Have You Identified the Right Features? Avoiding Overdevelopment

by Carmen Apostu
Blog Post

In the app development world, one of the key challenges is to ensure that you’re focusing on the right things.Overdevelopment

Your scoping and feature identification really needs to be on-point so that you’re not scattering your resources and ending up in a situation where you’ve overdeveloped your app.

How do you make sure you narrow your feature identification and use your resources well? Let’s take a look:

What do we mean by “overdevelopment?”

First of all, it’s worth taking a look at what overdevelopment is and what it can mean for your app. Overdevelopment happens when apps become over-packed with too many features and functions.

It’s actually a common mistake among those creating apps: often someone will say “but what if we could…”. By the fifth or sixth time of someone coming up with a “what if”, the app becomes convoluted and scattered.

Apps that are rich with features are great, but only if those features meet these criteria:

  1. Those features are very well-made.
  2. Those features are important to your target market.

One of the big problems we see with overdevelopment is that an app may have a ton of features, but those end up being mediocre at best. This is often a result of having to scatter development across limited resources. In other words, you are much better off to have an app which focuses on doing one or two things well, rather than several things in a mediocre fashion.

Before you build your app…

A couple of years ago, Ellie Cachette shared with us her tips for what to consider before pursuing your app idea. These are still very true and some of her thoughts really should be used as markers for avoiding overdevelopment and focusing on those features that really matter.

For example, the bar has been raised on “transactional experience” for customers and they now expect to have a seamless experience when it comes to features such as storing information, accepting credit cards and emailing receipts (all of which, as Ellie points out, are not necessarily seamless in a development sense!).

Identifying a true need and honing in on your target market is essential before you even get into the nitty gritty of feature identification. If you can’t grow your user base fast enough, your app could end up being leapfrogged in a couple of years by cheaper technology.

Validating your product

Sometimes we find that a lack of true research and product validation is at the root of apps which end up being overdeveloped. Successful apps aren’t based on a hunch or flash of inspiration which wasn’t followed up by some serious product validation.

We recently discussed product validation and how almost every concept dies at the execution stage. We identified some steps to validating your product idea ahead of execution, including:

  • Identifying a target market with a real problem (that can be solved).
  • Creating a list of prospective customers devise from those you have surveyed to find their pain points.
  • Competition research (and how to be a better solution).
  • Preliminary market validation (the end result of the process).

Sounds like a fair bit of work before getting down to the details of feature identification, right? Yes, this does take some work, but investing your time into proper research ahead of development will significantly improve your chances of avoiding overdevelopment and producing an app that is really of use to your market.

Feature identification

Alright, you’ve put the time into research and validation, so it’s time to identify those key features which are going to be the selling points of your app. Remember, one or two brilliantly executed features which solve the problem/s of your target audience are going to be much better-received than several which are developed to a mediocre level while scattering your resources.

Of course, identifying those key features can be one of those “can’t see the forest for the trees” problems. If you’re like many others having an app created in a large enterprise, you get all sorts of interested parties and “must have” requests thrown at you. You need to have a good process for sorting through these and getting that high-level view of the “forest.”

Always start with the problem

Optimizely recently wrote a piece about feature identification and iteration for their products. One of the keys to ensuring that feature ideation stays on task is to identify a key problem that you’re looking to solve first.

This means that when your team starts to brainstorm solutions, they have a clear problem in mind so that those ideas are kept focused. At Optimizely, they include engineers, designers and product managers in the brainstorming process.

As a resource to help you through the brainstorming process, it’s always a good idea to have data available to guide and back your decisions. You should have some available from your product validation research, or from usability testing if you’re reiterating on a current product.

If you’re using data from user feedback to help you, it’s even more important to start out with the main problem you are looking to solve first. Users will have a lot of ideas to put forward and it’s easy to get lost in those suggestions, particularly when you are looking to best create a customer-centric app. One idea would be to have someone sort through user ideas prior to meeting and brainstorming your problem. Pick out only those which may provide a solution to what you’re looking to solve.

Rank ideas

Hopefully since brainstorming, you’ve got a few feature ideas for solving the key problem or problems you identified first. The idea of the brainstorm is not that you have perfect, fully-developed ideas but that you essentially have a brain-dump of possible solutions.

The next step is to sort those ideas and decide which really make sense in terms of creating key features which form a cornerstone of your app. We talked about ranking features recently; you might choose to develop a scorecard for your business or you might use a combination of methods, including plotting feature ideas on a scale measuring the business value of the idea, versus the complexity of developing it.

Value Versus Complaint Quadrant

Source: Product Plan

The goal we’re looking at is avoiding over-development, so once you’ve completed a somewhat scientific analysis to prioritize your feature ideas, ask yourself these questions:

  • Which features would be considered “core” if we were limited to choosing 2 or 3?
  • Will those core features solve that key problem we set out to find a solution for?
  • Do they provide a solution which truly sets us apart from competitors?

From there, you should have a few key features to focus on first which you can integrate into a product development roadmap. You may even like to go back to people you’ve surveyed and check based on a mock-up of the features you’ve put together is this a solution they would buy?

Keeping development on-track…

Overdevelopment is unfortunately, something which we see a lot of when it comes to apps. The problem is that you can end up with something that doesn’t provide a real solution due to a number of mediocre features stretched across limited resources.

Do your research and follow a good validation process before starting with feature ideation and you’ll find your path is suddenly clearer. When you can solve a key problem well with a couple of features and do it better than anyone else, you’ve developed a competitive advantage for your app.

Koombea develops best-in-class apps with strong feature ideation. Talk to us today about how we can help you build your app.

by Carmen Apostu
Blog Post