Feature Trimming: What Developers and Testers Need to Keep in Mind
Core elements that together determine a product’s success in the marketplace include the product’s vision, plan, richness of features, engineering implementation, financial backing, and its sales and marketing activities. Of these, feature richness is a key element that gives a product its competitive edge.
Management teams and other stakeholders often push engineering teams to consider adding new features even later in the development cycle. However, a newer trend we are beginning to see is feature trimming, with a renewed focus on building simple products with a core set of features and augmenting richness through feature customizations. Pricing strategies around such product customizations, including considering strategies that focus on removing features, are gaining popularity, such as the up-and-coming cloud trend pricing as a service.
Although organizations have been trimming or removing features for varied reasons—such as usage, privacy, legal guidelines, fast time to market, and cost—two core things they need to keep in mind are the quality and end user impact. Just as feature additions need to be tested thoroughly, feature removals also need to be tested.
There are implications around backward compatibility, end-to-end flow, and feature interdependencies that need to be tested to ensure the feature has been safely removed from the product. With adequate time and resources, feature removals can be tested for objectively, but what is more subjective in this mix is how end users would react to such changes. For instance, organizations such as Facebook have had to remove features time and again for privacy reasons.
The latest in the game is a recent announcement that Facebook will get rid of its sponsored stories feature later this spring. Regardless of whether users are happy about this removal, the good thing is that Facebook has made public the news about this impending change. There are other recent stories about features that were removed from specific products and services at Apple, Google, and Tesla without end users being notified in advance. This may be indicative of a newer trend that what we pay for today may not be what we actually get to use down the line.
Software changes are inevitable, and organizations strive to align such changes with the best interest of all stakeholders. Bloggers are quite active in reviewing newer products and versions, and sharing their thoughts on not just feature additions but now removals too.
In the case of feature removals, keep a specific checklist of practices to follow. Of these practices, understanding end user reception and transparency about removals are important. It may have taken years for an organization to build its brand acceptance in the marketplace, but reckless and unplanned feature removals can pull down the brand in no time.