Feature bloat is ruining products

Customers don't care about new features as much as you do.

I’ve been using a particular piece of software for quite a while. I won’t name it, because you probably definitely have opinions on it, but it’s really popular, and it’s gotten really good. And yet, the company that makes it has started to release new features (probably to expand into different markets) and it’s making the core product worse. Lots of little bugs are popping up, and their previously wonderful product is starting to break, get slower, etc.

To be honest, as a power user, I don’t care about any of these new features, and I don’t know anyone who does. I’ve been paying the company a hefty sum each year to access the same thing I already own. They don’t need to add anything to keep me as a customer – they just need to keep their core product stable.

I get it, they’re adding things because they’re a business, and they need to grow. But I feel like that’s a short-term view led by people who spearhead features for their own reasons (corporate ladder climbing) rather than reflecting on what’s best for the company long-term. No one ever gets promoted by proposing to maintain the thing that’s already built.

But maintenance is exactly what I, as a customer, want this company to do! And the fact that they’re not prioritizing it is the reason they’re going to be vulnerable in a few years. After their product becomes buggy and slow, after the people who are spearheading the features climb the corporate ladder to competitors, and after the feature bloat causes the pace of development to slow, they’ll be outmaneuvered. They won’t even be a player on the field.

All of this to say, I’ve begun to question the assumption that software has to add features in order to sustain itself. Sure, sometimes it’s a good idea, but many companies could do a lot better just by focusing on improving what they already have. Making the core product better, saying no to new things, making things faster, less buggy.

It seems like companies care more about their new features than their customers do.

About the author

I'm Mark Thomas Miller, a full stack engineer and designer currently working at ConvertKit. (We're hiring!) People like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lindsey Stirling, and Tim Ferriss use features I've built to connect with their fans. I'm currently geeking out about Svelte, mechanical keyboards, and minimalist UI design, and replaying Ocarina of Time.