental cost to a project, where cost can be money, time, effort, or energy.
I recently met an entrepreneur who has been developing a web-based service for over a year, and was having trouble getting traction for it. He asked for my advice on how to improve his product so that users start flocking to it.
Two minutes into the demo, it was crystal clear what his trouble was - it was a classic case of Acute Featuritis. He was proudly showing off how his product did this, that, and the other 12 things, way more than any of his competitors ever dreamed of doing. He was shocked speechless when I told him I thought that the best cure for his product is to kill 99% of it and focus obsessively on that single aspect or feature that makes his product unique. That is the last thing in the world he expected to hear from me, and he seemed to be very disappointed with our meeting.
These are the common misconceptions about features, as they relate specifically to startups:
- "More features will impress prospective clients" - wrong! More features will create many more opportunities to disappoint and confuse clients.
- "My product has more features than my competition" - uh-oh! You are handing your competitors the biggest gift they could ever ask for - the ability to specialize more than you and do one thing really really great.
- "By having more features, I'm appealing to more potential users" - wrong again! By having more features, your product becomes less appealing to your best potential users, and probably not appealing enough to all the others you happen to address along the way.
The urge to add more features and appeal to a bigger audience always exists. But as an entrepreneur that's an urge that has to be fought daily. The best question to ask is: "What features can I afford to kill today?"
I find that the best way to think about it is this: If our users love the few things we do now, we can always add more features later; And if our tiny niche audience loves what we do now, we can always try to appeal to a broader audience later. Think about the alternative to this approach: "if lots of people don't really get all the stuff we're trying to do now, can we improve our focus later?....".
I think you know my answer...