DonnaM » Blog Archive » A solution to creeping featurism

A solution to creeping featurism

A lot of people have written about the problems of creeping featurism – where products end up bloated and unusable due to the number of features and functions added to them. The solution most often suggested is to keep products slim, to do what they should do well, and to avoid adding features that a few people might need.

I’ve never found this suggestion practical – while the usability girl inside tells me that products with tons of features become complicated and unusable, the user inside says “don’t you dare take away some of my favourite features”.

So I do like the approach that Firefox uses (there may be other systems that do this as well, but Firefox is the one that triggered this thought). The core product is slim – it contains basic browser features and extensions are available to provide additional features. Out of the long extensions list for Firefox, there are only a few that I thought would be useful enough to install (mouse gestures, tabbed browser extension, paste and go). This is nice – I retain control of my product, it stays usable and I get features that I will use.

The implementation is still too geeky for more general acceptance. But if it were more user-friendly, with a neat way to explain and select features and a really simple install method, perhaps this type of implementation could be a good model for feature-rich apps…

I think it’s worth watching.

One Response to “A solution to creeping featurism”

  1. Gary Davis Says:

    The method we use to deal with this is to allow only the most frequently used and basic features to be exposed at the top level where the user is likely to want them handy. (we call this the 20/80 rule a.k.a. Pareto principle; google it.) Progressively advanced features are usually behind a button or tab, with the most advanced labeled “Advanced.” (or “Advanced ” e.g. “Advanced Color” That label tends to scare away less savvy users which is precisely what we wanted. We have tried and tested other buttons names but users are too eager to click on a control just to see what is there. (and risk messing up settings needlessly) When we labeled it advanced, they were less interested. This makes the marketing folks happy as they can say they have a feature and it makes the user happy with a simple UI that tech-savvy users still feel meets their needs.
    With this approach, if done right, most users will never encounter those pesky advanced features.