Discarding Features is Important Product Work

If there’s part of the product that never gets used or doesn’t deliver value, it’s time to consider removing it

If there’s part of the product that never gets used or doesn’t deliver value, it’s time to consider removing it

It’s easy to spend all our energy laser-focused on delivering new features, but sometimes the best thing we can do for our product is to get rid of things people aren’t using.

These features are cluttering the user experience, bloating the codebase, costing maintenance effort, and potentially slowing down the product’s performance.

It’s common to run into objections from stakeholders (or even yourself) — especially if you don’t have proper usage metrics to quantify your assumptions about usage/value. Try the “hidden door” approach – remove the feature from the navigation or user experience, and you’ll soon hear if anyone misses it. This is handy for internal products – usually the last to have usage tracking. Putting it behind a feature flag is a great option if you have that capability already.

You might also find yourself wrestling with legacy code and tech debt that makes even removing a feature a non-trivial project. In these cases, consider taking a scorched earth approach. It might be time to start from a clean canvas and throw away what you’ve already got. It’s easy to fall into the trap of iteratively improving something that’s only ever going to reach a local maximum.

You might be stuck at a local maximum when you know the experience could be better, but whenever you try to change or add something new, it feels like things are just getting worse.

If you’re going to take a scorched earth approach, treat it like a re-platforming project, and beware of the common pitfalls like getting stuck maintaining both the new and old systems. Having been caught in that trap many times, I now start any project with explicit goals for cutover and deprecating the “old way.”

As you read this, you’ve probably got something in mind you wish was gone. If not, take a tour of your product and critically evaluate if everything adds value and aligns with your Product Strategy.

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