Compounding Bias in UX Strategy

It’s the cousin to feature creep. The desire to add more features. Many SaaS companies have come to deal with this by launching a beta product and then offering beta folks the opportunity to rewuest features as the product evolves. Some leave these up even after the beta. Some also use it as an enticement to get paying users, offering them the chance to vote or weight in on new features, and of course, get to use them first. But what about compounding?

Surprisingly, this isn’t always considered. It’s the implications of compounded issues when adding any feature to a SaaS product. New product developers, especially startups, often feel that adding a new feature, either now or later, will help them sell more products or make it more attractive. Experienced product managers know the nightmare of adding new features, but even they often don’t realize the compounding effects of adding new features.

Depending on the product, adding just one new feature has a compound effect across the organisation. The new feature has to be highlighted for existing users. A decision has to be made on whether that new feature needs some marketing emphasis and if sales too needs to know about it and if it might help them close more deals and how. A video may need to be created and awareness into the loyal user groups so they too, can hype it.

It has engineering, design and DevOps implications as well. I’ve seen more than once where what was thought of as a relatively easy new feature to implement ends up causing engineering nightmares, even after going through a beta trial!

We call it a bias because most SaaS companies look at adding a feature before leaving things the same or even deleting a feature. When we look at how humans commonly solve problems, it is often to add a feature or capability rather than take away. A prime example is desktop office telephones (yes, they still get used), which are packed full of all kinds of features. Yet only about 1% of the capability of a desktop phone is actually used. As in picking it up and dialling and only about 8% of desktop phone users bother programming the speed dials, the most commonly used feature.

Before adding a new feature, don’t just think about the humans interacting with your product, think about the compounding effect it has on them and your own team. These are hidden costs to a product both to the business and the customer.

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