Thursday, May 8, 2008

Featuritis – The source of all evil!?

A couple of days ago, I stumbled over a title of an article that has already been discussed in many other blog postings. I found it so appealing that I purchased the publication from Harvard Business Review. „Defeating feature fatigue“ by Ronald T. Rust et al. (2006) is an excellent piece of work that should definitely be added to our recently originated literature list. Here are the three main findings:

1. “Consumers know that products with more features are harder to use, but before they purchase a product they value its capability more than its usability.”
2. “Even when consumers are allowed to customize a product, they load on the features, worrying little about the learning curve they are setting for themselves.”
3. “Once consumers have used a product, their preferences change. Suddenly, usability matters very much.”

What do the authors conclude from that and what can the OOo community, UX specifically, learn here? In short, two things are suggested. First, too few features is as bad as too many features. Second, any company that is interested in a growing number of customers or users should avoid putting features before usability. Why? Dissatisfied users will “return” their product, will look for other products and will, nowadays, blog about their dissatisfaction with the product. Developing open source software is not much of a difference. A development strategy that is almost exclusively driven by features, such as in Open Office for instance, will more sooner than later lead to a stagnating number of new users. It might even turn out worse, users will turn their backs on OO. Hence, we need to get rid of this focus and be more aware of the complexity that is constantly increased every time a new feature finds its way into a release.

Any opinions?


Ronald, T., Rust; Debora, V., Thompson, Rebecca, W., Hamolton; Defeating Feature Fatigue, Harvard Business Review, 2006.

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