More features or fewer?

In a time when people are advocating simplicity, mobile phones are becoming pocket computers. A year ago, Seth Godin wrote, “I think we're going to discover a whole new universe of cell phone services that people want to pay for, things that we won't be able to live without. Like ringtones....”

And I’m fairly sure that I want to buy the new Apple phone as soon as it becomes available. I don’t care about ringtones but I very much care about elegant design and ease-of-use. But that’s me. There are a great many people who want a mobile phone to just be a phone. You know... a good phone.

This week I stumbled across the Jitterbug phone. They offer two phones: one with 10 numbers and Yes and No buttons and the other with only three buttons: Emergency, a number that you choose, and Operator for everything else. Have a question? Just call the operator.

As vendors, we always have a customer who wants one more feature or a developer with a great idea or a sales person who can close a custom deal. And so, our products get more features, and more, and MORE! But the more we add, the more our customers complain that the product is hard to use.

Which of the following phone features do you frequently use?

  • ring tones
  • syncing contact with your computer
  • calendar
  • camera
  • screen saver
  • any of the side buttons
  • Google mail
  • shopping
  • web surfing
  • messaging via SMS or IM
  • games
  • conference calling
  • wireless headset (ie Bluetooth)
  • calculator
  • alarm clock
  • voice recording
  • voice dialing

Or put differently, which of these would you actually miss if they were removed? By the same token, how many features in your product are used by fewer than 20% of your clients? Would those 20% really miss the features if they were gone? And would the 80% benefit from their absence?

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson was a founding instructor at Pragmatic Institute, a role he held for more than 15 years before he left to start Under10 Playbook. In his return to Pragmatic Institute, Steve supports the complete learning path for product teams, ensuring they are fully armed for success. 

Over the course of his career, Steve has helped thousands of companies and tens of thousands of product professionals implement product management processes. He has worked in the high-tech arena since 1981, rising through the ranks from product manager to chief marketing officer. Steve has experience in technical, sales and marketing management positions at companies that specialize in both hardware and software. In addition, he is an author, speaker and advisor on product strategy and product management.

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