How to Improve Product Features

As product people, we all have great hopes and dreams for our products and how people are going to react once they hit the big world. You’re probably filling your product backlog or notebooks full of ideas that will make you the next Facebook, Uber, or Spotify. But before you start creating your next product roadmap, it’s time to see what’s currently going on in your product and how to improve it.

You need to provide answers to this question:

What are people actually doing in your product?

Our dream as a product owner is to get all users to use all the features in our product, but in reality, they are not going to use them all. Let’s start talking about that.

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

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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 number of customers depending on this feature, but most rarely touch it.

Well, what do you do with your feature audit?

For any given feature with limited adoption, you have four (4) choices:

Kill it: you should admit defeat and start to remove it from your product. Increase the adoption rate. Increase the frequency rate. Deliberately improve the product.

How do you improve existing features?

Deliberate Improvements: This is when you know why customers use an existing feature and what they appreciate about it. A deliberate improvement will only make it better in a way that will be appreciated by the users. For example, you can improve the user experience or make it faster. Use deliberate improvements for a feature that all your customers use and you see an opportunity to make it better but remember it is high reward high risk.

Frequency Improvements: When you hope to get a customer to use the feature more often. This type of improvement can turn a once-a-week feature into an everyday feature. You can follow the Hook Canvas with the thought that “habits are formed from a repeated pattern with four key elements”. (Hook Canvas analysis will go up in one of my articles)

Adoption Improvements: This is a target for those who don’t use a feature. To get more people using the feature, rank, and resolve the issues that are stopping them from using it. You may want to try out the five (5) whys technique. You might have a situation around users not using your tag feature. Why? They don’t see the value. Why? They can’t show it to their friends. Why? They can’t get it into a suitable good format. Why? Because our tag doesn’t display well. Why? Because our API doesn’t produce good data. So, we have to improve our API. If you ask why enough times, eventually you’ll work it out and get to the root cause.

When planning to use adoption improvements, always consider improvements outside of the software too. Sometimes it’s not about how the feature is designed or built, it’s about how it’s explained.

In my next article, I will be talking about how to build new features in our product, Should we follow the 80/20 schools of thought in developing new features ? or we should not 80/20 everything like what Mark Zuckerberg did during Facebook's early stage. Stay tuned!

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