The Feature Audit

Are all users using all the features in your product? Of course they’re not. Let’s start by talking about that.

When planning your roadmap, and where your team spend their time, it’s
useful to ask “how many people are actually using each of our product’s
features?”. A simple way to visualize feature usage is to plot out all your features on two axes: how many people use a feature, and how often. You’ll most likely see trends like this one.

The core value of your product is in the top right area, up where the star is, because that’s what people are actually using your product for. If you have features in the top left it’s a sign of features with poor adoption. In other words, there are a small amount of customers depending on this feature, but most rarely touch it.

NOTE: These are relative figures and do not have a number value assigned to them!

What do you do with your feature audit?

For any given feature with limited adoption, you have four choices:

  • Kill it: admit defeat, and start to remove it from your product.
  • Increase the adoption rate: get more people to use it.
  • Increase the frequency: get people to use it more often.
  • Deliberately improve it: make it quantifiably better for those who use it.

How to improve your features?

The two most popular ways to improve a product are to add new features, or to improve existing ones.

You can improve an existing feature in three different ways:

  • Deliberate improvement: This is when you know why customers use an existing feature and what they appreciate about it. A deliberate improvement seeks only to make it better in ways that will be appreciated by the current users. For example making it faster or easier to user, or improving the design.
  • Frequency improvement: These are improvements that hope to get a customer to use the feature more often. Adding more items to an activity feed, or more options to a search tool means that people read it more often, or use it for more tasks each day. This type of improvement can turn a once-a-week feature into an every day feature. Use the Hook Canvas (Below)!
  • Adoption improvement: Adoption improvements target those who don’t use a feature. To get more people using it, rank and resolve the issues that are stopping them from using it. This is where the five whys technique (Below) is genuinely useful. Don’t just talk to one customer because invariably things are more complicated than that.

Continuous improvements!

In their early stages startups have advantages over the incumbents. They move quicker and adapt faster, without much technical debt, legacy features, compatibility issues, or high value customers restricting their movement. Because if there’s one thing that’s true for startup web products, it’s this: if you’re not shipping, you’re dead.


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