3 Reasons Why Your Product Is Bloated.

Many of the product managers I’ve met are restless characters who are always busy iterating, building product and keeping the team on track. This is the way it’s supposed to be done, small incremental change, pushing toward a goal of optimizing your funnel and driving more revenue. There’s a bit of a dark side though, and it often comes in the form of feature bloat. I’ve spoken about this issue quite a bit, and the purpose of this post is to give a few simple tips on the warning signs that you’re on the path to bloat. Feature bloat usually ends up rearing it’s ugly head because of ego, and most commonly can fall into the following three categories.

Politics: This is one of the areas management needs to be fully on top of and do everything to prevent. Office politics are not only distracting, but also cause emotional distress for employees.

Office politics are a slow debilitating cancer that can destroy a product.

A PM, CEO, CTO or CMO can request a feature just for the sake of having their finger prints on the product. “I made an impact!” Good for you, you just took a huge crap on the product, want a medal? I have personally fallen victim to this while working in the adult space. Upper management thought they had a good idea, they wanted full community integration into one of the sites. This took countless hours of planning, API and design work. In the end, only 1% of the user base used it! We could have been working on areas of the product that would have made the experience better for a larger subset of users and drove more revenue. Instead, we spent 6 months and countless man hours to implement something that was “cool”, but drove zero revenue, and had little product impact. Lesson learned.

Lack of testing:

Why the hell would you spend hours developing a complicated feature when it could be tested in a simplified form?

I’ve said it time and time again, don’t bake something into your product unless you are near certain it will work. You’ll never be 100% sure, but trying to prove your hypothesis with a few tests is a great way to prove your point. There’s no shame in testing, there’s only insight to be gained. We are huge proponents of this at Breather.

There is nothing worse than deploying a new feature and then having to remove it.

It’s completely unprofessional, disrupts user experience and can cause customers to quickly lose faith in your product. Here’s an example:

Suppose you want to know whether or not a new feature would be useful to your user base, how do you find out? The answer is quite simple, ASK THEM! You probably have a long email list and some data on how active those users are. Take your most active, least active and average users and email them. Use a service like Intercom to do so. Put together several questions on the feature you’re planning on building and ask whether or not it will help them. Also, offer them some form of reward for their opinion. In our case, we offered Amazon gift cards. Is this perfect? No, but it will give you some valuable insight into how your users think, and it’s low effort.

Boredom: This one is usually management’s fault as well. If your employees are bored and un-motivated, they won’t put the effort into testing, and you’ll end up with people doing useless busy work that’s bloating your product.

Make sure you are engaging your team and empowering them to make good decisions. If you don’t, your product will suffer, morale goes down, and it’s a self perpetuating cycle that’s hard to break.

Management needs to constantly get their hands dirty and be present!

There’s no silver bullet to prevent politics, lack of testing and boredom, but I have outlined some ways that management and employees can see the signs and hopefully curb the damage. At the end of the day, if you don’t fix it, the company, and you will suffer. Plain and Simple.

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