Feature Fatigue: What Is It and How to Avoid It?
Have you ever been fooled into buying a product solely based on the number of features it offered? If the answer is yes, then the odds are you have experienced feature fatigue at some point in your life.
What’s feature fatigue?
That’s the main question we explore in this article. We also investigate its negative impact on product success and its symptoms. More importantly, we look at how product teams can avoid it.
Let’s get right to it!
- Feature fatigue refers to a situation when users are overwhelmed by too many product features.
- The issue is caused by businesses prioritizing feature quantity over their quality. Users often pay more attention to product functionality than its usability.
- Products with so many features have reduced usability, are less intuitive to use, and require more time to learn and adopt.
- Complex products also come with higher maintenance and support expenses.
- Teams whose effectiveness is measured by the number of released features have less time for critical product management tasks like product discovery.
- Low feature adoption, high support requests, and high customer churn could be symptoms of possible feature fatigue.
- Applying the 80/20 principle will help you deliver more customer value while maintaining its usability.
- To identify the most valuable features, conduct market and customer research. Use user interviews, questionnaires, and trend analysis to find relevant user problems to solve.
- Involve customers to ensure there’s demand for your features.
- A dark launch to a small user group will help you to further validate the feature idea. Moreover, you can use feature toggles to customize the functionality for different user segments.
- Analyzing usage patterns enables teams to identify the top features as well as the least popular ones.
- Contextual in-app surveys and feedback widgets are tools you can use to collect customer feedback and gather qualitative insights into which features deliver the most customer value and why.
- Regular feature audits help maintain a lean product and minimize feature bloat.
- If you want to see how Userpilot analytics and feedback features can help you reduce feature fatigue, book the demo!
What is feature fatigue?
Feature fatigue refers to a situation where a product’s users become overwhelmed or frustrated with the excessive number of features and options available.
Feature fatigue can happen as a result of a feature factory mindset where effectiveness is measured by the number of released features. And as technology advances, it’s super easy to load products with multiple features.
Customers are guilty too.
Researchers from the University of Delaware have developed an analytical model based on how consumers balance their need for functionality and usability when choosing products. It shows that users tend to choose overly complex products because they pay more attention to product capabilities when they evaluate products.
The consequence is a bloated product that is difficult to navigate, doesn’t really solve any real user problems, and is a pain to maintain.
Why is having too many features problematic?
Having lots of features is great, isn’t it? Well, not quite. There are a number of ways in which it can affect the product value negatively and eat into your profit margins.
Intensified complexity for users
Ever heard of Hick’s Law? Basically, the more options there are, the longer it takes to choose one. What’s more, a high number of options makes the process of choosing overwhelming and tiring.
So if your product has lots of features, users need more time to find what they need, which increases the time to value. If they have to get through the process again and again, they may eventually give up and churn.
Increased maintenance and support costs
Overly complex products are more expensive to maintain.
The more complicated the product, the higher the cost required to keep it up-to-date. What’s more, lots of features could potentially mean lots of bugs. Finally, more complex code could make it more difficult to adapt the product functionality in the future.
On top of that, consider the cost of the support. If you produce feature-rich products but don’t provide adequate support, your users won’t be able to realize their value. Live agent support is expensive.
Increased frustration and delays in the product team
Apart from being extremely frustrating, this will result in delays and lead to further departure from the product vision.
What are the indicators of high feature fatigue?
Here are a few signals that may indicate your customers are experiencing feature fatigue.
Naturally, each of them may be caused by other factors and so aren’t evidence of feature fatigue on its own. Before jumping to any conclusions, make sure to validate all assumptions.
Low feature adoption rates
A low feature adoption rate is one of the key symptoms of feature fatigue.
Thanks to great onboarding, your users may actually be able to discover all the features and try them. The problem is that they don’t come back to use them again.
If a feature doesn’t become a go-to solution to users’ problems, it simply means it’s redundant.
Frequent support requests
Getting flooded with support tickets may be another indication that your users are suffering from feature fatigue.
High customer churn rate
Customer churn is the ultimate consequence of feature fatigue.
Excessive complexity is tiring but also makes it difficult for users to find and use the features that are relevant to their use cases, so they cannot achieve their objectives.
What’s more, if the user sees all the other functionality that is of no use to them, they may reach the conclusion that they’ve picked the wrong product.
How to avoid feature fatigue to increase customer satisfaction?
The easiest way to avoid feature fatigue and improve consumer satisfaction is by reducing the number of features your product offers.
As a manager, you must be familiar with the 80/20 principle: 80% of the value comes from the top 20% of the effort. In our case, 80% of the product value comes from 20% of the key features. One positively valued feature can dramatically increase the product’s usefulness.
Many companies have realized this already. Research results suggest that a business’s focus on future sales increases when the number of features decreases.
So how do you choose the right feature to develop?
Conduct marketing research before developing product features
Which market research techniques can you use? Some options include:
- User interviews and focus groups
- Questionnaires and surveys
- Competitive analysis
- Market trend reports
- Customer reviews and social media comments
When researching your target market and audience, don’t focus too much on the actual features.
Validate features by involving customers in the process
Once you come up with feature ideas, validate them.
This will help ensure that the feature is in line with your product vision and business goals. More importantly, you will be able to verify consumer demand for the feature before committing any resources to its development.
It goes without saying that you need to involve customers in the process. Start with validation techniques that require the least effort, like fake door testing. If that’s successful, use higher-fidelity prototypes for further tests.
Dark launch features to avoid the feature fatigue effect
Dark launch is a rollout of a feature to a small group of users instead of the whole user base at once. It’s a good way to minimize feature fatigue for two reasons.
First, it allows you to further validate the feature with real users and in real-life conditions while still maintaining control over who is using it and when.
Secondly, feature toggles used in dark launches are an excellent way to customize the product for different user segments. You can enable only the features that a particular segment needs without over-cluttering the user interface.
Analyze product usage data to identify unpopular features
Feature usage analytics are an excellent way to identify your most valuable 20% of features – as well as the least popular ones.
Once you identify, focus your energy on developing and promoting the top features. At the same time, carry out more research to find out why users don’t engage with the least popular functionality.
However, if there’s really no demand for the feature, consider sunsetting it.
Collect customer feedback regarding feature performance and usage
Customer feedback will give qualitative and quantitative insights into feature engagement data.
What about the features that customers don’t use enough? Target user segments for which the features are relevant with surveys asking them why their feature usage is so low.
You could also use a feedback widget to collect feature requests from your users.
Conduct periodic feature audits to mitigate feature creep
Feature audit is a product management tool that helps you visualize and assess feature usage across different user segments. Doing it regularly will help you keep your product lean and minimize feature creep.
To carry it out, use a template, like the Miro one below, and use product usage data to plot all your features onto the grid. Once it’s ready, one look is enough to see which features are most and which of them are least valuable for your users.
Feature fatigue may be a sign that the organization is not doing product discovery very well. Even if they’re able to identify user needs accurately, they don’t pay enough attention to usability testing. As a result, the product offers powerful functionality but is very difficult to use, which eventually leads to user churn.
To avoid it, teams should focus on prioritizing the features that deliver the most value. It’s also better to create more specialized products with fewer features rather than one product catering to the numerous needs of diverse user segments.
If you want to see how you can use Userpilot to track product usage data and collect customer feedback about your features, book the demo!