Bigger is not always better, and this lays true for app feature-development. In this article, ‘Feature Fatigue is Real. How to keep your Products Lean and Focused’, I look at why product managers need to keep their products focused, clean and running lean.

Product Managers need to understand what their customers need, but not to overendulge them in a buffet of features that will overwhelm them, and packing too many features into a product risks what is called feature fatigue, a term coined by Thompson, D. V, Hamilton R. W., Et. Al (2009) in the Journal of Marketing.

(source: The Agile Pirate)

The authors of the journal explain the arbitrary threshold from which loading too many features, while increasing functionality, decreases usability. Most users when asked would theoretically choose desire by adding more weight to capability and less weight to usability before use than after use.. they tend to choose overly complex products that do not maximize their satisfaction when they use them, resulting in ‘feature fatigue’.

Too many features can encourage initial purchaseb ut damage satisfaction and reduce repurchase probabilities, leading to lower customer lifetime values” (Thompson, D. V, Hamilton R. W., Et. Al (2009) )

The studies are quite interesting from a human behavioral perspective, where the inclusion of too many features potentially decreases the customer lifetime value. This isn’t complete surprising, as we have seen trends in recent times with apps, moving away from broad functionalities into more specialized utilizational roles. Take Facebook for instance, breaking itself into the primary Facebook social tool, Messenger App, and the recently announced, News App. The messenger app takes care of all messaging needs, including text and voice calls, and is handed off from the main app, when needed.

This fits in well with iOS’s move towards deep linking, where the borders between apps are blurred, and apps are called based on intents, and universal searching. Thi yields clarity for consumers, as well as performance benefits.

Product Managers therefore have to be assertive, and not take all their ideas as something that should go into the product. In fact, you shouldn’t even take what your customers say as gospel, but rather use it as part of a robust validation mechanism, from which you then decide based on prioritization. This prioritization comes from understand whom your customers are, and asserting the number you need to get in terms of critical mass, for that need to be considered a factor. Five people shouldn’t dictate whether a feature comes in or not.

And, if it so happens you do get critical mass for a need where people want to be able to send money, say in a social app you have, you don’t necessarily have to include it in the initial app if it doesn’t fit the theme of your app. You can break off your main app into two smaller utility apps, and link them up, if that makes more sense.

One more thing to remember is, adding more features adds cost from a development and maintenance perspective, which is something that needs to be thought of, beyond immediacy. If you want to add texting and call functionality, developers will need to support, and update, bug-test, and perform continuous integration on.

The problem is, people are more comfortable with making short-term decisions. Junk food and cigarettes would not be so popular otherwise. Long-term vision is something that a good product manager must always keep in his mind. (source: Bartosz Olchowka, LiveChat, “Beware of Feature Overload”.