Are Feature Requests A Bad Thing?

Kathy Sierra’s blog, Creating Passionate Users
is one of my favorite reads and was a big part of what inspired me to
start the TypePad Hacks project. Which is ironic, in a way, because
although I agree with Kathy on a lot of things, our take on feature
requests is totally opposed. Her recent post Don’t give in to feature demands! starts out:

The more successful the product or service is, the stronger the
pressure to give in to user requests. The more users you have, the more
diverse the requests. One user’s must-have-or-else feature is another
user’s deal-killer. And the more popular your product or service is,
the more those requests start turning into demands and ultimatums, and
finally very harsh criticisms.

The worst thing we can do is give in. But as the requests/demands
and criticisms become louder and angrier, the harder it is to resist
the siren call— "But if we just added this one thing… these guys would
ease up."

But when we’ve blended all the colors into one muddy blob, then
nobody hates us, and nobody is delighted, excited, or turned on by what
we do. We become mediocre. Usually the worst place to be.

She goes on to list 13 categories of "people who might
make feature requests or demands," and suggest how and when companies
should respond to them. It’s an interesting read. I recommend it for
regular readers here who have participated in the discussion of adding
features to TypePad.

Now, I get where Kathy is coming from when she says that trying
to do too many things can lead to mediocrity (or worse, even). At the
same time, I wouldn’t necessarily agree that the bulk of features fall
into a must-have/deal-killer dynamic. There’s hardly an app on my
laptop where I use all the features, but generally it doesn’t bother me that they do more

than I need them to. So long as the application remains stable,
reasonably fast, and the options are well-organized, I’m perfectly
willing to ignore what I don’t need. The place where I see a risk of
alienating one user to please another is not so much in adding features
as in changing them. Everyone gets frustrated when a new version
launches and they can’t find or use the features that had become second
nature. But new stuff? I don’t see an issue…

I suggest reading Kathy’s post for an alternate view on the issue.

4 thoughts on “Are Feature Requests A Bad Thing?

  1. Chris,

    I don’t know that I’d make the same arguments for all platforms… In the case of TypePad Hacks, I’ve had pretty amazing response from the Design Team and they seem to like most of the suggestions made.

  2. I pretty much follow the 37Signals/Getting Real philosophy – “Less is More”; if it doesn’t fit with your (as in the developer’s) vision for the product then it doesn’t get included, until it’s a feature you yourself would want. Say “No”, but do it nicely and leave the door open for possible later inclusion.

  3. I tend to agree with Kathy more than John here. We get a lot of feature requests, so I speak from some experience.

    One chap chased me down in IM the other day, nice bloke, but it would have been a “bloat” feature. My point being, that to HIM, it was very, very important, but to us, it would just have been bloat.

    Knowing what not to include is often more important than knowing what to include i think.

  4. I can’t understand how having a feature would ever be a ‘deal breaker’ unless it was at either a) the cost of the whole product (speed or something) or b) a feature that ruined the functionality by affecting other features.

    Generally, I’m not sure I’d follow this model, because I want to get as many people as possible to fall in love with the site. Remember how YOU want things to be, but definitely take into account your core audience.

Comments are closed.