The Triumph of Shutting Down a Feature

We’ve all sat through brainstorms ahead of the launch of a new feature or vertical when the enthusiasm is high and the ideas are flowing. Ultimately, only a few of those great ideas will be incorporated and launched, and then you’ll all high-five, celebrate with a beer, and… wait. Some of the time, people will engage with your product in the way you anticipated. And at other times, they won’t. Even if the design is beautiful and the UX is right on, there’s just no predicting how and when and why someone will find your site and do what you wanted them to do on it. Setting a reasonable amount of time to sit back and assess how things are shaping up before you go in and tinker with it is vital. Knowing when to shut the thing down completely is something that people struggle with or may not want to grapple with at all.

If something isn’t working out, you need to consider taking it apart. That’s not a sign of weakness or failure, rather one of innovation and common sense. Yet, some companies have a hard time accepting these realities at the right time, when they can still do something about it. For that reason, I commend YouTube for its recent announcement that it’s pulling the plug on video responses to videos because the usage rate was so pitiful. Like most people, I am an avid YouTube viewer, watching several videos a day on the site, yet I had no idea this feature even existed. I’m sure I only accidentally clicked on some of these videos and didn’t even realize what they were. It sounds like the kind of thing that may have worked and was a good idea coming out of a brainstorm session. However, it never took off and it’s time to say goodbye in favor of something better and more in line with how users approach and create YouTube’s content.

Too many meetings are spent reviewing what is going right, a way for employees to salute themselves and one another. But maybe for one hour a week it’s worth having a tougher conversation with your coworkers about what’s not going well, and how and when to intervene. YouTube may have been having that conversation for months or even years for all we know, however it’s clear now that someone took notice of the low usage rates and decided that by the end of the summer if things hadn’t turned around they’d look for a new way to get people to post responses to videos. All companies would be wise to follow suit and encourage some introspection across their channels.

What’s not going right today? Can we resolve it in the short-term? If not, what should we do? These are questions worth asking. You’ll win in the long run if you raise them in a constructive and supportive manner.

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