Think it’s hard building an analytics product or service? Try cutting features out.

Try cutting features out of it.

Apparently, that whole quote from Michaelangelo about "I just carve away the part of the statue that doesn't look like David" is a myth.

But, it's a good myth for design thinkers. It helps me remember that you can add customer value by removing materials from a design.

We talk a lot about what feature to add/change in our products, but how often are you investigating what should be removed? Even the stuff some customers might like?

This is a slippery slope.

You can create a lot of one-off features and content for specific customers in your product, and in the short-term, that may be the right play for a startup trying to get early sales and customers. However, as you grow, your ability to remove product without causing friction for customers will become more and more difficult. In almost every product, you can probably point to the handful of people that love/use that one area of the UI. It's much harder to measure the value of "what if we take this out to reduce noise/complexity?" How do you quantify that?

In short, you probably can't–at least not as easily as the departments currently deriving revenue from the few folks using that one special GUI area you'd like to yank.

So, I think the lesson here is:

1) Be mindful when adding content and understand that once it's in the product, it may be hard to take it out later.
2) Acknowledge that you sometimes have to take a short-term hit (take the axe to something) to make a longer-term game (less choices, less noise, less product, but more value). This may mean you making an internal "sales" pitch to stakeholders if you are not the decision maker / product owner as to why it's time to get the axe out. Usability testing may be able to help show how a different execution/design/workflow eliminates the need for the old UI and makes it less risky to remove.
3) Your few noisy customers–who probably love that feature/area you'd love to yank–may not represent the masses. This also means you have to go out and get wider feedback on your product; don't just listen to the squeakiest wheels. You have no way of knowing if that squeaky wheel is an outlier or not; so talk to your end users regularly. One technique: discuss the thoughts/ideas/complaints of the squeakiest customers with a wider base of your customers, so you can put the squeaky ones' comments in context and see if they're actually a good voice for the silent majority.

So, get your axes out and let me know how it goes.

Not sure what to cut down? I have a lot of saws in my toolbox. Set up a free micro-consult with me on my contact page.

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