Product Development Fallacies: How to Avoid the Feature Fallacy Trap

Is the feature fallacy trap really a thing? Can you as a product manager avoid this?

We’ve all been there… having that tough conversation about how that next awesome feature will change it all. The truth is though, no matter how much we think we’re one feature away from making it big, the likelihood is that is not going to happen.

We often fall into product development fallacies. But, hey, this is good though!

See this as an opportunity to take a step back, reassess, and look at what the problems are instead of trying to slap on another shiny thing… that will inevitably leave you in the exact same place you are right now, but with a lot more tech debt and a frustrated team.

That, my friends, is one of the biggest fallacies of product development.

I have to be the one to break it to you, but you are not one weird feature away from becoming the next unicorn.

If however, you do find yourself in this situation, there are things you can do to reposition and come back stronger.

Let’s take a look at how to tackle this feature fallacy trap problem.

Understanding product development fallacies

Before we can look into how you can avoid the feature fallacy trap, let’s first understand how easy it is to fall into the trap.

Feature fallacy trap #1: Product-Market Fit

I really wanted to write something about how asking ‘what’ and ‘why’ is important, but truth be told, the first question you need to ask yourself here is:

Do I understand what my customers need?

Product-market fit is generally the first reason why many companies find themselves in a fallacy trap. I’ve said this before, but it’s worth saying again: we aren’t building things for ourselves, we are building things for others.

Understanding who our audience is and what their current problems are is what will lead to opportunities for innovation.

You may find yourself in one of two situations:

  1. You know who your audience is, but you are not up to date with market needs
  2. You have no idea who your audience is

Yes, the second is a very real scenario I’ve seen before. Regardless of whether you find yourself, start talking to people!

Find out how customers are using your product now, what issues they’re currently finding with it, and see if you can identify gaps for things you can solve.

You can start with something as simple as the Product-Market Fit (PMF) survey.

Product-Market Fit survey built with Userpilot.

Likewise, talk to potential customers and those in your intended audience.

You will likely find similarities, allowing you to focus on ideas that will provide value beyond those using your product at this time.

Make sure that whatever feature you are considering building actually suits their needs and provides them with a viable solution to a problem, and that you’re not building for a one-time use case nobody else has.

Feature fallacy trap #2: Not enough focus on your product’s story

Storytelling is a big part of product management. This isn’t how you tell the story of your product, but rather, what story your product is telling.

From login to navigation, to surfacing features at the right time, your product is unfolding a very specific story for your users.

In-app communication is really important here. Messages need to tell the story in a contextual way and guide users to see the value of each. Tooltips work great for this.


If you’re stuck in a bit of a death cycle and churning out feature after feature, it’s very likely that they’re no longer tying together to tell a comprehensive story anymore.

This is exactly why the next shiny thing you develop won’t fix it all because your core product no longer makes sense.

How to avoid the feature fallacy trap

Now, let’s get to the action part of this article. Here are some tactics you can start applying right away.

Map Features to Opportunities

Given that we’re starting off with a product that already exists, I’m starting the process here from the bottom up so that we can understand the product’s current state.

If it were the other way around, please always start with opportunities in order to build new features or product enhancements!

Start out by writing all of your existing features down on a list.

Next, map out all the challenges in the industry and all the opportunities your product has to approach those challenges.

Let’s pretend we’re building a product management tool. This is how this scenario would unfold:

  • Intended audience: Product managers
  • Feature: Roadmap
  • Challenge: Communication [with teams/stakeholders]
  • Opportunity: Build a roadmap that is easily communicated

Have a jobs-to-be-done session

Now it’s time to map those challenges and opportunities with customer outcomes.

A JTBD session will help you understand where your product has a market fit right now, and where opportunities may be in the future.

Remember, this is about what your customer wants to accomplish first, and then how your product may (or may not) currently help achieve that.

For our product manager scenario, one job to be done might be to share the roadmap:

JTBD example: Product managers need to communicate the direction of the roadmap with various audiences in order to keep their teams and stakeholders aligned

With that in mind, let’s now map that back to how our product helps with those jobs in its current state.

  • JTBD: Product managers need to communicate the direction of the roadmap with various audiences in order to keep their teams and stakeholders aligned
  • Challenge: Communication [with teams/stakeholders]
  • Opportunity: Build a roadmap that is easily communicated

Once we have the above, we go on and add how our app helps:

  • Drag and drop roadmap
  • Easy sharing features
  • Quick item creation

Understanding your product’s story to overcome the feature fallacy trap

Once you complete the exercise above for all jobs, you should have a list of jobs mapped to challenges/opportunities, which then breaks down into specific features your product provides to help achieve a particular outcome.

This is your product’s current story.

Before you add a new feature, take the time to first ask the following questions:

Does the current story make sense?

You may find that the lack of cohesion and feature disparity is causing a lot of confusion, and has left you with a collection of features that have little engagement and adoption.

This may be an opportunity to potentially sunset some of those features, particularly if they sit outside the jobs your customers are trying to do.

Are there gaps in what you are offering?

If the majority of your features are supporting one job, but not another, it might mean you have the opportunity to focus on improving on a particular area.

Or your users might be using only some of your product’s features and you keep building new ones they don’t use. This is also known as the consumption gap.

Improving does not necessarily mean adding more features to the product, but rather running research to understand what may be lacking, or what improvements could be made to what you currently have.

Do you understand your competitive edge?

This is also a great opportunity for your team to reassess packaging and pricing. Does the current packaging make sense in terms of your core product, as well as its enhanced and extended capabilities?

Mapping things out from the bottom up will help you understand where your product is right now.

If you want to move forward with new development, make sure you’re starting with the outcome and ask:

  • What problem are you trying to solve?
  • Why is this important?
  • How does this tie to the existing product vision?
  • How does this help the customer outcome? (What is the job to be done?)
  • How does this feature tie in with your current goals and objectives?
  • How would you measure success?


The biggest takeaway here:

Drop the notion that you are “one feature away” from changing things. If your core product and your story do not currently make sense, adding another feature won’t change things.

What does your product story look like? If you’re looking to connect with users inside the app and get feedback, get a Userpilot demo and see how we can help.

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